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Nursing Bras 101: A Complete Guide for the Breastfeeding Mom

Nursing Bras 101: A Complete Guide for the Breastfeeding Mom

Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Bras

You’re sailing through your pre-baby to-do list. Your nursery is stocked with the haul from your baby shower. You’ve imagined every possible baby gear necessity. Yet one question remains: What will YOU need to accommodate your changing body?

Although it may be tempting to make do with what you already have, a well-designed nursing bra works with your body, not against it, helping you to enjoy your baby even more – plus purchasing your first nursing bra is an exciting milestone!

Why should you invest in nursing bras?

Benefits of Nursing Bras

They make nursing easier.

Since most regular bras are fairly structured, you may not be able to bring your baby to the breast without disrobing or taking off your bra. Nursing bras feature cups that clip down, fold down, or pull aside for quick, and often one-handed, access. Paired with the right top, you’ll be able to discreetly feed your little one anywhere.

They’re comfortable.

The materials used in traditional bras may be uncomfortable for new moms. The type of elastic used in the band may leave itchy red marks; lace or 100% nylon fabric may irritate already sore nipples. Narrow straps may not provide enough support, and underwire may dig into your swollen breasts.

Many maternity bras use materials like bamboo and cotton, which allow your skin to breathe. In addition, nursing bras often have wide straps to offer more comfortable support and reduce or eliminate back, neck, and shoulder pain.

They adjust to your body.

Throughout pregnancy, your breasts may change anywhere from one to four cup sizes. They may grow even more when you’re nursing, especially if you become engorged or have an oversupply. As a breastfeeding mom, you’ll probably notice your breast size varies from one day to the next. In quality nursing bras, breathable fabrics are blended with just the right amount of stretch to allow for the normal fluctuations experienced by nursing moms.

Which type of nursing bra should you purchase?

Just as there are different dresses for different occasions, so too are there different nursing bras for different needs. For some women, one really high-quality nursing bra could do the trick for sleeping, lounging, and going out. For most women, having several different bras and styles makes the breastfeeding journey much more comfortable.

It’s also important to consider how your needs may change during the postpartum period. In the early months, you’ll likely be home a lot. You’ll want soft, smooth, stretchy material, with flexible sizing and quick access to the breast. Later, as you start venturing out more, you’ll want a more structured bra with contoured cups, additional strap support, and (maybe) sexier styling.

Comfort Nursing Bras

Sleep bras have softer elastic bands, less suspension in the straps, and a crisscross design, which allows you to easily slide the breast out for night feedings. They’re ideal for the initial postpartum period since they offer quick breastfeeding access as you and your newborn begin to get comfortable with nursing. They also provide just the right amount of support at night, without making you feel constricted. Since milk production often peaks around midnight, you’ll want a comfortable bra to hold your breast pads in place so you don’t wake up to milk-soaked sheets.

  • The French Terry Bra features either a stylish racerback or a more traditional scoopback and simple crossover front that you can pull aside with one hand for nursing. With no elastic, no clasps, and no underwire, this bra guarantees you nighttime comfort.
  • The Organic Cotton Bra is a super soft, light support bra with pull-aside breastfeeding access and no underwire, ensuring maximum comfort for nighttime breastfeeding. The front is double-lined to hold your nursing pads in place.
  • The Simply Sublime Bra is “buttery” soft, with adjustable strap support and removable padding. The drop-down cups are smooth and seamless, and the stretchy fabric allows for fluctuations in cup size. Moms say this bra is supportive enough for daytime activities but comfortable enough for nighttime wear too. If you’re going to buy just one type of bra for all purposes, this is your best bet!

Contoured Cup Nursing Bras

Contoured cup bras have a smooth design and cups that fold down for easy nursing access. These bras are usually much more structured than other nursing bras, so they’re best for moms who are three to four months postpartum and looking for more support during public outings.

  • The Marvella Classic is a stylish look for everyday nursing, featuring a smooth, stretchy racerback design and a deep cut in the front that’s perfect for your V-neck shirts and dresses. It has easy fold-down cups and ultra-soft, stretchy material.
  • The Marvella Luxe is perfect for moms who want an adjustable back (it has a standard eye-hook clasp) or need more versatility: the O-ring hook allows you to easily transition from a traditional back to a racerback.

Nursing Tanks

Nursing Tanks

Another amazing option is the nursing tank, featuring moderate support and clasps for discreet nursing. You can wear a nursing tank on its own or layer it under a button-down or cardigan for extra coverage.

  • The Simply Sublime Tank is a nursing wardrobe staple that also works for lounging, layering, sleeping, or doing yoga. The extra-long hip length cut won’t ride up and also provides enough coverage for burgeoning baby bumps. The built-in bra can accommodate multiple cup sizes.
  • The Organic Cotton Tank is a go-to for any mom or mom-to-be craving comfort and style. This tank has a loose fit (great for pregnant and postpartum bellies) and a fun strap design, in addition to super soft fabric and nursing clips.
  • The French Terry Tank is ultra-soft and feels great all day and night. The simple crossover front design and stretchy fabric make a super comfy nursing tank with one-handed, pull-aside breastfeeding access and gentle support.

Another type of bra you may want to consider, especially if you are returning to work full-time, is a hands-free pumping bra, which is usually more like a bustier that you can wear on its own or layer on top of an unclasped nursing bra or tank. These bras hold your pump’s flanges in place, so you can work, read a book, type on your laptop, breastfeed on the other side, or just relax as you pump. Many moms who pump have a couple pumping bras. Check out the new and improved Version 2 of our amazing hands-free pumping and nursing bra! And if you also want a luxuriously soft and supportive sports bra you can nurse in, take a look at our Sublime Sports Bra!

How many nursing bras do you need?


Most moms we know want three maternity bras: “One to wash, one to wear, and one to spare!”

You’ll feel more relaxed knowing you’re prepared for the unexpected leak, hot flash, or baby spit-up. Having a spare (or two) will ensure that you won’t have to throw in yet another load of laundry when the inevitable happens.

You may find that you function well with a couple of sleep bras to wear day and night. (In fact, you might love them so much, you never go back to underwires again!) Many women find it helpful to have a mixture of cozy sleep bras, supportive daytime bras, and versatile nursing tanks.

When should you shop for nursing bras?

When to Shop for Nursing Bras

It’s impossible to predict how your breasts will respond to pregnancy and milk supply; every woman (and every pregnancy) is different. Some moms don’t have much of a change in cup size, while others may notice an increase of four cup sizes. Although you may be unsure of your ultimate size, there are versatile nursing bras (such as the sleep bras mentioned above) that function well for both maternity and nursing, so don’t hesitate to pick out a couple of comfortable nursing bras early on in your pregnancy.

Sleep nursing bras and nursing tanks are the best options for those initial postpartum weeks. Since engorgement is common while your milk supply is regulating, your cup size could likely still change. Furthermore, your breasts will be extra sensitive during this time, and a structured bra may cause you discomfort.

Many experts agree that the most accurate time to size yourself for contoured cup nursing bras is three to four months after delivery, which gives you time to establish and regulate your milk supply. The best time to measure is midday, when the breasts are full, before a feeding.

If you want to purchase contoured cup bras before you deliver, try to wait until you’re around eight months pregnant. By then you will have gained most of your baby weight and undergone most major body shape changes. The size your breasts are at eight months should be fairly close to what size they’ll be eight weeks postpartum when your body has learned to regulate its milk supply.

How do you measure for a good fit?

The best way to start fitting a bra is to take two simple measurements: underbust and bust. These two numbers are used to calculate your band and cup sizes. You can use a cloth measuring tape or a piece of string and a ruler to get these measurements.

To find your underbust, or band measurement, first, undress down to your bra (make sure it fits you well). Wrap the measuring tape or string around your body, directly under your breasts. The measuring tape should be straight around your torso and snug but not tight. Round this measurement up to the nearest even number. For example, anywhere from 32.5 inches to 34 inches would be considered a band size of 34.

To find your bust measurement, wrap the measuring tape around the fullest part of your breasts while still wearing your bra. Remember that if you’re nursing, you should measure before a feeding.

Your cup size is determined by subtracting your band size from your bust measurement. Each inch of difference is a letter. For example, if your bust measurement is 37 inches and your band size is 34 inches, the difference of three inches equals a C cup. A four-inch difference would equal a D cup, and so on.

How to Measure Yourself for A Nursing Bra

Keep in mind that these measurements are just a starting point; different styles, brands, materials, and even colors can fit differently. You may not wear the same size in every nursing bra you purchase.

When you put on a new bra, it should feel incredible. The band should be low and even under your breasts and around your back, and you shouldn’t feel any pinching or pulling.

After you’ve put on your bra, try sitting down, standing up, lying down, and even bending over to see how much support you have. If you’ve found the right bra, it should almost feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.

Signs your bra is too big:

  • Your breasts slip out the bottom of the cups.
  • The band rides up in back.
  • The cups have wrinkles.
  • The straps slip off your shoulders even when tightened.

Signs your bra is too small:

  • Your breasts spill out the top or sides of the cups.
  • The straps dig into your shoulders.
  • The underwire pokes you.
  • The center doesn’t lie flat between your breasts.

Nothing should be poking you; nothing should be slipping around. You shouldn’t have to pull and tug at it all day just to feel comfortable. If your bra isn’t just right, be sure to keep looking until you find the perfect fit, function, and feel. It can be so easy to put up with the wrong bra, especially as a nursing mom, but your body will thank you for taking the time to pick the right one.

Thoughtful encouragement, professional advice, and quality resources help keep you focused on the reasons you’ve decided to nurse, but just as important is the right kind of support for your body. Our hope is that by applying this information, you can find the perfect nursing bras for your own unique breastfeeding journey.

Still have a question about nursing bras?

Kindred Bravely is here to help! Whether you need guidance on selecting the right style or size, our Customer Care Fit Fairies will do whatever they can to assist you with your nursing bra needs.

For more information on all the amazing benefits of breastfeeding, click here.

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