The Ultimate Nursing Bra Guide: Everything You Need To Know

You want to buy a good nursing bra but you’re overwhelmed by this new world where every bra is touted as the best that money can buy.

I can help.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and writing about nursing bras.

In this guide, I answer all your questions about nursing bras and help you determine the right one for you.

Don’t worry, I’ve made it as simple as possible. Read it from A to Z or use the content box to jump to sections you need help with.

What is a nursing bra?

A basic but vital question – a nursing bra is a convertible BMW in the world of bras. You can ‘open the roof’ via drop-down cups or pull-aside flaps for easy breastfeeding. It also has luxury (but essential when breastfeeding) features like super-soft flexible fabric, extra knit-in zones, wide under-bust bands, and more hook and eye options.

Nursing bras can have flexi-wires or be wireless but both types will come with extra supportive features to hold up heavier breasts.

Check it out on Amazon

What are the benefits of nursing bras?

In essence, there are 4 major benefits to wearing nursing bras:

Heavenly comfort

You don’t know comfort until you have tried on a well-fitting nursing bra. The buttery softness cocoons your breasts like no other bra ever will.

In fact, many moms continue wearing their nursing bras after breastfeeding is done and never go back to regular bras again.

Breastfeeding convenience

When your baby is crying blue murder, only nursing bras will allow you to breastfeed with a flick of your fingers. Imagine trying to fumble with a regular bra. I shudder at the thought.

Superior support

Granted, wired regular bras offer great support. But I highly recommend you don’t wear underwired bras when nursing.

Unfortunately, wireless regular bras are a bit sad when it comes to providing breast support. Wireless nursing bras on the other hand, have wide under-bust bands and straps, double knitted zones etc. to provide superior support without pokey wires.

Your breasts are going to be heavy and sore. You need all the support a bra can give you.

To prevent clogged ducts and mastitis

Nursing bras are wireless and made of stretchy material to reduce breast tissue compression. This reduces your risk of clogged milk ducts and mastitis. Check out this article on how to prevent and treat clogged milk ducts

Further reading: Should you wear a bra when you have mastitis?

What are the different types of nursing bras?

Nursing bras can broadly be divided into wireless and underwired.

Wireless nursing bras have no cup wires but instead have wide under-bust bands, thick shoulder straps etc. to support your breasts.

Underwired nursing bras have cup wires but these are flexi-wires. The difference between flexi-wires and regular underwires are that flexi-wires are in a larger ‘C’ shape and is more flexible.

There are also nursing sports bras, sleep bras, pumping bras, contoured bras and nursing bras with multiple functions.

This is the Cake Maternity Lotus Pumping Bra. It’s a combined nursing bra, pumping bra and nursing sports bra

Read more about the different types of nursing bras here.

How to choose the right nursing bra for your needs

Nursing bras come in all sorts of styles, fabrics and shapes. The best nursing bra will work in with your lifestyle and provide good support while making sure you’re comfy.

The best way to choose a nursing bra is to start with when you want to use it:

New moms

The first 4-6 weeks post-delivery is one of the most overwhelming times in a new mom’s life. You will almost certainly be dealing with breastfeeding issues, engorged breasts and leaking breast milk.

At this early stage of your journey, wearing a comfortable bra is the most important. Choose wireless and seamless nursing bras that are made of soft, breathable material.  

The Kindred Bravely Simply Sublime Nursing Bra is a Parent Approved Award winner for being comfortable and supportive, especially for new moms. It also comes with removable cup paddings to protect against milk leaks.  

Check it out on Amazon

For a deep dive, read my article on how to choose the best nursing bra for new moms.

I need a lounge or sleep bra

If you’re looking for a nursing bra mainly for sleep or home use, your priority is comfort. Support isn’t as important since you won’t be wearing it out. 

Most good quality wireless nursing bras will be comfortable enough to wear at home but if you want next-level comfort, sleep bras are the softest bras you will ever find. 

Kindred Bravely is also famous for their Organic Cotton Nursing Sleep Bra. The busty version even has longer straps to fit comfortably around larger breasts. 

Check it out on Amazon

Further reading: What do you wear to bed when breastfeeding?

Everyday nursing bra

For an everyday nursing bra, you’ll want a wireless bra that is also sturdy enough to support your breasts while you rush around. I’m also a fan of contoured cups for protection from nipple show-through and milk-leaks.

This ‘workhorse bra’ is the best value-for-money since you can wear it 24/7 if you want to.

The Tutti Frutti Nursing Bra is one of my favorites. It doesn’t have an underwire but the racer-back design and wide under-bust band provide great support. It has a plunge neckline, a touch of lace, and the memory foam contour cups gives your breasts a push-up effect. I’m done with breastfeeding and I’m still wearing this bra!

Tutti Frutti Nursing Bra

Take a deep dive into the features to look out for in an everyday nursing bra.

I need a nursing bra with extra support

If you have larger breasts and need more support, many maternity brands have busty options. These bras tend to have even more support features like expanded fabric and sectioned cups.

Other supportive features to look out for include:

  • wide under-bust band
  • thick shoulder straps
  • racerback design 
  • double-knitted zones 
  • full cups 
  • reinforced side panels 
  • flexi-wires (only recommended if your breasts are not getting engorged anymore)

Motherhood Maternity offers a great plus size nursing bra for an affordable price. It’s seamless, wireless and specifically designed for D cups and upwards. 

Check it out on Amazon!

I’m nursing and pumping at the same time

If you intend to pump regularly, or even a few times a week, it’s worth buying a pumping bra. Some pumping bras are more like corsets that you wear over your regular nursing bra when you need to pump.

I prefer combined nursing and pumping bras that I can wear all day but allows me to pump hands-free when I want to. These give you the best value-for-money. 

The Cake Maternity Lotus Pumping Bra is another regular in my bra drawer. It’s a combined nursing bra, pumping bra and sports bra. 

Check it out on Amazon 

Going back to work

The biggest problem I had with going back to work was finding the time to pump. Every minute counts. 

I found it easiest to wear a combined nursing and pumping bra that is comfy enough to wear the whole day but also saves a few steps when I need to pump. 

The Momcozy Pumping Bra gives you a nice silhouette under tops and provides good support, even for moms with large breasts.

Check it out on Amazon

Find out how to choose the right nursing bra to wear back to work.

For sports

Nursing moms need to exercise too right? You’ll find your regular sports bra too restrictive and uncomfortable to wear. In fact, it probably doesn’t even fit. Thank goodness there are nursing sports bras designed just for breastfeeding moms. 

This guide runs through what to look out for in a nursing sports bra

In essence, your nursing sports bra needs to be sturdy enough that there is minimal boob-bounce but flexible enough that it doesn’t compress on your milk ducts. 

The Cake Maternity Zest Nursing Bra is one of the most supportive nursing sports bras around for running and jogging. Just bear in mind that is has a flexi-wire so if your breasts are still intermittently getting engorged, you shouldn’t wear it. 

Zest Nursing Sports Bra

 

Want to dig in deeper? Read this guide on choosing the right nursing bra for your lifestyle.

How does a nursing bra work?

Nursing bras are designed to make nursing easy, support your breasts and provide as much comfort as materially possible.

Every part of the nursing bra is specifically designed to do one of these things.

I won’t go into the details in this article but if you are interested in learning more, read my article on how nursing bras work.

When to start wearing nursing bras?

Start wearing nursing bras whenever you want during pregnancy. For me, that was in my 6th week. I just felt so much more comfy in them than my regular bra. Read when to start wearing nursing bras (and why) here.

You might also be interested in reading if you can wear a nursing bra during pregnancy

You can even wear nursing bras when you’re not pregnant.

What nursing bra size should I buy?

This is probably the biggest question on your mind. Unfortunately you can’t automatically buy in your pre-pregnancy size and will need to measure anew. It doesn’t help that sizes vary between not just maternity brands but also nursing bra types.

Keep in mind that your rib cage can expand up to 36 weeks of pregnancy and your breasts can grow up to 3 cup sizes.

Your bra should be able to fit when the hook is on the tightest setting. You can then work your way out throughout pregnancy.

A bra extender is an affordable way to get more life out of bras.

How to measure myself for a nursing bra

The best time to measure yourself for a nursing bra is in the 8th month of pregnancy but who has time to wait that long?

Read my step-by-step guide on how to measure yourself for the right size nursing bra and when to do it.

Or watch this video:

Medela has a bra size calculator on their website if you find the calculations too confusing. 

How many nursing bras do I need?

Most experts say buy 3 nursing bras but that’s generalizing. You know best how many you would need. Just make sure you have enough to wear while some are being washed. And make sure you have a back-up bra for the odd unforeseen mishap.

Read this article where I help you decide how many nursing bras you need.

What are nursing bras made of?

The softest, most comfy material ever! At least that’s what good quality nursing bras are made of.

Most nursing bras are made of a blend of nylon and elastane. Some of these can be really comfy and durable.

My favorite are cotton and bamboo nursing bras. I find them more comfy, breathable and soft.

Read more about the best fabrics for nursing bras

What are the best nursing bras?

Soft, breathable, non-chafing fabrics are what your tender breasts need.

Wearing a bra that doesn’t fit or constricts is bad for you and can lead to more serious complications.

Check out my reviews:

Are there alternatives to nursing bras?

In my books, a nursing bra is the ultimate answer to providing my breasts support, protection, comfort and convenience when I am breastfeeding. 

However, I know not everyone will agree with me. 

If you’re wondering if there are any alternatives to nursing bras, there are indeed. They will never be as good as nursing bras (IMHO) but nursing tanks, regular wireless bras, bralettes and nursing pajamas have their benefits too.

To find out more, check out my article on some great alternatives to nursing bras.  

How do nursing bras compare?

You may be wondering what benefits nursing bras have compared to other bras. Why fork out more money when you already have a wardrobe full of greats bras?

Check out these articles:

Nursing bra vs regular bra

What is the difference between a nursing bra and a regular bra? The most obvious is that nursing bras have cups that drop-down to give you easy access for breastfeeding.

But there’s lots more to the story.

Nursing bra vs maternity bra

Are they the same thing? Does anyone even buy pure maternity bras anymore? Can you wear a nursing bra during pregnancy?

Nursing bra vs pumping bra

Which should you choose? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds?

Nursing bra vs nursing tank

What benefits do nursing bras have over nursing tanks? When should you wear a nursing tank instead?

Other questions you might have:

These articles answer some of the most common questions about nursing bras. If you’re interested to find out more, just click through to read them:

How much should nursing bras cost?

Expect to pay between $30 to $50 for a good quality nursing bra and about $20 to $30 for a decent budget nursing bra. This article takes a deep dive into nursing bras that suit all budgets.  

Are nursing bras FSA and HSA eligible?

The short answer is no. Sorry. But there’s away around it. Check out how to work the system.

Do I have to wear a nursing bra all the time?

No, you don’t. But there are times when it is absolutely imperative to wear a nursing bra. This article will walk you through those critical periods.

In fact, you might be asking if you have to wear a bra at all while you’re breastfeeding.

Should I wear a nursing bra to bed?

Should you? I don’t. Read about the benefits of wearing a bra to bed and whether it will affect your milk supply.

Should I put nursing bras on my baby registry?

I’m a big advocate for not putting nursing bras on your registry. Bras are such personal items and I definitely don’t want the world knowing what bra size and cup size I wear. I talk about why putting nursing bras on your registry is a bad idea.

What else can I use nursing bras for?

As a pumping bra

I round up some great nursing bra hacks to magically (with some creative help) transform them into hands-free pumping bras.

As a regular bra

I still wear my Lotus Pumping Bra even though I stopped breastfeeding 4 months ago. Nursing bras are so much more comfy than regular bras. Why shouldn’t  I wear them all the time?

To wrap up

Phew! That was a pretty big guide on nursing bras. I hope you got some value from it. I have written lots of other articles and reviews about nursing bras, nursing tanks and breastfeeding in general. Click on the overhead menu to check them out.  

Sharon James

19 thoughts on “The Ultimate Nursing Bra Guide: Everything You Need To Know”

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