Nursing Bras 101: Everything You Need to Know

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If you plan to breastfeed your babe, you definitely need some nursing bras. But you may be unsure about what to buy, when and how many. Read on to find answers to your burning bra questions, from the styles that will suit you to the best pumping and nursing bras on the market.

Why do I need a nursing bra?
Nursing bras make it easier to feed your child and are more comfortable for you, especially in the first few months of breastfeeding. Their soft fabric and wider straps accommodate engorged breasts, and they offer stretch and support without aggravating sore breasts or sensitive nipples. Plus, some women find underwires uncomfortable as they can press on milk ducts, so a wire-free nursing bra is a welcome option. If you're pumping, you definitely need a comfortable pumping bra so you can keep your hands free.

How do I know which size bra to get?
Nursing bras are stretchy and accommodate size changes, so you can start purchasing bras at the end of your pregnancy. If there’s a department store or maternity/breastfeeding store in your area, get a professional fitting and advice on what's best for your specific breasts.

Otherwise, follow brands’ size charts. Many nursing bras come in letter sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL), so they’re designed for a broader range of band and cup sizes than a typical non-nursing bra. Bras with multiple adjustment hooks in back give you flexibility as your body changes postpartum.

How many do I need?
Start with three or four bras. You’ll want at least two in case you leak breastmilk into one, and you may want a softer style for sleeping/nighttime feedings or a more supportive option when you’re outside the home. If you're pumping, you may want a dedicated bra for pumping or a combo nursing/pumping bra.

But don’t buy too many bras until you’re at least 3-4 months postpartum, as your body and breasts need time to regulate after baby is born. Your needs and breasts will change in the months after pregnancy, so you may want a different style or size of nursing bra as time goes on.

What kind of nursing bra should I choose?
The right bra depends on your breast shape and where baby will be nursing. If you breastfeed outside your home, you may want a different type of bra for convenience and privacy than you’d use if you mostly plan to be nesting at home.

Here are the most common nursing bra styles:
Drop open/drop cup: These bras have a clip on each strap that you open and pull down the cup to nurse. Look for styles where you can unclip the bra with one hand, as you’ll likely be holding a hungry baby with the other. We like the Everything Bra from Bodily, the Signature Lace Cotton-Lined Nursing Bralette from Hanky Panky and the "nu nudes" line of seamless bras from Motherhood Maternity, a seamless clip-down bra that comes in a range of colors, including many skin tones, and sizes: original (for B-D cups), full-busted (D-G cups) and plus-size (1X-3X).

Crisscross/Crossover/pull-aside: Just pull the bra aside to expose the breast for nursing. Super easy and convenient, especially for home use and as sleep bras. We love the Foxy by AVYN for its stretchy, supportive fabric and stylish strappy back and the 24/7 Full Cup Bra by Boob, which has a roomier cup and supports women up to size XXL.

Lift-up/pull-down: These bralette-style bras can be lifted up or pulled down when nursing. They're convenient for nighttime feedings and are comfortable sleep bras.

Combination pumping & nursing bra: A hands-free pumping bra you can also nurse in is the ultimate sanity saver. We love the convenient comfort of the Do Anything Bra from Bodily, the Multitasking Maternity Bra from Motherfigure, Hands Free Pumping Seamless Nursing bra from Motherhood Maternity and the Sublime Hands-Free Pumping & Nursing Bra from Kindred Bravely.

Nursing tank: For added support on a postpartum belly, consider a nursing tank, which comes in both crossover and drop-open styles.

Nursing sports bra: Yes, you can get a sports bra that’s easy to nurse in! These bras, like the ActiveSupport Nursing Sports Bra from Belly Bandit and Cadenshae's Ultimate Nursing Sports Bra, balance comfort and support with easy-to-use clasps or zippers for nursing. The nursing and pumping bras from Sweat and Milk come in three levels of support (high impact, medium impact, light impact), so you can find the right kind of bra for your favorite workout, from running to Pilates.

What else should I look for?
Within the different styles of nursing bras, you’ll find a variety of models: seamless or shaped cups, wireless or underwire, front closure, back closure or slip-on, and lined or unlined. Choose the style that best suits your breasts and personal preferences.

Once you get into the swing of breastfeeding, your needs should become clearer and you can add more bras to your stash. You may also discover issues that warrant a new purchase. Like, if you're leaking breastmilk, try Belly Bandit's Leakproof Nursing Bra or Leakproof Nursing Pads.

The Best Nursing Bra Brands
We asked nursing moms for their favorite nursing bra brands, and these top the list. We’ve linked to their websites so you can find the right styles, sizes and price range for you.




Bella Materna

Belly Bandit






Cupcake Maternity

The Dairy Fairy


Hanky Panky


Ingrid & Isabel

Kindred Bravely


Larken X


Latched Mama


Motherhood Maternity



Sweat and Milk


featured image: Motherhood Maternity

Eva Ingvarson Cerise


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