What should I look for in a nursing bra?

June 26, 2012

If you've never bought a nursing bra before, shopping for one may seem like a daunting task. What size should you buy? How do you know whether it’s going to fit you throughout your nursing experience? Below are a few basic guidelines to get you started. First of all, you should start shopping before your baby arrives and get fitted by a certified bra fitter. If you plan on purchasing nursing bras online, you can still get fitted at the maternity store and write down your measurements for future use. When choosing a nursing bra, keep in mind comfort and convenience. For comfort, look for a soft, well fitting bra. Bras that are too tight are not only uncomfortable, but may contribute to plugged ducts.1 WebMD recommends wearing nursing bras that provide firm support for the growing breasts.2 Babycenter.com, a trusted pregnancy and parenting resource recommends looking for soft cotton or cotton-synthetic blend nursing bra that doesn’t have seems near the nipple and has sturdy, wide straps.3 Dr. Sears suggests choosing a bra that “supports the breast from beneath even when the cup is open.”1 A guide from Botsford Hospital Breastfeeding Services says this about buying a nursing bra:
  • Choose cotton, because it allows the air to circulate around your breasts and prevents irritation;
  • Choose wide straps, because they won’t cut into your shoulders;
  • Try to avoid underwire bras, as they may interfere with the flow of milk;
  • Look for a bra with fasteners that can easily be opened and closed with one hand.4
If you are going to pump as well as nurse, you may benefit from buying a special bra that allows for a pumping attachment. This type of bra will give you the freedom to pump hands-free. When you try on bras, sit down to check how the bra fits and feels when you change position. Also, practice opening and closing the bra fastener in the fitting room. You may need to try on several different bras before you find the perfect fit. Your rib cage expands throughout pregnancy, so if you bought your nursing bra while pregnant, you may need to size up a few times after giving birth. 1 Ask Dr. Sears. (2012). Choosing the Right Nursing Bra. Retrieved on April 22, 2012 from http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/breastfeeding/helpful-products/choosing-right-nursing-bra 2 WebMD. (2012). Common Pregnancy Pains and Their Causes. Retrieved on April 23, 2012 from http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-coping-with-discomforts 3 BabyCenter. (2012). Maternity and nursing bras 101.  Retrieved on April 23, 2012 from http://www.babycenter.com/0_maternity-and-nursing-bras-101_10347729.bc?page=2 4 Botsford Hospital Breastfeeding Services. (2012). How to Buy a Good Bra. Retrieved on April 23, 2012 from http://www.botsford.org/medical_services/new_beginnings_maternity/breastfeeding/Breastfeeding_How_to_buy_a_good_bra.pdf

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For the determining the best starting point for your bra size, please visit our How to Measure Your Bra Size page.  


Cup Bra Sizing Guide (in inches)

  1. Measure your band size

Wearing your bra, take a snug measurement around your ribcage, directly under your bust and keep level all around. If you get an odd number, round up to the next even number. This is your band size.

  1. Measure your bust size

Take a loose measurement over the fullest part of your bust, keeping the tape level around your body. If needed, round up to the nearest inch.

  1. Calculate your cup size

Subtract your band size from your bust size, and use the difference to find your cup size on the chart below.

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