In a nutshell
Nursing bras can be divided into two broad categories: wireless and underwired (flexi-wired). If your breasts are still fluctuating in size, then you should only wear wireless nursing bras. However, if your breast size has stabilized and you need more support, underwired nursing bras provide better lift and shape.
But there are lots of other factors to consider when you are trying to decide on the best type of nursing bra for you.
Read on to be enlightened.
What is a Nursing Bra?
Nursing bras are designed to allow convenient breastfeeding and to provide support for breasts through pregnancy and nursing.
They are designed to fit a wider size range than normal bras are are usually more stretchy to accommodate fluctuations in breast size.
Read more about the differences between a nursing bra and a regular bra.
What are the different types of nursing bras?
Wireless nursing bras
Most nursing bras are wireless for good reason. Breast fluctuations and engorgement is an everyday occurrence for new moms. Even 8 months down the track, I was still experiencing breast engorgement when my baby didn’t feed on time.
Wireless nursing bras reduce your risk of clogged milk ducts and mastitis.
Instead of a cup wire, wireless nursing bras provide support by wide under-bust bands, double-layered cups and wide shoulder straps.
Check out the best wireless nursing bras on Amazon.
Flexi-wired nursing bras
Underwired nursing bras are meant for seasoned breastfeeding moms whose breasts have stopped fluctuating in size. These bras are best for moms who are three to four months postpartum.
While wireless nursing bras are good enough to provide support for most moms, if you have large breasts or prefer more support, you can try wearing flexi-wired nursing bras.
Just make sure it fits just right. If it doesn’t, the wires can press on your breast tissue and cause clogged ducts.
Unpadded nursing bras
These nursing bras have thin cups without breast padding. Instead, they have pockets for you to insert breast pads if you want. They are comfy bras and suit new moms to the T.
Unfortunately, your nipples show through and if you’re leaking, you get milk maps on your shirt. This is easily solved by inserting your breast pad of choice for protection.
Contoured nursing bras
Admittedly, I prefer contoured nursing bras over unpadded ones. I find them just as comfortable.
These nursing bras have molded cups that provide nipple protection and soak up milk leaks. They’re stylish and offer more support during public outings.
I don’t have to worry about remembering to insert breast pads and the padded cups never move around as removable breast pads tend to do.
Nursing sleep bras
Sleep bras are the comfiest, softest bras you can find on earth. These bras usually have pull-aside flaps so you don’t have to fiddle with clips in the middle of the night.
The downside? They are designed with less suspension and are not supportive enough to defy gravity. While great for sleeping, you’ll need something more supportive when you’re out and about.
Nursing sports bras
If you’re a sporty mom who goes jogging with her baby, nursing sports bras are your go-to. Their main aim is to provide superior support and prevent boob bounce.
Nursing sports bras can also be worn throughout the day if you want more support than a regular wireless nursing bra can give but don’t want to wear flexi-wired nursing bras.
Check out the best nursing sports bras on Amazon.
While you can pump with any bra (or no bra), the only way to pump hands-free is with a dedicated pumping bra. Most pumping bras on the market now double up as nursing bras as well.
These are basically smaller, lighter versions of nursing bras. They have similar features but are not as supportive.
Strapless Nursing Bra
I am not a fan of strapless nursing bras as they don’t provide enough support. However, if you need to wear them for a few hours with your strapless dress, go for it. There are a few strapless nursing bras on the market.
But the truth is, you can probably wear your normal strapless bra or bandeau. Just pull it up or down to breastfeed.
If you’re looking for a strapless nursing bra, read my review first.
Which type of nursing bra is best for you?
The choice in nursing bras are greater than ever before but the question remains: Which type of nursing bra is best for you?
The answer to this question is different for every mom. While there are certain features common to all nursing bras, each bra’s special design should match your specific needs.
Here are some tips to help you find out which one is best for you:
Choose wireless nursing bras that are seamless and made from soft material. Sleep bras are the bras to bring to hospital with you. They will be your friend for the first few weeks when everything is aching and sensitive.
Moms with large breasts
Choose nursing bras that are specifically made for large breasts. Many maternity brands have busty options.
These busty bras usually have more supportive features like wide under-bust bands, expanded cups and wide shoulder straps.
Moms with small breasts
I prefer contoured nursing bras to give my breasts shape and lift. You can also get away with push-up nursing bras and bralettes.
You will want a nursing or pumping bra that is comfortable enough for all day wear.
If you are going back to work, you will probably be pumping and should wear a pumping bra to work.
For a much more detailed guide, read How to Choose the Right Nursing Bra for You?
What should you look for in a nursing bra?
Soft fabrics are best for tender breasts.
The moment you receive your nursing bra, try it on for size. What’s comfy for a hundred other moms might not be for you.
In general, seamless, wireless nursing bras made from cotton or bamboo are the comfiest bras.
Read more about the best material for nursing bras.
The design generally refers to the shoulder straps. There are U-shape straps and racerback straps.
Racerbacks are more supportive and your shoulder straps never fall down.
But you won’t be able to wear it with camis.
How much support do you need? If you have small breasts, most nursing bras would be supportive enough. But if you have large breasts, you’ll need a sturdy nursing bra that can provide more lift and support.
Generally busty options and flexi-wired bras provide more support.
Room to grow
Most nursing bras are stretchy and can accommodate breast and ribcage growth throughout pregnancy and nursing.
The main limitation is in the band. Some bras have up to six columns of hook and eye closures to fit your changing size while others are pull-on and have no hooks.
Nursing bras should not constrict or cause discomfort.
There are generally 2 kinds of nursing access – drop-down cups and pull-aside flaps.
Drop-down cups work better for daily use and to wear with nursing tanks. Pull-aside flaps are easy especially at night when you’re half asleep.
Most nursing bras have cotton lining in the cups even if the rest of the bra is made from synthetic material. This is because cotton is one of the softest fabric that can be used in bra cups. Cotton lining and padding also helps absorb any milk leakage.
Having said that, some sports bras and nursing bras don’t have cotton cup linings so make sure you try out the bra for comfort.
The last thing you want is to buy a nursing bra that lasts you 2 washes. It’s frustrating to say the least. Buy styles with reinforced stitching and durable fabrics.
While there is no way to know for sure if your nursing bra is durable, buying bras from good maternity brands reduces your risk of getting a dud.
To wrap up
Just as there are different dresses for different occasions, so too are there different nursing bras for different needs. For some women, one really high-quality nursing bra could do the trick for sleeping, lounging, and going out. For most women, having several different bras and styles makes the breastfeeding journey much more comfortable.
- How does a nursing bra work?
- What nursing bra size should I buy? A simple guide.
- Are nursing bras FSA and HSA eligible?
- Nursing Bra vs Maternity Bra: Are they the same?
- How to wear a nursing bra so you are comfortable and well-supported