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If you plan to breastfeed you’re going to need at least a couple of bras designed for nursing for support and to keep breast pads in place.
A nursing bra looks like a regular bra from a distance, but with flaps that you can unhitch to feed or pump. Some open at the top and some on the side or center. Nursing bras are also usually roomier and stretchier in the cup, too, to adapt to your changing breast shape and let you fit in nursing pads. You can also wear them with breast pads while you’re pregnant if you’re leaking colostrum (or just because). There are also nursing bras designed for overnight, with stretchier elastic and fabric and no underwire.
Here’s what to look for:
Fit. If you’re shopping in your second trimester or early in your third, expect that your chest and ribcage will grow by a few inches during pregnancy, then your breasts will get fuller once you start to make milk a few days after birth and your cup size may fluctuate as much as two sizes during the day between feedings. Don’t buy a bra planning to grow into it, though, because breast changes can be hard to predict. Go with something that fits the width of your breasts and has room to grow but is still supportive, not loose. If you want to order online but aren’t sure of your size, Leading Lady has an online maternity-bra-size calculator.
Underwire is a matter of personal preference: some women like the firmer support an underwire offers, others prefer a less-binding fit, and you might find that your needs change as your chest does, so consider trying on both kinds when you shop.
Fabric. While you want a little bit of synthetic fabric (like spandex, nylon or a lycra blend) for stretch and shape and so the bra will dry quickly, you also want some cotton or other absorbent natural fibers so it’ll be breathable and won’t cause to chafing or rashes. Pick a bra with fabric that feels good on your skin and is a little stretchy for comfort.
Seams. Turn a bra inside out and check for quality elastic and quality, reinforced stitching and no itchy seams or decorations.
Works with your wardrobe. If some of your nursing shirts are a little low cut make sure your bras aren’t too high cut. Avoid racer-back styles if you have a lot of wide-necked shirts, avoid dark-colored bras if all of your nursing tops are light-colored.