Guide to Maternity Bras and Nursing Bras

The Definitive Maternity and Nursing Bra Guide

Wearing a supportive maternity bra or nursing bra during pregnancy has several benefits, the two big ones (well, two of the big ones) are (1) a supportive bra may reduce the stretching of breast tissue in turn reducing the chance of stretch marks and sagging breasts; and (2) proper breast support will help elevate back tension, stress, and pain.

Unlike fashion bras, maternity bra and nursing bras are especially designed to support the entire breast, which extends beyond what the average person considers to be breast tissue. Purchasing a fashion bra in a larger size won't provide the comfort and support you require while your body prepares for nursing.

A correctly fitted maternity bra (just like any bra) gives you full comfort and support, so it is a good idea to take measurements to determine your bra and cup size every time you buy a new maternity or nursing bra. You should avoid buying a maternity or nursing bra that you will ‘grow into’ – a bra that is too big can be as bad (or worse) than a bra that is too small.

Difference Between Maternity and Nursing Bras

The terms “maternity bra” and “nursing bra” are used interchangeably. There are some maternity bras that aren’t meant to be nursing bras (they don’t have flaps, or aren’t designed to be pulled aside to breast feed). However, most people actually mean ‘nursing bras’ when they refer to ‘maternity bras’. Both “true” maternity bras and nursing bras are designed for the fuller breast women have during pregnancy and while nursing. The closures and shoulder straps are specially designed to avoid digging into your shoulders, and provide the required support necessary to help prevent back and shoulder strain. The benefit of wearing a “true” nursing bra when pregnant is you can use the bra for nursing once the baby comes, without investing in yet another bra.

When to Buy a Maternity Bra

Breasts prepare for lactation fairly early in pregnancy. In fact, larger breasts are actually one of the first outward appearances of a pregnancy. While every pregnant mom is different, most women will see a change in their breast size around the fourth month of pregnancy.

The right time to buy a maternity bra varies with every pregnancy, and there is no right time for everyone. You should probably think about investing in a maternity and/or nursing bra when you first outgrow your pre-pregnancy bras. Generally speaking, significant changes to the breast have occurred by around four months (16 weeks gestation) and this is a good time to look at maternity bras, if you haven't needed to earlier. Limit yourself to one or two bras at first, as many women will grow bigger as their pregnancy continues. We know how expensive bras are, and maternity bras are no different. By buying one or two bras at a time not only do you avoid the risk of over-buying bras you won’t be able to wear, but you can determine what styles and fabrics are the most comfortable for you.

A good maternity bra is designed to fit comfortably earlier in your pregnancy (on the first ‘hooks’), and still fit comfortably (by moving towards the end hooks) throughout the pregnancy. However, it’s not uncommon for pregnant moms to go up to a whole new bra and cup size during their pregnancy, especially if they started wearing maternity bras early in their pregnancy.

Maternity Bra Fit

Maternity and nursing bras come in a variety of styles, fabrics, and with a number of options to help you get a comfortable and fully-supportive fit.

  • Make sure you take measurements every time you purchase a maternity bra. It may seem repetitive, but your breasts can change size as dramatically as your tummy does. Taking the time to get good measurements is a great way to make sure you get the right size, every time.
  • A four-station back closure maternity bra, while not the sexiest little number, will offer you the most comfort and probably the best fit. They are also made to fit comfortably on the first (tightest) hook early in your pregnancy and adjust to the final (loosest) hook by your last trimester.
  • Look at the bra straps, too. Wide, cushioned shoulder straps will provide support without digging into your shoulders – making your bra-wearing experience much more comfortable (especially if you’re large-breasted to begin with).

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