How to Buy a Maternity Bra

Maternity Bra

Breast changes are one of the first signs you may have noticed to let you know you’re expecting. Some expectant parents experience sensitive nipples or tender, fuller breasts even before the pregnancy test reads positive! As your pregnancy continues, you’re likely to notice several size changes. When your bra cups runneth over, it’s time for an important update to your maternity wardrobe.

How Do I Know When to Shop for a Maternity Bra?

Everyone’s body is different, so there’s no set week of pregnancy to head to the store. If the band is tight, you see red marks when you take your bra off at night, or it’s a struggle to wrestle your breasts into too-small cups, it’s definitely time for new bras.

Keep in mind that breast changes in pregnancy aren’t necessarily a one-and-done deal. Your breasts may grow gradually throughout pregnancy. You may jump up a cup size in the first trimester, and then another shortly before or after the baby’s born. It’s entirely possible that you’ll need to update your bras several times, so factor multiple purchases into your budget.

Why Can’t I Just Buy a Regular Bra?

Maternity and nursing bras differ in a few ways from regular bras. The composition of your breasts changes during pregnancy as your body prepares for breastfeeding. The denser tissue of glands and milk ducts can feel heavy and tender. Maternity bras often offer design features like wider straps or more hooks on the band for extra support. Some maternity bras can be a little stretchier (to help adapt to breasts transitioning between sizes), or use more flexible support structures than underwire (which some lactation consultants warn could compress milk ducts and interfere with supply).

It might not make sense to simply buy your normal bras a size up, especially if you’re used to wearing lower-quality bras. Your breasts’ changing weight and sensitivity can mean certain regular bras won’t feel comfortable, even in a larger size.

One idea worth considering, especially toward the end of your pregnancy, is buying nursing bras. These have clasps that open to expose your nipple area without requiring you to take your bra off or fold cups over, which can be uncomfortable. Nursing bras let you feed the baby and keep comfortable support at the same time.

Maternity Bra Shopping Tips

When you’re ready for new bras, get the most value for your money with these tips:

  1. Get a professional fitting. A fitter at the store can measure your ribcage and bust to help you pinpoint your exact size.
  2. Try on multiple bras. Don’t rush the process. Your belly isn’t the only part of you that’s changing, and your body may feel less familiar. Give yourself time to sit, stand, bend over, do some practice bounces, and see if the bra feels comfortable.
  3. Nix anything that doesn’t fit. Slipping straps, bunching material, ill-fitting cups, and any pinching or squashing won’t work. Don’t waste money on a bra you won’t wear.
  4. Try unclasping and reclasping nursing bras one-handed. You’ll be holding a baby when you use this feature. Fiddly hooks or ribbons that cover clasps can be a nursing bra dealbreaker.
  5. Buy at least two or three bras. Get options in colors you wear regularly. Black, white, and nude are safe bets.
  6. But don’t overbuy, especially early on. Your breasts may grow substantially later, so don’t splurge on more bras than you need.
  7. Consider all parts of your life. Sports bras for exercising and extra-soft bras for support while you sleep matter, too.

The right bras can make pregnancy and breastfeeding much more comfortable. Give yourself time to learn how maternity and nursing bras fit your changing body, and you’ll get to breathe a sigh of relief when you get the support you need.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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