There are many different styles of maternity or nursing bras available and it can be confusing deciding which one to buy. We hope this article answers your questions.
The wearing of a bra during pregnancy or breastfeeding is a matter of personal choice. However, women (particularly who have larger breasts) may be more comfortable wearing a bra.
When should I be fitted?
The right time to be fitted for a maternity bra varies from woman to woman and there is no right time for everyone. The breast begins to prepare for lactation quite early in pregnancy and some women will outgrow their usual bra size earlier than others. Generally speaking, most of the changes to the breast have occurred by around four months (16 weeks gestation) and this is a good time to be fitted, if you haven't needed to earlier.
A correctly fitted bra gives you comfort and support, so it is a good idea to be professionally fitted. It is not necessary to buy a bra you will grow into - indeed too big can be as bad as too small!
Is it true I can't wear an underwire?
Many women prefer underwire fashion bras and are confused when told these are not recommended during pregnancy or lactation. The reason for this is, once again, your changing breast shape. When breastfeeding, the breasts can increase and decrease in size during the day, as milk is produced and removed. Retained fluid in late pregnancy can also cause the breast to swell. Although only a slight change in size is occurring, a rigid underwire may put pressure on the breast when it is fuller. Such pressure may increase the risk of a blocked milk ducts or mastitis and it is for this reason inflexible underwire bras are not recommended. However, there are now nursing bras available that have a flexible low-gauge wire support, designed to flex and change position with your changing shape. These are less likely to cause problems.
Bras for Breastfeeding
Bras designed for pregnant women are also used when breastfeeding. The names maternity bra and nursing bra mean the same thing.
When trying on different styles, remember to open and close the bra cup. Most bras open for feeding and some are easier to manage than others. Look for bras where the whole cup folds away, as opposed to rigid 'trapdoor' styles which can also put pressure on a full breast while feeding. Centre front and shoulder clasp styles are available.
Should I wear a bra to bed?
The decision to wear a bra to bed depends entirely on personal preference. Some women feel they need the support or a way to hold nursing pads in place, others find a bra uncomfortable. Special sleep bras are available or you can wear a crop top or other soft cup bra in the correct size.
How do I look after them?
It is a good idea to have at least two or three bras. As your breasts may leak milk, they can need changing more frequently than usual. Bras should be hand-washed in mild soap and do not require soaking in bleach or nappy treatment solutions - these will weaken the fabric and may cause skin irritation. Look after your bras and they should last throughout your pregnancy and for several months afterwards.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed March 2017