The Importance of a Good Bra During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

This post was sponsored by Cake Maternity.

Do you remember how important your first bra was? Your body was changing and growing through puberty. Your breasts were developing and your training bra was ready to have its straps flicked by your friends as a kind of initiation. It was a big deal. 

When you become pregnant and also when you breastfeed, your breasts go through even more dramatic changes but these occur in a very short amount of time. For optimal breast health, they should be supported and nurtured through this special stage of your life with a bra that is specifically designed and made to accommodate these changes.

What is a maternity or nursing bra?

While the exact definition of a maternity and nursing bra varies depending on where you are in the world and who you ask, a maternity bra generally refers to any bra you can safely wear during pregnancy, whereas a nursing bra is any bra that has added breastfeeding functionality, be that nursing clips or pull aside cups. There can be some cross over, though, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably!

A good maternity and nursing bra will be super soft and non-restrictive, so that it’s comfortable on your tender and swollen (not to mention sometimes sore, itchy, and hot) breasts. During pregnancy and postpartum your rib cage also changes dramatically, so you’ll find maternity bras often have lots of hooks and eyes at the back, so that you can let it out as you grow and bring it back in as you contract.

Do I need a new bra during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

While you don’t need a new bra, they can make your pregnancy and breastfeeding experience much more comfortable. Not only will they fit your changing size and provide access for breastfeeding, they’ll also help maintain your breast health since they’re breathable, durable, and supportive.

Why are maternity and nursing bras important?

During early pregnancy and the first 6 weeks postpartum, your breasts undergo a significant amount of growth in a relatively short period of time. During these transitional periods, it’s imperative you wear something soft and non-restrictive to minimise discomfort. We recommend mamas wear seamless nursing bras, as these are heat moulded to prevent monoboob (which can cause compression and restriction, both big no nos). Another plus of seamless bras is that each size fits multiple cup and band combinations, so they’ll grow with you as your breast size fluctuates.

During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and after the first 6 weeks of breastfeeding, support is the top priority. It’s at these stages that your bust size is more stable, so you can start wearing flexi-wire nursing bras. These bad boys are super flexible, plus they have a wider curve than a regular underwire, so they don’t dig into your precious milk ducts.

How do I find the right fit?

We recommend fitting the underband first, then the cups, and then the straps to find your perfect fit.

1. If you’re buying a maternity or nursing bra in your first trimester, you should always fit it to the tightest hook to allow for your rib cage to expand later on in pregnancy. A good maternity bra will have up to 6 rows of hooks and eyes, which allows for the expansion of your rib cage all the way to birth, and the contraction of your rib cage postpartum.

Your underband should be firm but not tight, running parallel to the ground. If it’s riding up your back, it’s too big. If it’s digging in, it’s too small. 

To get the most wear out of your bra, try this rule of thumb:

  • 3 months pregnant: 1st hook
  • 4 months pregnant: 2nd hook
  • 5 months pregnant: 3rd hook
  • 6 months pregnant: 4th hook
  • 7 months pregnant: 5th hook
  • 8-9 months pregnant: 6th hook

2. When it comes to fitting your cup, the top of the bra should fit gently and you should be able to easily run two fingers inside the edge of the cup without digging in. If it does dig in, go up a cup size. This is to ensure it will still fit and support you throughout the daily fluctuations during breastfeeding.

If the bra has wires, they should be sitting flat on your chest wall and not anywhere near your breast tissue. If it’s a wire-free bra, the base of the breast should be sitting entirely in the cups of the bra. If you’re experiencing issues in either of these areas, go up a size or two.

3. You can also apply the two finger rule to your straps. They should feel nice and snug, but never tight. As long as you can run two fingers underneath them you’re golden.

It’s always best to be professionally fitted, but if you’re short on time or prefer to shop online, if you follow these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to having a perfect fitting bra.

What kind of bra should a pregnant and breastfeeding mother wear?

Long gone are the days when a maternity bra was a gaudy looking piece of fabric that was to be kept under wraps and never shown to a partner. 

These days you can find all sorts of maternity and nursing bras from lacey bralettes, soft bamboo bralettes, sleep bras, flexi-wired balconette bras, t-shirt bras, wire-free bras, high impact sports bras, pumping bras, yoga bras and the list goes on. Whatever your style, size or preference – Cake Maternity has something for you. Your breasts will thank you.

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