Maternity and Nursing Underwear
Congratulations! You're either pregnant, or have brought a brand new baby in to the world. So now you need a maternity bra or nursing bra. Mothers-to-be find their breast size changes in the first trimester of pregnancy. So, they outgrow their pre-pregnancy bras about the same time their non-maternity jeans no longer fit. If you're buying new bras during pregnancy, one school of thought is to go ahead and buy nursing bras. These may not fit immediately after the birth, when your breasts are swollen, but in a month or two, when you're in the routine of breast feeding they'll fit. The other school is to wait until about a month after your birth. This will give you a more accurate fit, but you won't have a nursing bra the moment you might need it either.
Maternity Bras: It's important to have the right bras to wear during your pregnancy. These bras are known as maternity bras. They will relieve breast strain, allow for breast growth, and give needed support. Your breasts are made up of fatty and connective tissue, and glands. During pregnancy, each breast can become 10 to 18 ounces heavier because of increased fluid and mammary gland growth. This puts the surrounding skin and tissue under considerable strain. Without proper bra support, your breasts could become deformed by this additional weight on your skin tissue. And, for women with already large breasts, there can be significant tension in the neck and shoulders. So, finding good plus size maternity bras and wearing them throughout your pregnancy is very important for all women.
Maternity Bras vs. Nursing Bras: Many women use these terms interchangeably, but a maternity bra is very different from a nursing bra. A maternity bra (also known as a pre-natal bra) is worn both before and after pregnancy if you are not planning on breastfeeding. The cups of a maternity bra are designed with some stretch to accommodate your breast growth. They also have more breast coverage and support built in to give you the needed breast support for your growing breasts. Without support, your post-pregnancy breasts will be come more pendulous and have less volume because your breast ligaments will have stretched.
A nursing bra (or feeding bra) is worn once your child arrives, and you have made the decision to breastfeed. Nursing bra cups are designed with a drop down cup design to expose your breast for nursing. However, most nursing bras are constructed with an inner sling so that your nipple may be exposed for breast feeding, but your breast is still supported. Nursing bras are usually seamless and give a natural shape to your breasts.
When to buy a maternity bra: The right time is when your breasts begin to noticeably swell to the point that your existing bras no longer fit. Usually, this is from the 4th month onward. Maternity bras are of a special design to give extra support and coverage. They are also made to fit comfortably on the first (tightest) hook early in your pregnancy, and adjust to the final (loosest) hook by your last trimester. A maternity bra many times will also have 4 or more rows of adjustment. However, even with this, it's not unusual for some pregnant women to need a whole new size maternity bra towards the end of their pregnancy.
Measuring for a Maternity Bra: First, don't bother measuring for one of these bras until your fourth month of pregnancy. Then, refer to our "Measuring for the proper bra fit" section to determine your proper maternity bra size. Popular maternity bra brands include Anita, Bravado and Elle MacPherson.
Features to look for in a Maternity Bra: A comfortable maternity bra will have wide side bands and shoulder straps to help support growing breast tissue. Shoulder straps should have some cushioning and little or no stretch.
- Three or more back adjustments - Look for a maternity bra with three or more back closures to allow for the most flexibility in fit. A maternity bra should fit you on the tightest hook when you buy it, then loosen as you grow.
- Proper bra band - The bra's band should lie under the breasts and flat on the rib cage. If the breast tissue is receiving pressure, this could lead to a plugged milk duct and ultimately mastitis or breast infection.
- Large enough cups - Be sure the cup of your maternity bra is large enough to give you adequate coverage and depth for your breasts. If the cup is not large enough for proper coverage, some of the breast tissue may spill out on top and under the arms resulting in inadequate support.
- Weather conditions - it's tough being pregnant during hot weather. If you find yourself getting hot easily, look into bras made with cotton or wicking microfiber.
Soft cup vs. Underwire Maternity Bras:
Properly fitted underwire maternity bras generally cause no problems during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. However, soft cup maternity bras will always be more comfortable when the breasts are at their fullest. If you do choose an underwire bra, it is imperative that the wire fits well under and behind the breast tissue. Any pressure on the breast tissue can result in a plugged milk duct, and ultimately mastitis or breast infection. Also, wearing an underwire while sleeping is not recommended.
When to buy a Nursing Bra:
Try and wait until about the 8th month to buy a nursing bra. Your breasts size should stabilize by the7th to 8th month of your pregnancy. Then, buy one cup size larger than your measurement at 8 months. This is the general rule because most women's breasts grow a full cup size once milk comes in after the birth. So, if you measure a 38D, purchase a 38DD or 38E nursing bra. So, some stores suggest waiting until after the birth to purchase your nursing bras, we do not recommend this. There is too much going on in your life by then, and you will appreciate having your nursing bra as soon as you start nursing. Some popular nursing bra brands include Condessa, Goddess, Leading lady and Bravado.
Features to look for in a Maternity Bra:
- Look for a bra that provides convenient, easy access to the breast. A bra that allows the cup to be opened with one hand so you can hold your baby when preparing to breastfeed.
- Choose a nursing bra made of cotton or other soft and breathable fabric. Bras made with synthetic materials may trap moisture against your skin. Make sure any decorative details (e.g. lace trim) are not scratchy and irritating to your skin.
- Nursing bras with a four-hook back closure will offer the greatest flexibility in fit.
- Wide straps that don't stretch and have cushion will be the most comfortable and provide the best support.
- The band of your nursing bra should fit comfortably on its widest setting. Your band size will decrease after the birth and this adjustability will then be appreciated.
How many maternity/nursing bras do I need?
The standard recommend is to have at least three maternity/nursing bras so that you can wear a fresh one every day. One to wear, one to launder and one as a spare just in case....
For more information about nursing bras and maternity bras, please see our "How to Fit a Bra" section
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