Ultimate guide to nursing bras

Other types of nursing bras

Seamless nursing bra

Seamless nursing bra

Key points:

  • Clips with drop down cups.
  • Stretchy and soft (perfect for when your size is changing).
  • They don’t have defined cups like a traditional bra, the fabric has been woven into the shape needed.
  • They normally come in standard dress sizes (no cup sizes – e.g. S, M, L etc or 8, 10, 12 etc). For this reason they may not fit very well if you have very small breasts or very large breasts for your body size.
  • Work well as sleep bras as well as for daytime.
  • Not normally very supportive.

They’re usually fairly cheap but also aren’t very supportive. A few brands are coming out with more expensive versions that have thicker fabric to give more support but still remain as comfortable.

These are great for pregnancy too, for that reason it’s good to buy them while you are still pregnant so you have something to wear through to when you first start breastfeeding. Since they are stretchy they’re ideal for the first stage of breastfeeding where your breasts are changing size so much.

Maternity camisole

Maternity camisole

Key points:

  • Clips with drop down cups.
  • Has built in support like a normal shelf bra camisole.
  • They normally come in standard dress sizes (no cup sizes – e.g. S, M, L etc or 8, 10, 12 etc). For this reason they may not fit very well if you have very small breasts or very large breasts for your body size.
  • Good for sleeping in, wearing around the house or in other relaxed places.
  • They often have some gathering in the sides for the stomach area so can be worn while you are still pregnant.
  • Not very supportive.

Another popular choice for the first stages of breastfeeding. You can wear them through pregnancy to breastfeeding. One nice feature of these is that when you nurse your stomach remains covered, this is great when you want to keep warm at night. They don’t give the support that a normal nursing bra would but are soft and comfortable so good for sleeping in or at other times when you don’t feel the need for something very supportive.

Sleep bra (crossover front)

Sleep bra with a crossover front

Key points:

  • No clips for the cups, instead you pull the cup down under your breast.
  • They normally come in standard dress sizes (no cup sizes – e.g. S, M, L etc or 8, 10, 12 etc). For this reason they may not fit very well if you have very small breasts or very large breasts for your body size.
  • Comfy low support bra, designed for sleeping.

Even though they are designed for sleeping in there is no reason you can’t wear them during the day if you don’t need much support.

Due to the crossover shape they aren’t ideal for large breasts, when you lay on your side the top one may fall out the middle.

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Underwires and flexi-wires

Underwires while breastfeeding can be a bit of a controversial topic, traditionally women have been advised against them due to the belief that it increases the risk of blocked ducts and mastitis. But many bra manufacturers argue that you can’t get the same level of support for large breasts without some kind of wire and that the risks are minimal if the bra is correctly fitted. In the end it’s your body so the decision is up to you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • An underwire bra has a much more defined and rigid cup shape than a soft cup bra. The wire MUST sit outside of the breast to be a correct fit. For this reason you don’t have as much leeway with sizing, an underwire bra needs to fit you really well to avoid trapping any breast tissue and causing a blockage. Breastfeeding is a time where your breast and body size can change a lot, if you choose to wear underwire nursing bras you may have to buy them more often to get them to keep fitting you well throughout this time.
  • Due to the dramatic changes in size and the higher risk of blocked ducts it is best to avoid underwires completely in the beginning of breastfeeding (the first month or so).
  • Do not sleep in an underwire bra. Your posture will be different when lying down so there is a greater chance the underwire will be press into your breast.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of a blocked duct or infection. The main signs of a blocked duct are redness, hotness, inflammation and lumps. Flu like symptoms can mean it has progressed to mastitis.You can read more on blocked milk ducts and mastitis on KellyMom.
  • Some women are more prone to blocked ducts and mastitis (even if they wear a perfectly fitting bra and loose clothing). If you have had trouble with blocked ducts then you should be much more cautious when choosing a bra. If you experience any problems you believe are caused by a bra or clothing you should stop wearing it.

What is flexi-wire?

Flexi-wire or flexible underwires are a newer development, they are usually made from plastic and are basically just a more flexible version of an underwire. Since they are less rigid than a traditional underwire they can offer support with less chance of blockage so are becoming a popular choice for nursing bras. The advice above still applies to flexi-wire bras as well as underwire ones.

Using a normal bra for nursing

Some women prefer to use a non-nursing bra. Generally this would be something stretchy that you can pull up over the breast you want to expose. This method normally works better for smaller breasts than for larger ones. You can also use a bra that has a front closure (instead of the normal closure in the back), but you have to completely undo it to nurse so you will be more exposed and it will be much more difficult to do up again while holding your baby.