Nursing Bras 101

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Mar 23, 2011

As a new mom, I was faced many important decisions: Co-sleeping or crib. Cloth or reusable diapers. And of course, the critical mission of finding the perfect nursing bra. I hoped to breastfeed for at least a year so I knew I would need to protect my precious assets.

Designer boutique and online store Posh Mommy offers the largest selection of nursing bras in Western Canada, so that seemed like a good place to start. Owner Sara Witzaney offered her expertise as

I set out to educate myself on the bra options available to me. And what an education it was! I had wrongly assumed that all nursing bras were created equal: big, cumbersome and in shades of black, white and beige. Discovering I actually had choices that fit my lifestyle, personal style and would even make me feel sexy was like Christmas come early! These days, new moms have more selection than ever to choose from and it’s important to find the one that will meet your needs right from the beginning.

Sara advises the best time to start shopping for a nursing bra is five weeks before your due date, as bust size

often changes significantly during pregnancy. Buying one sooner than the five-week mark may not provide an accurate idea of what your size closer to the time of birth. There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing a bra, such as the fluctuation of breast size once milk comes in, as well as the inevitable change in size of the rib cage and belly postpartum once both areas begin to shrink. Many bras come with multiple sizing options to accommodate the changing sizes while remaining comfortable. While everyone will fit a bra differently, don’t forget to place emphasis on the importance of ensuring you have enough room for growth, as well as accessories such as nursing pads. While on the topic of nursing pads, Sarah recommended the reusable pad made from cotton or bamboo as opposed to the disposable options. Reusable ones breathe better than the disposables and would likely result in me being more comfortable.

As for the amount of breast is actually exposed during feeding, the options for bras are generally a A-frame, which is designed to expose just the nipple or a sling nursing bra, that features a top that pulls down and exposes the entire breast.

Finally came the question of just how many nursing bras a woman needs. I had naively anticipated one bra would be enough to get me through a full year or more of breastfeeding. Instead, Sara advises having three nursing bras on-hand, as this breastfeeding business can be amessy one. Leaks are common and you may end up with some milk in the bra cups even with the use of nursing pads. It’s also common to be warmer in the chest area, especially if you wear your baby on your front, a scenario that increases the likelihood of more sweating than usual. To this effect, nursing bras should be hand-washed every couple of days to prevent bacteria from sticking around.

Having three bras will ensure you aren’t left hanging (literally) when one braneeds to be cleaned.

There are just a few more things to consider when you start shopping for the right bra for your needs:

  • Find someone who knows what they’re doing. Being fitted for a nursing bra is obviously quite different than shopping for a normal one. Experts like Sara should be able to find the right fit, taking into account factors such as the previously mentioned shrinking rib cage and fluctuating breast size based on milk supply. They should also be able to point out options that will give you the support you need and functionality that will best suit your lifestyle and how you plan to nurse.
  • When choosing a bra, Sara recommends women try their shirt on over top so they can see the shape they’ll have once clothing is added. She points out that the appearance should be smooth, with no awkward lumps or misshapen spots.
  • Avoid bras with underwire for the first six months. Underwire can cause pressure on breast tissue, resulting in mastitis or clogged ducts.
  • Make sure the bra is comfortable before and after birth. You should be able to use a nursing bra for at least six months postpartum.
  • Make sure you love your nursing bras. There is a huge variety of styles available to women today, from basic to fun and sexy . “Just because you’re nursing, doesn’t mean you have to wear the same style your grandmother would have worn 50 years ago,” says Sara. Find bra that make you feel good and that you will enjoy wearing.

Sarah’s Top Nursing Bra Picks

Elle MacPherson – These bras are comfortable from the get-go and grow with you as you change sizes, says Sara. They are wire=free and can be worn at night as well.

Royce – Targeted toward well-endowed women, the Royce line features seam-free t-shirt bras, as well as fashionable choices including a limited collection black-and-cream pinstripe bra.

HOTmilk – Made for moms that still want to feel sexy while nursing, the HOTmilk collection offers a combination of function and style, with one-handed maternity clips, but also pretty details including feminine bows and flowers.

Related content:   Breastfeeding video

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