I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding for pretty much all of the last six years, and I have been wearing nursing bras the whole time. I can’t remember the last time that I wore a bra with a real band/cup size (instead of one sized S/M/L).
Personally, I wear a bra all the time (except in the shower) – I feel naked without a bra when I’m lactating, and I find not wearing one uncomfortable when I’m pregnant. And if I’m going to wear it almost 24/7, it makes sense to get the best possible bra out there. So, below are the things that I’ve found that are important to think about when shopping for a nursing bra.
What Makes a Good Nursing (Pumping!) Bra
Of all the nursing/pumping bras I’ve worn over the years, the best ones have had the following features:
- Obviously, easy access is key. Most nursing bras have a latch at the top of the cup that you can detach when it’s time to nurse or pump. Honestly, because I am super lazy, I very rarely bother with this step and usually just push the cup out of the way. This works fine with almost every nursing bra I’ve had.
- Support is why bras exist in the first place, so this is another obvious one. However, this is one area where, in my experience, some nursing bras have fallen down a bit on the job (pardon the pun). These nursing bras are okay for sleeping in and lazing around the house with a newborn, but not great if your baby is older or if you have older children and are moving around a lot more.
- This one will depend on your breast size and comfort, but I like at least a little padding in a nursing bra. This isn’t for aesthetic reasons, but because it is inevitable that you are going to forget breast pads at some point and padding provides a little protection for you in the event of a leak. It has saved me more than once! However, if you have very large breasts you may not want any additional padding, which is totally understandable.
- It should work with your life. As I noted above, I’m lazy, and also I have three kids now that pee and barf on me more often than I’d like, so I need to wash my bras a lot and I don’t have a lot of time to spend on hand washing. Additionally, I am generally too sleep deprived to remember to pull them out of the wash and hang them up to dry (versus throwing them in the dryer). The dryer can ruin some bras, so I would recommend not buying a nursing bra that requires hand washing or line drying, unless this isn’t a concern for you. Also, if you have very large breasts, you might need an underwire, so this is just something consider when looking.
- It needs to fit you well. Not just so that you’re comfortable (though that’s important too!), but because an ill-fitting bra can cause problems like clogged ducts. If you have a strap where it’s not designed to be, for example, it can put pressure on a milk duct and result in a clog.
Some Nursing Bras I’ve Used
Medela “Freestyle Attachment” Bra
The first nursing bra that I tried was a Medela bra that was designed to be compatible with the Freestyle pump, meaning that you could clip the bra right to an attachment to the flange/bottle and have it stay in place, hands-free. However, when I got home from the hospital and my baby wasn’t latching, I tried hooking the bra up to the pump, and it was too complicated and a total disaster. I ended up just holding the flanges in place and eventually started using their hands-free bustier. This bra so was difficult to use (not a sentence you hear every day, right?) that it’s been discontinued and I can’t even find a picture of it on the internet.
The bra itself had did a few advantages – it was extremely sturdy, with strong straps, padding and an underwire, and it provided a lot of support. This also made my boobs look awesome in comparison to other bras! However, washing and drying it made the underwire pop out and ruined the bra after a year or so.
Another bra that I tried with my second baby was the iLoveSIA nursing bra. I needed a bunch of new bras quickly because the underwire from the Medela bras I’d bought with the first baby were starting to poke me and it was pretty uncomfortable. These came three in a pack, which was perfect, and the price point was great ($28 for 3 bras on amazon).
These bras are machine washable/easy to care for, and they have the nursing easy-access flaps. However, they don’t provide a ton of support and there is no padding. I still have these and mainly use them for sleeping or hanging out at home.
Bravado Body Silk Bra
My favorite nursing bra is from Bravado Designs. I got it with my third baby, and I LOVE this nursing bra. It has padding (removable inserts for shape), it provides excellent support (I may wear it as a sports bra when I’m done breastfeeding), and is washable with easy access nursing flaps (though as I said above, I’m lazy and just push the cups out of the way).
Bravado also has sizes up to 2X for larger-breasted women (see photos on amazon).
Bravado Seamless Silk Cami
I also tried Bravado’s Body Silk seamless cami, which is basically a combination nursing bra and tank top. I love nursing camis; they are fantastic when you are on maternity leave and spending most of your day on the couch pumping and/or feeding the baby. You can just throw a hoodie over them and you have a very easy, accessible outfit with no need to wear a separate bra.
I like the cami but overall prefer the Body Silk Bra. It’s a smoothing cami, so it’s very flattering, but it also sometimes rides up a bit. That’s the only con I can think of, everything else is great!
Anyway, so there is a whole lot of words about nursing bras and my many opinions on them. Hopefully this helps you decide on what you need for breastfeeding and pumping! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.