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Your nursing journey will be unique to you—for example, some moms breeze through newborn breastfeeding, some find it to be the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Some moms practice extended breastfeeding for years, others call it good after a few months. Regardless of what path you take, all breastfeeding mamas share one thing in common: the need for comfortable and supportive nursing bras.
How do nursing bras work?
You might wonder if nursing bras are really necessary—can’t you just get away with a regular bra? Well, if you’re a breastfeeding mom, your top priority should be making your body comfortable and access to your breast as seamless as possible for baby. That’s why breastfeeding bras are important. Rather than having to completely undress or awkwardly move your regular bra to the side or under your breast, which could constrict milk ducts, impede milk flow, and increase your risk for mastitis, a nursing bra usually has a clip that, when undone, allows for the material to flap down and baby to have access to the breast.
What should I look for in a nursing bra?
We went to an expert to get you the best info possible. Chrisie Rosenthal, an IBCLC with The Lactation Network, offers this valuable info: “Fit is important. Generally speaking, expect that you’ll need at least one cup size and one back size larger than what you wore pre-pregnancy. The bra itself should be supportive, but not restrictive. Underwire bras are not recommended because they can lead to plugged ducts and/or mastitis. Make sure you can unclip the nursing bra with one hand. You’ll find you’re often holding a baby, a pump, or supplies, and easy access to the breast is key!”
And, Chrisie Rosenthal also goes on to remind us that far too often women wear the wrong size bra—breastfeeding or not. But during this challenging time in your life, wearing the correct bra size is important as it will impact your comfort, overall breast health, and ability to properly feed and ensure your baby is getting enough milk. She recommends that new moms visit a baby boutique that sells nursing bras or a store with employees who are trained in fitting women with the correct size.
When should I buy nursing bras?
Believe it or not, the experts say you should wait until you’re about 2-3 weeks postpartum, as that is when you’ll know your true size. “Your breast size changes significantly in the first 2-3 weeks of your baby’s life,” Chrisie Rosenthal explains. “For that reason, most breastfeeding parents will not know their bra size until the baby is about 2 weeks old. That’s not usually a problem though, because during this early stage many parents choose to go without a bra. Newborns feed frequently, and parents of newborns may experience some nipple tenderness during initiation of breastfeeding. For both of those reasons, most parents often spend the first few weeks without a bra, wearing shirts that open easily in the front (for example, a button-up) or big, loose shirts.”
Once you hit that two-week mark, however, you should be good to go!
The truth is, moms need postpartum support—in every form—and a properly fitted nursing bra is one piece of that puzzle. Breastfeeding bras offer support, protection against leaks (and leak you will!) and will make you feel more comfortable in general, especially when your breasts are particularly full. Don’t skimp on this one, mama. You’re already investing in everything baby needs, so don’t forget your own needs too.
Best nursing bras that provide the support you need
A version of this article was published July 21, 2021. It has been updated.