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Guide to buying nursing bras

When it comes to breastfeeding your bundle of joy, the right nursing bra can make a significant difference. Nursing bras are specially designed for breastfeeding mums, and depending on the design, allow you to reveal your nipples or whole breast for your little one to latch on and feed. Read on to find out how you can buy a nursing bra that will best suit your needs.

Types of nursing bras

1. Drop-down cups

This is the most common type of nursing bra. Drop-down cups have clips, hooks, or poppers at the top that allow you to “drop” them down from the strap and feed your baby with ease. Some designs have flaps, so only part of the cup comes off the strap – this is ideal if you’re self-conscious about breastfeeding in public.

2. Stretch fabric bra

This type of nursing bra crosses over at the front – this way, you can pull a cup down over your breast during feeding time.

3. Front fastening between cups

The clasp in this nursing bra is at the front. Some models may not be particularly popular as both breasts can feel exposed when you open the bra.

4. Night bra

Night bras are designed to be lighter and comfortable, with no hard seams or hooks.

5. Zips under each cup

Some nursing bras feature zips under each cup to save you the hassle of unfastening clasps each time you have to breastfeed.

When should you buy a nursing bra?

It might be tempting to go out and buy a nursing bra early in your pregnancy so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting about it, but the best time to get a nursing bra is in your last trimester of pregnancy (at around 36 weeks/8 months) This is because the size of your breasts will drastically change during and after the pregnancy, so a bra that may have fit you in the first or second trimester may be too small later on.

Getting fitted for a nursing bra

If you’re looking for support and a shapely fit, your best bet is to get yourself measured and sized for a structured bra by a professional at your local maternity boutique or department store. Many high street shops even offer a free fitting service. Consider doing this at around 36 weeks, as this is the approximate size you will be from 6-8 weeks postpartum (when your breasts stop changing in size seemingly every other day).

Alternatively, you can wear a soft bra for the first two months so that you don’t go for a bra that ends up being too big.

What should you look for in a nursing bra?

  • Fastenings

Consider investing in a nursing bra that has 4-6 hooks and eyes on its back band. A good rule of thumb is to go for a nursing bra that is comfortably snug on the loosest hook, but not too tight to the extent that it leaves red marks. That way, when your rib cage starts to shrink postpartum, you can tighten it up. The back band will provide around 80% support of your nursing bra, so this is crucial.

  • Shoulder straps

Choose a nursing bra that features wide, non-slip shoulder straps and broad sides and back, as well as a deep center at the front to provide extra support.

  • Cups

A lot of women opt to go for nursing bras that have extra room in the cup. This is not advisable – an ill-fitting cup will not provide the much-needed support that your breasts need. A good nursing bra should have stretchy fabric on the top of the cup so that there is still movement in the breast as it produces milk. You might also want to consider going for cups that allow you to expose and conceal your breast with one hand for added convenience.

  • Material 

Choose a nursing bra with a cotton lining. This is especially important if you’re exclusively breastfeeding; nursing affects your hormones, suppressing ovulation and putting you in a premenopausal-like state. This can cause hot flashes and night sweats, which is why you need to invest in breathable materials like cotton when looking for nursing bras.

  • Size

It is of utmost importance to wear the correct size nursing bra. Your breasts should never uncomfortably bulge out of the cups, so if this is happening, you may want to look for larger cup size. Additionally, a bra that is too tight might interfere with your milk flow and even lead to blocked ducts. 

Consider your wardrobe

Nursing bras come in varying designs, styles, and fabrics. Standard, day-to-day models are usually plainer, featuring easy clasps and made from practical fabrics that are machine washable. 

On the other hand, special occasion bras are often embellished with frills, lace, and ribbons, and some designs are even made for wearing under low-cut dresses or tops. The straps are relatively thinner, the front V-shape between the cups is lower, and the tops of the cups don't come up as far. While they look exceptional, they are not as comfortable and sturdy as plainer models and might provide the same level of support.

Are underwires bad for you?

There is no evidence that underwires are bad for you. However, many lactation consultants agree that it’s best to wait six weeks postpartum before wearing a nursing bra with one, to allow your milk supply to find its rhythm. If the bra is too tight, the underwires will affect blood circulation to and from the breast, potentially leading to pain, blockages, and infection.

Do you need a night bra?

A few days after you have your bundle of joy, you may notice that your breasts become engorge and might even leak (especially at night), and you will likely want your breasts supported at all times. Therefore, it may be worth investing in several stretchy night bras that don’t dig into your skin and will accommodate your breasts postpartum.

Final thoughts

Every breastfeeding mum is different, so you must do a bit of research into your own needs and preferences. You want to go for a nursing bra that will not only be comfortable for you to wear but also one that will allow you to feed your precious little one with ease.

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