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Choosing a maternity bra

Confused about bras for breastfeeding? You’re not alone.


There are many different styles of maternity or nursing bras available. It can be confusing to know what’s best for you. Fortunately there are experts who can help. 

Getting professionally fitted for your bras is a good idea. A correctly fitted bra gives you the most comfort and support.  

When should I be fitted?

There is no right time for this. Breasts begin to prepare for breastfeeding quite early in pregnancy and some women will outgrow their usual bra size earlier than others. Generally, most of the changes to breasts have occurred by around 4 months (16 weeks) so this is a good time to be fitted. It isn't necessary to buy a bra you will grow into - too big can be as bad as too small! 

Is it true I can't wear an underwire?

Many women prefer underwire fashion bras but these aren't recommended during pregnancy and when you're breastfeeding. The reason for this is, once again, your changing breast shape.  

When you’re breastfeeding, your breasts may increase and decrease in size during the day, as milk is produced and removed. Retained fluid in late pregnancy may also cause your breast to swell. Although these may only be a slight change in size, a rigid underwire may put pressure on your breast when its full. Your breast may become inflamed, increasing your risk of mastitis.

This is why inflexible underwire bras are not recommended. However, there are maternity bras available that have a flexible low-gauge wire support, designed to move and change position with your changing shape. These are less likely to cause problems. 

What should I look for in a bra?

When you’re trying on different styles, check out the bra cup by opening and closing it. Most bras open for feeding and some are easier to manage than others. Look for bras where the whole cup folds away, rather than rigid 'trapdoor' styles which can also put pressure on a full breast while feeding. You can get bras with a clasp in either the front centre or on the shoulder.  

Should I wear a bra to bed?

This depends entirely on personal preference. You may like the support or a way to hold nursing pads in place. You might also find a bra uncomfortable. There are special sleep bras that you can buy, or you can just wear a crop top or other soft-cup bra. 

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, you’ll need to change your bra more frequently than usual. 

Hand-wash your bras in mild soap. There’s no need to soak them in bleach or nappy treatment solutions. These will weaken the fabric and may cause skin irritation. Look after your bras and they should last through your time breastfeeding. 


© Australian Breastfeeding Association January 2023

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