When to Buy a Nursing Bra & Proper Bra Fit for the Nursing Mom

Veronica Tingzon, IBCLC By Veronica Tingzon, IBCLC, RLC

Enchanted in the throngs of pregnancy, most women enjoy imagining all the things that they and their baby will need for the next two years of their baby’s life.  Included on this list are nursing bras. Many pregnant women expect that their breasts will grow as the milk comes in post birth. So, as most expectant moms do, you end up buying nursing bras that are too small because you have no idea what size your breasts will increase to.

Most women buy nursing bras that are one to two sizes larger than their normal bra size, as a rule of thumb, when they’re shopping for nursing bras pre-birth. However, as I mentioned before, no one can really know what her nursing cup size will be until the milk has “come in” and then “settled in.”

What does this mean? When the milk comes in, generally, the breasts become impacted with enough milk to feed twins, even triplets because your body doesn’t know how many babies you had until it starts to recognize the suckling pattern of one, two, or more babies. Once the engorgement subsides and the breasts become more accustomed to your baby’s suckling patterns, you’ll be able to buy a fitted bra that is tailored to your breast’s new size. This sizing may also change throughout your breastfeeding career, too.

So, what type of bra does a new mom begin with? There are bras that are designed with this transitional sizing in mind. Generally called comfort bras, the sizes are usually small, medium, large, etc….. These bras are designed for a variation of size ranges, and they also have the snap or clasp openings to release the bra flaps to make it easier to nurse. Comfort bras you are sure to love and should definitely try are Bravado Original Nursing Bra, Bravado Body Silk Nursing Bra and Essential Embrace Nursing Bra by Bravado.  The Cotton Candy Nursing Bra by Cake is our newest comfort style bra and it is truly wonderful! You can get by with comfort bras during your entire nursing adventure, however for more lift & hold, a fitted bra does a better job.

Another popular, transitional bra style is called a sleep bra. These bras are great for nighttime nursing or at home with baby when comfort is key. Sleep bras are soft elastic, criss-crossed style bras that allow the breast to come out by moving the fabric over to the outside of the breast, commonly called a “pull aside” for nursing access. They are very comfortable, however offer little “suspension” which can make the breasts look a little “saggy” when going out. A sleep bra is a better choice for lounging at home and sleeping, of course. Sleep bras also do not offer a lot of support to our ample-breasted sisters, however you can buy plus sized sleep bras all the way up to size 3X here at Nursing Bra Express. 

Something else that is all the rage, right now, is the nursing tank. I love this option. There are different styles and the sizing is transitional sizing, as well, like that of the comfort bras. They offer good support and work well on their own top on hot days or as a second layer on chilly days. They are perfect for layering under your favorite non-nursing tops to keep your tummy covered while nursing.  Most have quick release clasps or pull aside cups for easy and discreet nursing.  Bravado Nursing Tank is perfect for both pregnancy and nursing as it adjusts to your ever changing figure, La Leche League Nursing Tank and Cami Sutra Nursing Tank by Melinda G are perfect for moms who want support and comfort. Full busted? Try Full Figure Nursing Tank by La Leche League. 

So when do I purchase my fitted bras? A good time frame to get fitted, or fit yourself for your new nursing bra, is somewhere between days seven to fourteen post-birth. 

Measuring Yourself for a Fitted Nursing Bra

How to measure:

Step 1: Determine your band size (i.e. 36, 38, etc).  To do this, measure yourself around by bringing the measuring tape around your back, under your armpits and up above your breasts.  Round all fractional numbers to the nearest whole number. 

Step 2: Determine your cup size - Now measure yourself around the same way but this time around the center of the breast (the fullest part of your breast), rather than the under the armpits. Round all fractional numbers up to the nearest whole number. Subtract your band size circumference from the mid-breast circumference to find the cup size.

Example: If your band size is 36 and you have a 40 inch mid-breast circumference, then you have 4 inches worth of cup size. Each cup inch stands for a bra cup size…. A, B, C, D, etc. You would be looking for a bra around 36D.  If you measure between cup sizes, always size UP.

If the Difference is: Your Cup Size is:
1/2" - 1" A
2" B
3" C
4" D
5" DD/E
6" DDD/F
7" G
8" H
9" I
10" J
11" k
12" L
13" M

We are here to help you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance with measuring yourself or determining your bra size! We’d love to hear from you!
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The way the bra fits is the true indicator of size, however. Try the bra on (preferably with a dry breast pad) to make sure the band is not binding, too loose, or that any underwire does not cut into the mammary tissue. An improper fit to your nursing bras can lead to other lactating breast issues (see common lactation problems).

Lastly, the cup of the bra is something you must consider, as well. Many moms like to purchase the padded cup nursing bra, however, the padded cup tends to get in the way of the hand-hold when learning to breastfeed. I generally advise moms to use a soft cup nursing bra in the early days to allow more freedom to hold your breast properly when learning to nurse. If you are a mom who tends to “leak” quite a bit, the padded cup nursing bra may be a great option for you once you’ve gotten the hang of nursing. The padded cup nursing bra is also a wonderful way to disguise those clunky and not-so-attractive breast pads.

Good luck on finding the perfect nursing bra right here at Nursing Bra Express! We have a wide variety of nursing bras and we want you to find your perfect fit right here, please feel free to ask us any questions you may have and we will be glad to assist you during this precious time in your life.
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