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Welcoming a baby into your home brings joy, wonder, and heaps of new gear. And not just for the little one — moms need new accessories, too. Namely, a good nursing bra.
Shopping for the best nursing bra is far from simple, however.
After having a baby, a woman’s body is continually changing, which can make finding a good fit difficult. Not to mention all the different styles that are on the market.
Support, comfort, ease of access — how do you find the perfect nursing bra for you?
Start with us. At BestReviews, our reviews are honest and unbiased. We never accept free products or perks from manufacturers. Instead, we buy products off the shelves like you do, test them in our labs, ask the experts, and interview real-life customers. All so you can make the most informed shopping decisions.
If you’re ready to buy, check out the matrix above for our five best nursing bras.
If you need to know more about what to look for in a nursing bra, including our expert’s tips, just keep reading.
Nursing bras come in several different types. Finding the right type for you will depend on personal preference and the size of your rib cage and breasts while nursing.
These nursing bras usually have a plastic clip at the shoulder and come with soft or molded cups. Normally, they have an adjustable hook-and-eye back closure. It’s important to make sure you can undo the clip with one hand, so you can hold the baby with the other. Drop-down cup bras work best with button-down shirts that allow access without exposing your stomach area.
Aimee is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. She has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Aimee has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and iPhone Essentials Magazine. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Aimee Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.
Underwire nursing bras are soft or molded and have drop-down cups with a sling for extra support. Many women like the support of an underwire, but they can be uncomfortable when nursing because of enlarged milk ducts.
Nursing sports bras usually use compression for control, have a snap-front closure, and are made of spandex and nylon. They’re great for high-impact activities. Otherwise, they aren’t the most comfortable type of nursing bra to wear. Change into a different bra when you’re done exercising as the extra compression can cause clogged milk ducts.
Try to find a nursing bra with four to six hook closures. This allows you to continue wearing the bra even as you begin to lose the weight gained during pregnancy.
The crossover nursing bra (sometimes called a “sleep bra”) is wireless and made of soft fabric that crosses in the front and can be pulled back to expose the breast for nursing. Most crossover bras can be pulled over the head and don’t have hooks in the back. They are not as supportive as other designs but are very comfortable.
Designed specifically for pumping, these nursing bras are designed as a band with a hole over each breast for a flange to pass through and attach to a breast pump. Most have a zippered front to provide access for the breast pump. This type of bra leaves you free to do other tasks with your hands, like reading or checking email. They come in small, medium, and large or with an adjustable strap.
When nursing in public, button-down or crossover shirts allow the easiest access while still providing good coverage. If you’re worried about modesty, a nursing cover that attaches at the back of the neck is easier to keep in place than a blanket.
Many women get nursing bras well in advance of having a baby because going bra shopping with an infant is difficult. Experts recommend getting measured and fitted around 36 weeks.
However, you may want to purchase another bra two to three weeks after delivering. Your breast size continues to fluctuate during this time. A few weeks after having your baby, your breast size should stay fairly steady.
For the best results, get fitted by a professional just as you would if you weren’t nursing. Be aware that your cup and band sizes may change by a size or two.
Try on your nursing bra before you buy. Be sure to check for comfort and fit.
Support is key for a nursing bra. Underwires with a back hook-and-eye closure offer the most support, while sleep bras provide the least.
If underwire is not an option for you because of comfort or clogged ducts, a soft cup with a hook-and-eye closure is the next best option. When purchasing a soft cup, look for a no-roll band for comfort.
For those with large breasts who need extra support, look for a nursing bra with extra-wide padded shoulder straps and fuller cups.
Nursing bras that fit too tightly or press on the breast can cause clogged milk ducts. Clogged ducts can get infected, leading to mastitis.
You’ll need to be able to open the bra with one hand because you’ll be holding your baby with the other. Bras with closures that are difficult to unsnap will be hard to use in public and annoying to use at home.
Crossovers offer the easiest access but also the least support. For snap closures, try them out while wearing the bra to check for ease of access. Some can be difficult to manage one-handed.
It’s a good idea to practice opening and closing the front closure of a nursing bra before trying to nurse a baby. Practice will give you more confidence once your baby arrives.
Don’t settle for an uncomfortable nursing bra.
Soft cups are more forgiving than molded cups when it comes to engorgement issues. Wireless nursing bras should be worn if you have any problems with clogged ducts or mastitis as underwires can make this problem worse.
Look for a nursing bra that gives both support and comfort all day.
Nursing bras need to provide adequate support for breasts that may change in size daily.
Straps should be adjustable.
Wide straps that are set closely together offer the most support and won’t cut into the skin.
Stretchy straps should be worn only at night when support isn’t an issue.
A band that reaches low on the body and stays flush with the skin will offer the best support.
Cotton is the most breathable, but there are synthetics that accurately mimic cotton.
It’s important to get plenty of ventilation. The nipple and breast can become sore if moisture stays trapped against the skin.
Q. I have a friend who developed a painful case of mastitis while nursing. Are there nursing bras that can help prevent that?
A. While wearing the right nursing bra is no guarantee against mastitis, there are some things to avoid that could lead to its development. Underwires are notorious for causing clogged milk ducts, especially under the arm, as they put pressure on ducts and prevent milk from coming out. Once a duct gets clogged, it can become infected and lead to mastitis. Too much compression can also have the same effect.
Q. I’ve heard I should get fitted for a nursing bra just like my regular bra. Should I do that before or after I have the baby?
A. You won’t be able to accurately predict your bra size until two or three weeks after delivery. Your best bet is to buy one or two bras before the baby comes, so you’ll have something to wear in the hospital. Then either measure yourself or get professionally fitted two to three weeks postpartum, and order a few more nursing bras according to your new measurements.
Q. Do I have to wear a sleep bra?
A. Not unless you want to or you have a problem with leaks. Sleep bras keep breast pads in place to keep leakage under control. Some women also like having a little support while sleeping.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.