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All About Nursing Bras

As women, we all know the importance of a good bra and keeping the girls comfortable and supported. This is even MORE important when nursing: there is more breast to support, we need functional cups that open and close or can be moved to the side, and you can develop some breast complications from an ill fitting bra while lactating.

Infant breastfeeding nursing bra

When to Buy

It is a good idea to be fit for your nursing bras by a bra specialist or someone trained in measuring women for bra fittings. It is best to wear a non-padded bra that reflects your true shape when being fit. There are two different times you may want to be measured for a fitting.

First Fitting

About 3-4 weeks prior to your due date is a good time to be fit for one or two bras that will get you through those first days and weeks after delivery. Some moms decide to use nursing tanks that are more forgiving in size these early days as your breast size will change a lot that first month (up when your milk comes in a few days after delivery and then down a little again after a week or two). They are also usually soft, comfortable, and keep your newly postpartum tummy covered while nursing if that is important to you. If you are larger busted however, nursing tanks do not offer as much support.

Second Fitting

At about 3-4 weeks postpartum is when your breast size will have "normalized" (new-normal) to your breastfeeding size. Most mamas stay this size for most of their nursing duration. This is when you can buy ALL the cute, sexy, comfy, or sporty bras. Thankfully there are SO many more options than there used to be. More on that in a minute!

Bra Fitting Basics

The best plan is to have a bra specialist measure and fit you. If you do not have one in your area, here are the basics from Bravado Designs:

Once you are trying on your new bra, here are the basics of knowing whether it is a well fitting, functional nursing bra:

  • Shoulder straps are not digging in (many come padded or are wide) and are also not slipping off

  • The bra band sits flat on your rib cage (not on your breast tissue and not gaping away from your rib cage, and is especially important with underwire), and the band also doesn't ride up in the back.

  • If there is a fold down cup, when clipped you don't see gaping between the cup and the sling

  • Your breast tissue is not spilling out of the cup, either on top or over the sides

  • Your breasts are well lifted and supported and aren't sagging or drooping while in the bra

  • You can open the breast cup (snap, clip, whatever) with one hand as your other hand will be holding your baby

Here is an example of a POORLY fitting nursing bra:

Ill-fitting nursing bra
Band digging in and not resting on chest wall, cups gaping, side boob, straps thin and likely digging in!

Types of Nursing Bras

Nursing bras come in many different types. Many moms like to wear a similar type to that which they did before pregnancy. However, sometimes with increased breast sensitivity, women like to switch to something that is more comfortable. Here are some of the types which are available:

Sleep Bras

  • These are great because they are soft, cozy, and fairly unstructured for nighttime when you don't need as much support and really just need something to hold your breast pad.

Seamless, Soft Cup, and Wireless

  • More support than a sleep bra with some structure, but without underwire and not overly structured.


  • Some women just really like or need the support of underwire. Just ensure it is properly resting on your chest wall and not your breast tissue including in your underarm region. We have breast tissue that extends all the way up into our armpits. This is a common location for complications like plugged ducts from underwire pushing on breast tissue.


  • Nursing can still be active moms! Exercise is great for your heart, your body and your sanity. Find a sports bra that is snug and supportive but not too restrictive. Only wear a sports bra during exercise and then switch to a bra that is less constricting. Wearing a tight fitting bra like a sports bra can not only decrease your milk supply if worn too long, but can also lead to complications like plugged ducts if the elastic is compressing your breast tissue. When trying on, make sure the bottom band is well onto your rib cage on not on the bottom portion of your breasts.

Complications of a Poorly Fitting Nursing Bra

If you notice any of these issues, seek medical care and check your bra fit!

Decrease in Milk Supply

This primarily happens if your bra is too restrictive or tight fitting, often with a sports-type bra. The constant pressure on your breasts signals to your body that they are actually too full (even if they are not) and so your body down regulates your milk supply. Not a good thing if you don't have an oversupply!

Plugged Ducts

  • A hard lump after your breasts have been emptied that does not soften with feeding/pumping

  • May be slightly reddened or have a red streak following that duct

  • Often painful

Mastitis (infection)

  • A hardened, reddened, painful area of the breast (not just a lump, may be a whole quadrant or side of your breast)

  • Flu like symptoms: fever, general malaise, body aches, (aka feel like crud!)

  • This requires antibiotics and so ensure you call your provider to be assessed and for treatment. The infection is in the breast not the milk so keep nursing/pumping!

Where to Buy

There are lots of options, but here are a few to get you started! As I mentioned, it may be a good idea to get fit first (or measure yourself using the video above) before buying a bra online. Also, it's good to check the return policy just in case it arrives and it doesn't fit properly! Happy shopping!

Online Shopping

Other Big Retailers

Greater Lansing Local Shops

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