May 16, 2023

Maternity and Nursing bras: 7 things you need to know

Sophie Allen
Sophie Allen
Maternity and Nursing bras: 7 things you need to know

It can be hard to find the right underwear for when you're pregnant after you give birth, and when you're breastfeeding. You may feel yourself wondering things like, "How do I start? What bra should I purchase? What else should I be aware of?"

1. The way your breasts and bras change

During pregnancy, your bump will grow. But often, so will your breasts. Some women say their breasts start to grow as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, while others say it's not until the third trimester. Every pregnant woman is unique in their own way!

Remember why your breasts might be getting bigger?

  • Your milk ducts are getting bigger 

  • Your progesterone levels are going up

During pregnancy, most women gain one or two cup sizes:

Did you know that many women’s backs become wider as their rib cages get bigger to make room for their babies? (NHS Start4Life, 2019). This means that your old underwear might not fit anymore. It's important to get something that feels good, supports your breasts and back, and can stretch to fit your growing bust.

Bras that fit well can help with back and neck pain, breast pain, and sagging. Still, it's not clear if bras can help prevent stretch marks.

2. Bras: measuring up

If your bra feels too tight when you're pregnant, it's better to get measured by a professional than to keep wearing it as long as possible. Depending on how much growth you've seen, you might want to do this in the first trimester.

Some stores on the high street will measure you for free and they will be able to give you advice on sizing. 

It might seem expensive to buy new underwear, but try to think of it as an important investment. Wearing underwear that fits well will help both your back and your breasts.

Bras with wide straps help hold your bust up and spread its weight across your shoulders. It can be tempting to tighten straps to support your growing breasts, but if they're leaving marks on your shoulders, they're probably too tight!

Also, there are maternity bras that can also be used as nursing bras because they have a clip that is easy to open.

3. Nursing bras

Nursing bras are a good idea if you plan to breastfeed. They have clips on the straps that make it easy to pull them down to feed. Before your little one arrives, practise this so you can try doing it with only one hand to get the hang of it. 

Close to your due date, you might want to get measured again to make sure you have nursing bras that fit as well as possible. At this point, it may seem like your breasts are getting bigger every day, so don't wear a bra that's too tight. As your baby grows, you could try to go back more often because your milk supply might be changing, which could affect your size.

Some women go braless or wear a stretchy crop top that can be lifted up. You could also choose a tankini or cami with a top that drops down to make it easier to nurse.

4. Sleeping in your bra

You might want to think about what will be most comfortable to sleep in, especially if you feel like you need some support at night. There are now a lot of brands that sell sleep bras for pregnant women. You could also use a sports bra instead.

5. Underwired Bras

You might have heard that underwired bras are bad because they can block milk ducts, but that is actually not true. As long as the wire doesn't dig in and the bra still fits, you don't have to get rid of your underwired bras while you're pregnant. Some women swear by wire-free bras because they are more comfortable. It is completely up to you, whichever is most comfortable! 

6. Both form and function

Bras for pregnancy and nursing don't have to be frumpy. Modern maternity underwear can be both stylish and comfortable, so it's a good idea to look around.

With all the changes and discomforts of sore, itchy, veiny breasts, larger, darker areola, or leaking nipples, you could buy yourself a stylish bra. There are a lot of shops that sell matching maternity pants to make you feel even more special.

7. Material gains

Some women find that they sweat more than usual under or between their breasts, so it can be a good idea to choose bras made of materials that let air in. Natural fibres like cotton and silk breathe better than synthetics like polyester, so they'll help keep you cooler. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about comfort…

No matter how your body is changing, it's important to find underwear that fits it. How you feel can change if you are comfortable and well-supported.


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