How to Choose a Nursing Bra & The Best Nursing Bras

There’s no getting around it. If you plan to breastfeed or pump, then you will need a nursing bra.

The size of your breasts will fluctuate wildly, and you will soon find yourself with a porntastic set of boobs. A nursing bra is necessary if you need extra support for your tender and sore breasts and if you plan to nurse in public.

Besides support, your nursing bra will need to be comfortable. A bra that is too tight will press against your milk ducts and this can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. Ouch!

When should you buy a nursing bra?

While your breast size and rib cage measurements will grow during your pregnancy, you will find that your breasts will balloon up to their largest size a couple days after you give birth. This is when your milk begins to come in and you will think your breasts are inflating up to Dolly Parton size! Your breasts will be the most sore at this point and as well as giving you support, a nursing bra will let you use nursing pads so you don’t soak through all your tops and ruin them with stains.

Relax, your breasts will slowly shrink as you nurse your baby and your milk supply stabilizes at around five to six weeks. Your rib cage will also go back down to your regular size.

If my breasts keep changing sizes, then when and how do I choose the right size nursing bra?

You should buy a nursing bra around a month or less before you give birth. Your breasts will not be at their full nursing size, but your measurements will not be as small as your pre-pregnancy state. Don’t go overboard while shopping, you don’t know how much your body will change post-partum. Just get one or two bras to tide you over until you can go shopping later.

Don’t try to get a measurement right after giving birth. Your breasts are at their biggest at this time and you will end up with a bra that’s way to big to fit after a couple weeks.

Your size will continue to go down during the first year you’re post-partum, so you will probably need to buy new smaller bras later on.

What size nursing bra should you buy?

Fitting a nursing bra is similar to fitting a regular bra. You will need extra room in the cup for nursing pads and size fluctuations as your breasts engorge and drain, but a good nursing bra should be able to accomodate these changes.

Some bra fitters recommend wearing your current bra when you take your measurements, but if you have an old bra that’s compressing your now bigger breasts, it may mess up your measurements. I prefer measuring without a bra and taking a couple extra measurements with my breasts in different positions to get an average number.

To get your band size, measure your rib cage under your breasts at the crease. The measuring tape should ride higher on your back at around nipple level and go right under your armpits.

To get your cup measurement, measure all the way around your body at the nipple level. You might need to do this several times to get a good number.

Finally, you subtract your band measurement from your cup measurement to find your cup size. One inch equals one cup, so if the difference between the two numbers is 1 in., you’re an A cup. 2 ins. is a B cup and so on.

If you fall in between sizes, here’s a good guide for getting a good fit:

  • It’s better to go down one band size rather than going up. You want to test out a new bra by using the last hook on the end of the band. Your bra band will loosen over time and you can always use a bra extender if your new bra is too tight. A band that is too big will not support your breasts. Your straps will dig into your shoulders and your breasts might even slip out under the band!
  • A bigger cup is better than one that is too small. You want a loose comfortable fit so the bra doesn’t compress your breasts. A tight fit will lead to clogged milk ducts, pain, and infection. You will also need room to fit in a nursing pad so slightly loose is better.

Where to buy the best nursing bras online.

The best brand of nursing bra will vary depending on your breast size.

A bra without underwire will be the most comfortable, but they are impractical for women with larger breasts.

Some women will prefer thicker bras with a removable pad or foam cup to hide their nipples or nursing pads. Other women will prefer a thinner stretch cup or sling for comfort.

If you plan to express milk with a breast pump, you might want a nursing bra that also doubles as a pumping bra.

In any case, you should not spend too much money on a nursing bra as you’ll use it for a couple months at most. All of these bras are easy on your budget and range from $30 to around $60.

The best bras

The best nursing bra for smaller busts

Rumina’s Relaxed Nursing Bra with a built-in Hands-Free Pumping Bra

This sling style nursing bra is wireless so it’s super comfortable. It doubles as a nursing bra and a pumping bra and it is easy to access your beast with just one hand. The only downside is that this style of bra is not suited for larger busts (D cup or over). The soft stretchy cup material grows and shrinks so you’ll only need to get an approximate size (XS, S, M, L) It’s also one of the more affordable options at around $30.

The best nursing bra for large busts

Bravado Double Plus Nursing Bra
There are no good traditional underwire and hook style nursing bras for sizes over D cups. They all have some kind of design flaw such as thin bands with only two hooks, thin cups so your nipples end up showing through, or they’re scratchy unbreathable nylon that’s bound to give you a yeast infection or mastitis. 🙁

If your breasts are a bit more ample, then you’ll need more support. This usually means underwire and padded cups, but in a shocking twist, the best maternity bras for bigger breasts are actually sports bra style like the Bravado Double Plus Nursing Bra. This is a cotton bra that will let your breasts breathe and distributes the weight of your breasts evenly across your back with a sports-bra style racer back. It does give you a uniboob shape (like all sports bras), but if you have a small rib cage and a large cup size like me (32H, yikes!) this is the only nursing bra that fits our shape! The band support is stretchy, but strong and the fabric of the cups expands and holds without compressing your breasts uncomfortably. The specifications state that the Double Plus fits DD to G cups, but I think you can squeak by even if you’re an H or I since the fabric has so much stretch. This is a clip style nursing bra and you can undo the clip on each side with just one hand. There is a bit of cloth in the middle that separates your breasts and if you really wanted to, you can sew in a bit of fabric to the inner panel and turn this into a pumping bra.


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