Buying bras when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding can be a bit of a nightmare. What kind. What size. The cost.
Nursing bras are on many “must get” lists for shopping before baby arrives, but should they be? The problem with that is that no one really knows how much your boobs will change after baby arrives – or while you’re pregnant. It’s a bit of guesswork, a bit of averaging (and, actually, how many of us are “average” at anything?). Some women report very small changes, others are outgrowing their pre-pregnancy bras by the time they’re 6 weeks pregnant!
When you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, a well fitting bra is important. A bra that is too tight on the cup can cause all sorts of issues and a bra that tries to support but doesn’t can cause shoulder and back pain (a common issue anyway amongst many new parents, especially first-time parents, as they adjust to carrying and holding baby).
Sadly, it can be hard to get fitted well in high street stores. A common problem is that the store doesn’t have a wide range of chest and cup sizes in stock and women are measured as having a larger chest size (and so correspondingly smaller cup size) than they really need.
When you’re pregnant, frequently checking your bra fits is key. Unless you’re planning on getting used to NOT wearing structured and fitted bras, then your best bet is to buy a couple of not-too-expensive bras and being prepared to change them frequently. Some do change to non-structured bras – Molke bras get rave reviews, for example.
When you’re breastfeeding, check your size frequently too. If you’re measuring milky boobs, remember that, especially in the early weeks, their size will change depending on whether your boobs are full or not, and everyone’s milk storage capacity (which has naff all to do with milk supply as boobs are factories not warehouses!) is different. Measuring when full can help adjust for this.
In terms of what size you need, these are both great:
Some NCT groups offer a bra-fitting service. You can always use the above guides to judge whether a shop is doing a good job of measuring you or not.
Buying nursing bras when pregnant
My suggestion on what (fitted) nursing bra to buy when pregnant is simple. Don’t. Honestly, you have no clue whether you’ll go up one cup size or more. It’s likely to be a waste of money.
Soft cup bras can be more accommodating of slight changes, but not significant changes. Stretchy (often called ‘night’) bras are far more accommodating. I’d suggest getting some of these for the early days with a baby. They make life easy if you’re starting to breastfeed when, to be frank, your boobs are going to be out a lot, and will tide you over till you can measure up and get something else.
You might read elsewhere that you shouldn’t wear underwired bras when pregnant or breastfeeding. The problem is that, if the bra is not well-fitting, the underwire can dig in, causing issues with changing or milky boobs.
They key phrase here is “if not well-fitting”! If your bra fits well, then there is no reason you can’t wear an underwired bra (but see above for the issues in keeping your bras well fitting!).
As a general rule, most people find that avoiding underwire for day-to-day in pregnancy, and then waiting until your milk supply is established, work well. There are then some really nice and comfortable underwired nursing bras on the market (Figleaves have consistently been the best source for underwired nursing bras in my experience).
An alternative for some
Of course you might decide to ditch bras all together. If so, Sophie Messager has a great intro here.