If there is one item I have purchased a ridiculous amount of since becoming a breastfeeding mother, it's nursing bras. You don't have to have one to breastfeed and you definitely do not need as many as me, but I do recommend having at least a few if you are planning to breastfeed. For me they are a must have item, and make my life as a breastfeeding mother much easier.
After two babies and breastfeeding almost 3.5 years between them, I have been through and tried more nursing bras than I can count. I love to review them and share my favorites, so I thought it might be nice to have a quick start guide with links to my more thorough reviews.
If you are wondering if you even need a nursing bra you may want to check out my post about whether a nursing bra is even needed.
Sizing can be difficult. Most of us will need to buy a new bra during pregnancy but it is likely that your cup and band size may change after pregnancy as well. I made the mistake during my first pregnancy of buying several bras before I gave birth, then they did not fit that well once I had my baby and my milk came in.
Here is what I recommend so you don't make the same mistake; go get sized during pregnancy, get their advice, but do not purchase too many nursing bras ahead of time. The best ones to purchase while pregnant are a good sleep bra and one supportive but seamless bra that is highly adjustable. The best adjustable bras will have adjustable straps and adjustable hooks in the back.
My nursing sleep bras I purchased ahead of time worked fine for pregnancy and beyond, but the more structured bras I purchased did not. If you do purchase bras ahead of time try to find ones that are adjustable and have a flexible cup size.
I had the issue of being different sizes during pregnancy, right after birth, and then my size went back down a bit after the first 8 weeks. My rib cage went down a tad and my cup size mellowed out once my milk supply was established. This is quite common so only buy a couple of bras up front and get fitted again once your milk supply is established.
Get sizing help in any maternity store or department store that sells nursing bras. Destination Maternity and Nordstrom are have worked for me as well as the lactation center at my hospital.
As for how many bras you will need? That is a personal choice but at least three are recommended. I personally had probably three of each different type. I don't like doing laundry too frequently so I have a large stockpile now. It may seem that nursing bras are not a longterm investment but I am still wearing a few of mine four years later!
Types of Nursing Bras
Nursing sleep bras. These are soft and great for sleeping or wearing around the house. Check out more here.
Seamless or soft cups. These types of bras are much more supportive than a sleep bra but they do not have underwire. They are usually adjustable. Two of my favorites are the Bravado Body Silk and the Bravado Bliss.
Underwire. Underwire is not typically recommended when breastfeeding but sometimes you can't live without it. I personally have not had issues with it but it's important to make sure you have a well fitted bra from a reputable nursing line company if you are going to go there. Underwire that is too tight can hinder milk flow and cause plugged ducts.
My favorite underwire bra is the Bravado Allure. I have also received a gorgeous underwire bra from Figure 8 Maternity but I haven't used it yet since I am still pregnant.
Nursing tanks. Nursing tanks are a tank top with a bra built in. These are great for around the house or even out and about although I personally always want a separate bra and shirt when out. Nursing tanks cannot be beat for those early days at home with a newborn though.
Pumping bra. There are some seriously neat pumping bras on the market today. This is an area that has expanded a lot since I had my first baby four years ago. There are bras you can wear to nurse and pump hands free. My personal experience has only been with one hands free pumping bra and I loved it when I used it. You can read more about the Simple Wishes hands free pumping bra here.
I hope this list is helpful to clear up some of the confusion when it comes to sizing nursing bras and different types of nursing bras. I know when I was pregnant the first time I was overwhelmed with all the types out there that I almost got to the point where I was planning to breastfeed in my regular bra. A great nursing bra is a must though and can make breastfeeding much easier. If there is a brand you are wondering about that I have not reviewed please ask me anyway. Chances are I have tried it or know someone who has. Pease let me know if you have any other questions at all!