We all know that breastfeeding can be a difficult and painful process for some moms. One of the biggest fears of a breastfeeding mom is getting mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that can cause your breasts to be red, swollen, hot and painful.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a good guide on dealing with mastitis. But some big questions moms have revolve around whether or not they should wear a bra when they have mastitis.
Wearing a well-fitting, wireless nursing bra will not make mastitis worse. In fact, a bra will help support your heavy, swollen breasts and protect your sensitive nipples from chafing on your top. Nursing sleep bras are the most comfortable bras to wear when you have mastitis.
Let’s take a deep dive:
- Should you wear a bra with mastitis?
- Should I sleep with a bra on with mastitis?
- What kind of bra should I wear with mastitis?
- Can nursing bras cause clogged milk ducts?
- What should I wear when my breasts are engorged?
- Should you wear a bra with breast engorgement?
- Does a tight bra help with engorgement?
- Can sports bras cause clogged milk ducts?
- Can not wearing a bra cause mastitis?
- To wrap up
Should you wear a bra with mastitis?
A lot of women say that they don’t wear a bra when they have mastitis because it will make their breasts more swollen and uncomfortable. But wearing a bra doesn’t make the problem worse. It can actually make you feel better.
A number of moms find that wearing a bra, especially during the day, helps support their tender breasts and protect the sensitive skin from chafing on their clothes.
However, beware that wearing a bra that is too tight can cause more pain and worsen mastitis. You should make sure that your bra:
- is comfy and loose enough that your breasts have room to expand
- doesn’t put pressure on your milk ducts
- the edge of the cup doesn’t pinch breast tissue
You should also wear loose and comfortable clothing that won’t constrict your breasts.
Did you know wearing a well-fitting nursing bra can prevent clogged ducts and mastitis? Read this guide on how to choose the right size nursing bra for you.
This Kindred Bravely Extra Soft Organic Cotton Sleep Bra has soft nursing flaps instead of cups:
Should I sleep with a bra on with mastitis?
The night is a different matter altogether. Letting your inflamed breasts ‘breathe’ while you sleep is a lot more comfy than wearing a bra to bed. If you have a soft, soothing nursing tank or other soft top you can wear to bed, don’t sleep with your bra when you have mastitis.
Check out my reviews of the softest cotton nursing tanks on Amazon.
However, there are certain circumstances where wearing a bra in bed when you have mastitis is a good idea:
- If you have large or pendulous breasts, a sleep bra will help support your breasts while you sleep. This will prevent pulling on your already-tender breasts.
- If you don’t have a soft enough sleep top, your raw breasts will chaff on the fabric of when you sleep and cause pain.
- If you usually sleep topless and you need to pull the sheets up. Unless you have super soft lyocell or egyptian cotton bedsheets, chances are your bedsheet will feel a bit rough on your sensitive breasts.
- If you are leaking milk.
- If you sleep on your side or back. It’s quite unlikely that you can sleep on your breasts as they will be so hot and swollen. However, if you do, wear a sleep bra to protect your breasts from rubbing on the bedding.
The Motherhood Maternity Cotton Sleep Bra is one of the most popular nursing bras on Amazon:
What kind of bra should I wear with mastitis?
I 100% recommend that you only wear nursing bras when you have mastitis. No other bra will be able to expand as well to accommodate your swollen engorged breasts. The nursing bra that you choose should be:
- made of soft, breathable material, preferably natural fabric like cotton or bamboo.
- fits just right. If it’s too tight, it will cause clogged ducts. If the bra is too loose, it can move around and rub on your sensitive skin.
The best bras that you can wear with mastitis are sleep nursing bras. These bras are super soft and immensely flexible. They also have flaps rather than cups, reducing your risks of the bra pressing on your ducts and worsening the mastitis.
The Cake Maternity Milk Bamboo Sleep Nursing Bra is heavenly soft:
Also read my review of the best sleep bras on Amazon.
Can nursing bras cause clogged milk ducts?
A common misconception is that bras can cause clogged milk ducts. Most breast engorgement occurs when your milk supply exceeds how quickly your baby can drink it. A well-fitting bra will not cause clogged milk ducts or make breast engorgement worse.
Nursing bras, especially high quality ones, definitely don’t cause clogged milk ducts. They are specially designed for breastfeeding moms with features like expandable cups, wide underbust band and wireless support to reduce your risk of clogged ducts and mastitis.
However, if you wear an ill-fitting bra, especially one that is too tight or has rigid underwires (rather than flexi-wires found in underwired nursing bras), this can press on breast tissue and prevent smooth milk flow, ultimately leading to clogged ducts, engorged breasts and mastitis.
Further reading: The 14 best nursing bras on Amazon.
What should I wear when my breasts are engorged?
No matter how smooth-sailing breastfeeding is for you, all moms inevitably encounter issues with engorged breasts. What we do and wear when this happens determines if our engorged breasts will resolve quickly or if it will progress to mastitis.
When your breasts get engorged, you need to relieve the pressure by breastfeeding or pumping to remove milk.
At the same time, don’t wear anything that will put pressure on your breasts and block your breast milk from flowing smoothly.
Again, in this situation, nursing bras are your best option. But not any old nursing bra. Make sure your nursing bra is wireless, made of soft, breathable material and has expandable cups.
The Kindred Bravely Simply Sublime Nursing Bra has expandable cups and a wide underbust band that doesn’t pinch:
Nursing sleep bras are an even better choice as the flaps and band don’t put pressure on your breasts at all. That’s one of the reasons I recommend bringing sleep bras to the hospital for those first harrowing days.
This Kindred Bravely French Terry Sleep Bra is another favorite:
Also make sure you wear loose, flowy clothing and tops that will not constrict your chest and make you feel uncomfortable.
But do you need to wear a bra at all with breast engorgement? Can you go braless?
Should you wear a bra with breast engorgement?
You don’t have to wear a bra with breast engorgement. In fact, you don’t have to wear a bra in any circumstance if you don’t want to.
Whether you wear an appropriate bra (see above) or don’t wear anything at all will not make your breast engorgement worse.
However, a bra will help support your heavy, engorged breasts and prevent gravity from pulling on your sore breast ligaments. It will also protect your sensitve breasts from chafing on your top.
Here are some other methods you can use to relieve breast engorgement.
Does a tight bra help with engorgement?
There is a misconception that a tight bra will help bind your breasts and reduce engorgement. You need to make sure your bra is well-fitting, not tight. Wearing a bra that is too tight will clog your milk ducts, worsen breast engorgement, and can ultimately lead to mastitis.
Can sports bras cause clogged milk ducts?
To be sturdy enough to support your breasts and prevent breast bounce during activities, sports bras have to be tight and non-stretchy. Therefore, wearing regular sports bras when breastfeeding can easily cause clogged milk ducts.
Nursing sports bras, on the other hand, might not offer as much support as regular sports bras, but can easily be used for low impact activities like yoga and pilates. Nursing sports bras have much more stretch in them and are specially designed for breastfeeding moms.
Just be aware that some nursing sports bras have flexi-wires. These bras are more supportive and can be used for high impact sports. However, I don’t recommend wearing them when you have engorged breasts or mastitis.
The Kindred Bravely Nursing Sports Bra is wireless and stretchy, perfect for low impact sports:
Can not wearing a bra cause mastitis?
There are many possible causes of mastitis but not wearing a bra is not one of them. Going braless does not cause engorged breasts or mastitis.
To wrap up
You don’t have to wear a bra when you have mastitis. However, wearing a soft, comfy nursing sleep bra will help you feel better and support your breasts while you recover.
Make sure you check out my ultimate guide to nursing bras. It tells you everything you need to know about nursing bras.
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