Every woman deserves to wear a comfortable, supportive bra, every day – but especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding. During the first months of pregnancy, your breasts begin to expand; they may feel swollen, sore, and sensitive thanks to surges of estrogen and progesterone.
Since many of the best nursing bras provide outstanding support and stretch (exactly what you need for breasts that are preparing to nurse), women are wearing nursing bras as early as the first trimester, long before their breast milk comes in and they begin their breastfeeding journeys.
When to Buy Nursing Bras for Nursing
Women whose breasts have grown a lot during pregnancy may want to wear comfortable nursing bras months before delivery – and that’s always a great time to buy a maternity and nursing bra.
But if you’re looking for a more structured nursing bra, especially one with molded cups, we often recommend trying to wait until about eight months pregnant to shop.
By the time you’re around 33 weeks pregnant, the most significant physical transformations (like baby weight and breast size changes) have occurred, and it’s a good time to buy bras that you can nurse in. Although your breasts might get even bigger once your little one arrives, they may be close to the size they were at 33 weeks of pregnancy after your milk supply has regulated.
For the most precise measurements for your structured nursing bras, many fit experts agree that you’ll have to wait until after the fourth trimester when your baby has been nursing for three to four months and your milk supply has stabilized.
For the Best Fit, Buy Nursing Bras More Than Once
It’s completely normal to go through several nursing bra size changes through pregnancy and postpartum. “Many moms will go through a few size changes, as their weight fluctuates and their baby’s breastfeeding habits evolve,” according to Molly Petersen, a certified lactation counselor.
We encourage you not to delay getting new maternity and nursing bras when you begin to experience discomfort. Otherwise, you may soon notice red indentation marks on your shoulders and torso from the bra band and shoulder straps being stretched to the max or from the underwire becoming too snug and starting to pinch.
What’s more, as you resume pre-pregnancy activities (impact workouts, nights out), you’ll need different types of nursing bras.
A Tape Measure for the Perfect Bra Fit
When bras fit well, breasts get the support they need. On the other hand, tender breast tissue can be damaged by bras that fit poorly. Whether you’re wearing a maternity bra or nursing bra, one that’s too big doesn’t provide enough support, and a bra that’s too small can put pressure on the breasts, block milk ducts, and possibly lead to mastitis.
To prevent these problems (and to maintain breast health) we recommend measuring yourself before buying a bra – every time.
It’s easy to measure yourself for your next bra. All you need is a tape measure, a well-fitting, unpadded bra, and this handy guide. If you don’t have a measuring tape, use a string, ribbon, shoelace, or belt, and then measure it with a ruler.
The best time to measure yourself for a nursing bra is midday. It’s important that your breasts are full, so always measure before breastfeeding. That way you won’t order a bra that is too small.
How to Choose a Nursing Bra
When choosing a nursing bra, consider all of the things you’ll be doing (besides nursing or pumping) while you’re wearing a nursing bra. You’ll probably want to get nursing bras to wear for a variety of activities, similar to your pre-pregnancy bra collection.
One of the most popular types of nursing bras is the nursing sports bra. These nursing bras feature easy pull down access for breastfeeding and moisture-wicking, stretchy fabric that offers support and comfort whether you’re enjoying low-impact activities or working from home. The Sublime® Hands-Free Pumping & Nursing Sports Bra and Sublime® Nursing Sports Bra are our top picks for nursing sports bras.
Another bra we love for working from home (or running errands) is the wire free Simply Sublime® Nursing Bra, one of our most popular everyday bras. It’s extremely comfortable, provides full coverage, and gives ample support. A bra extender (extra rows of hooks and eyes) is also provided so you can continue to use your bra even if you start to outgrow your initial size.
All three of these bras come in S-Busty - XXL-Busty, covering a wide range of sizes.
Here’s Why You Probably Need a Nursing and Sleep Bra
Even before your baby arrives, sleep nursing bras can provide the comfort pregnant moms need. According to La Leche League International, “Extra body fluid and blood collect in the breast area to help them get ready for breastfeeding. During that time, wearing a well-fitting bra more often during the day or night might be helpful to give extra support so your breasts don’t become sore in any way.”
Additionally, in the first weeks of breastfeeding, there’s often quite a bit of nighttime leaking until your breast milk supply levels out. As breast milk comes in, many moms experience engorgement. That’s when you’ll want a nursing and sleep bra like the multi-award-winning French Terry Racerback Nursing & Sleep Bra.
Pro Tip: Unless you want to wash your sheets and bras every morning, try Kindred Bravely’s Ultra Absorbent Reusable Nursing Pads. They’re eight times more absorbent than the leading washable breast pads, and you’ll love how the contoured design molds to your body shape.
A good nursing bra for sleeping should be big enough, soft enough, and stretchy enough to support your breasts as they fill overnight. “Bras that are too tight can pinch off the ducts that move milk through your breasts. This can cause plugged ducts, which may turn into mastitis, which can cause some moms to have supply issues,” says Petersen.
Milk supply is often strongest right after delivery, and leaking can be frequent. In the weeks that follow, your milk supply will adapt to your baby’s hunger. Once your breast milk production stabilizes in a few weeks to months, your leaking may begin to decrease.
Returning to the Office? Exclusively Pumping? Building a Freezer Stash?
Kindred Bravely nursing bras provide superior comfort and care for nursing breasts – and easy access to breast milk when your baby is hungry or you’re ready to pump. Our top pumping bra is the Sublime® Hands-Free Pumping & Nursing Bra featuring our patented EasyClip™ to unclip and clip either the pumping layer or the nursing layer. It fits all standard pump flanges, making it easy to pump, nurse, or do both at the same time.
Pro Tip: For personalized assistance getting the right bra fit, contact the Kindred Bravely Customer Care Team. Our experts are happy to help you find the best nursing bras for your unique needs.
What to Look for in a Nursing Bra
Bras that have “maternity” and “nursing” in their names usually offer high levels of support and stretch to accommodate sensitive, growing breasts that are already nursing or preparing to breastfeed.
For the ultimate comfort and support, look for nursing and maternity bras that are made from soft fabrics that won’t irritate your tender, sensitive skin and can stretch to accommodate several sizes. For example, Kindred Bravely’s size charts show that XS - XXXL size bras cover three cup sizes (B, C, and D). XS-Busty - XXXL-Busty size bras cover five cup sizes (E, F, G, H, and I).
If a bra is difficult to get on, squeezes your breasts, or is uncomfortable in any way, you shouldn’t be wearing it. A well-fitted bra does not bunch, pinch, or slip whether you’re sitting, standing, or lying down. The band should stay at the rib cage, and you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers under the band. If you can’t fit two fingers, it’s too tight, and you need a larger size. If you can fit more than two fingers, it’s too loose.
Your breasts should fit in the cups, not spill out of them. Also, the top edge of the cups should not push into your breasts. There shouldn’t be any gaps or puckering between your breasts and the cups. If there is, the cup shape / size may be too small, or the shape of the bra cups may not match the shape of your breasts.
One final note: Most women hold their babies as they nurse, so you’ll only have one free hand to make your breasts accessible. Make sure you can easily adjust the crossover / pull-aside / pull-down access or nursing clips with one hand.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice that has been medically reviewed. Please reach out to your health care team with any questions.