Maternity Bra versus Nursing Bra. Why purchase a maternity bra rather than a nursing bra during pregnancy? Nursing bras purchased early in the pregnancy will be stretched out, not provide adequate support, and be too large in the band size and too small in the cup when the nursing features are actually needed. Maternity bras typically have several back hook adjustments that allow for growth in rib cage throughout the pregnancy. If an appropriate maternity bra can’t be found, then purchase a nursing. Just be aware that it may not be an appropriate size once baby arrives. Sometimes just buying a larger band size of your regular bra will work well until the last trimester.
The ideal time for purchasing a bra for pregnancy is in the first trimester or whenever the current bra is no longer comfortable. Because of the changing hormone levels throughout pregnancy, the rib cage will continue to expand creating the need for larger band sizes, and the breasts usually become fuller. So, as the belly and baby grow larger, so will the bra size. Be prepared to purchase several different bra sizes during pregnancy and several different sizes as the body begins its gradual shrinking process after delivery. Because women typically buy fewer maternity and nursing bras than they would regular ones, these bras stretch out and show wear much sooner than their regular bras. Frequent hand washing and line drying (in spite of the care tags of some manufacturers to machine wash), will keep them newer looking with better support and less stretching of the fibers. Women also find longer wear from a bra that has a little Lycra or Spandex in the fabric. This allows better memory retention of the fibers throughout the washing and wearing cycles.
First Trimester. For a proper fit, the bra should be hooked on the tightest hook in back and fit firmly but comfortably around the rib cage. Riding up in back usually indicates the bra is too large around and thus provides insufficient support for the breasts. Ironically, this riding up can actually cause the bra to feel too tight under the breasts. Fitting the bra on the tightest hook allows for further rib cage growth throughout the pregnancy. The cup should provide enough depth to eliminate as much cleavage as possible. This would be the cup size. A cup that fits too snugly will not allow for growth throughout the pregnancy; however, a cup that fits too loosely will not provide adequate support and will look crumply under the clothing.
Third Trimester. Prepare for breastfeeding your baby with the purchase of a sleep/leisure bra. These bras are more generic in size i.e. size S, M, L, XL. They generally are very soft, stretchy bras that work best with changing breast size during the first week and offer light support during the time when you are probably lounging and recuperating with your baby. You can continue to wear your sleep/leisure bra at night to hold bra pads in place for leakage control and to provide light support for the months ahead.
Fourth Trimester. Once baby has arrived, milk is in, and any engorgement is resolved, it is time to get serious about a softcup nursing bra that offers firmer support than your sleep/leisure bra has offered. Your rib cage will have begun to shrink in size and your cup size is where it will be for several months. An ideal time to measure is within an hour before feeding time. This will allow for a cup that is generous enough to accommodate the fuller breast. Ladder hook cup adjustments offered in some nursing bras allow for changes in cup size between feeding times, also. A proper fit should eliminate as much cleavage as possible with no breast tissue spilling out the sides or over the top of the cups. The bra should be fitted comfortably on the loosest hook to allow for adjustment as the rib cage shrinks. Remember, your body is still going through many changes. Your waistline will begin shrinking – and so will your rib cage – so the life of a nursing bra is usually 3-4 months due to the frequent wearing and washing of the garment as well as the continual body changes.
Working with a professional, experienced bra fitter can save lots of money when trying to shop for bras. If a professional fitter is not available in your area, please call our toll free number 888-806-BRAS (2727) or email us for special assistance.