So you have decided to breastfeed your baby… yay! And now you are thinking about what it might be like to lift your shirt up and down every two hours at home and in public, and how to do it easily. Technically: no, if you plan on going wild and free under your shirt…which is a scary option for the rest of us. However, the benefits of a breastfeeding bra are HUGE and you will probably want to own a couple when you see how much milk they can get on them when it drips out into the padding. You can buy a cheap nursing bra or a more expensive one, and both will provide the function of snapping open the cup to expose your breast, but ideally you want the most comfortable bra that keeps those babies in place and looks shapely under a shirt.
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There are great nursing bras out there from $15-$60. They can be broken down into two basic categories: A night bra and a day bra. If nobody warned you that milk will leak out onto your sheets at night well now you know! You can let it go on the sheets, or you can wear a light and hopefully very comfy sleeping nursing bra. These are usually stretchier, less supportive, less padding coverage than a day bra. Comfort is what you look for here. Don’t pay too much for a night bra…it just has to be functional and comfortable.
A day bra needs to be very supportive, have enough padding that you don’t see nipples through a shirt, and feel comfortable. People’s largest complaints about nursing bras seem to be the fit, and the elastic stretching out. Look for a bra that works well for people in your size, and that do not have complaints about the elastic stretching out within weeks. I have a few favorites below. A bra should last you through the year.
About three days after you have your baby your milk comes in and your breasts get VERY large. You will not have to wonder when that will happen because you will feel tight and full, and you will be happy when your body down regulates milk to what your baby needs over the next weeks. If you have not already bought a maternity/nursing bra, that is when to buy one in my opinion! That is the size your breasts will most likely stay on average. I say on average because every few hours they are going to fill up with more milk and after nursing they will get a little smaller. We call it the “milk bar”.
Another option for you over-prepared mamas (good for you!), is to buy a maternity/nursing bra. I didn’t even know these existed before my first baby and I wish I would have because they are great, and it would have decreased my stress to have it before the baby arrived! It’s a double bang for your buck because they are made with elastic to stretch 2-3 cup sizes so you should not have to buy a bigger regular bra for pregnancy AND a nursing bra after.
I did not buy a nursing bra before birth which was stressing me out because I saw it on those lists of things to do before having a baby. My cup size went up about a full size after Nigel was born, and in the meantime (pregnancy and just after birth) I wore a padded racerback bralette similar to a sports bra that was comfortable, caught the drips, could pull down (which did stretch out the elastic over time), but did not offer any adjustable straps. It really was just what I had around and it worked during pregnancy as my breasts got bigger and until I was ready to buy a real nursing bra…and it was cheap.
I also tried just using a regular push up bra in my new size too, which I bought in a spur of the moment shortly after my first baby because I was desperate to have a cute bra that fit. Big mistake! I was pulling the cup down to expose the breast which does ruin your bra and makes folds in the cup. It is not ideal to do. It also caused extra leakage on the outside of my bra from any dripping while baby nursed. Definitely uncomfortable to nurse in. Why did I not spend that money on a cute nursing bra instead of a regular bra? No clue, but I really just didn’t know what was available online and was feeling quite desperate to wear something cute that fit. With that said, I would buy a breastfeeding bra if possible, and below are few great options.
I bought my first two at target because money was tight and they were just $20. These bras work fine but they are nothing special. They worked functionally but the straps stretched out quickly. They came in small, medium, or large which I was not used to, so a sizing chart would be helpful for converting your size to their size in any brand you buy. They also had no underwire like most nursing bras, which is just because it is believed that underwire can potentially clog milk ducts from the pressure it may put on them. While that has not been a problem for me with underwire, it may be a good precaution for you.
Top pic for daytime: Mamaway UltraComfort Seamless Maternity & Nursing Bra. This is comfortable, supportive, has a thin mold-able padding with an even amount of padding over the entire breast(unlike some nursing bras that have terrible round thick circles just over your boobs which do not look good and stick out awkwardly in shirts), and can be worn in pregnancy and postpartum (and fit perfectly at both times, able to stretch as you change). It is made from nylon and spandex so it can stretch. Mamaway has a convenient sizing chart for converting your size to a small, medium, large, or XL, or XXL. Also, interesting to see that currently on Amazon this bra does not have review less than 4 stars, with about 50 reviews.
Top pic for nighttime: Sort French Terry Nursing Sleep Bra for Maternity/Breastfeeding This bra has incredible softness to it. Even the very few reviews on Amazon that did not like this bra raved about the soft, comfortable fabric that felt nice on the sorest nipples. It does not have padding, and no clasps making it easy for night feedings. It would be a perfect bra to wear during your delivery. You can wear as is or tuck a nursing pad in there to soak up milk if necessary once your milk comes in. It is racer-back, and has a fairly open front as you can see, so for larger breasted women this will show some cleavage and is not meant to completely cover the upper area. Basically you are just looking for something to keep milk from spilling on your sheets that is easy to feed in and very comfortable. I would have to say that most complaints come from larger breasted women(size DD or larger) that find themselves spilling out as they lay on their sides in bed. While this bra is not the best for support for larger breasts(but who is wearing it out of the house anyways, right?), it is one of the softest, most comfortable out there.
And remember, the only true test is to try it on. If it does not look right, if you are spilling out at all, then return it. It may be smart to buy two types and return one so that you are able to really compare fit.