Breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural thing that mothers and babies know instinctively how to do, right? Well, actually, it’s a skill and like any skill it has to be learned, and for every new mum who picks it up just like that, there will be others for whom the early days and weeks of breastfeeding are fraught with stress and difficulty. So the last thing that new mums need to worry about is their nursing bra.
Especially in those early days, nursing bras need to be comfortable, easy to wear and practical, as they are going to see a lot of action. Some of the things to look out for include drop cups that can be opened and closed easily with one hand, soft fabrics that won’t irritate sensitive skin, comfy underbands, multiple back fittings and room to accommodate breast pads.
It’s best not to wait until the baby is here to start your search for the perfect nursing bra. These soft, non-wired styles can be worn in pregnancy as well as afterwards, and getting fitted for one towards the end of the third trimester is a good idea – although, as it’s often hard to predict just what size you will be when your milk comes in, choosing a bra with some flexibility in the fitting can be a useful. You can always supplement these early bras with more structured styles as you settle in breastfeeding and your breast size starts to settle down.
The good news is that there is plenty of choice, although this can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help! As well as the specialist lingerie brands, nursing bras are available from all the main children and mother and baby stores, and prices vary from just a few pounds to £30-£40. Styles range from plain and simple to really quite sexy, and which you go for is a matter of personal taste. You may find you like to have a range of different bras in your collection, from the comfy, stretchy crop top styles for days at home to something a little more elaborate for special occasions.
To help start your search, we’ve picked out some of the most popular nursing bras on the market to give you can idea of what other mums are wearing and recommending to each other.
Emma-Jane’s Next Generation nursing bra is perfect as a first bra for breastfeeding and is comfortable you may never feel the need to buy a different style! It is made from a seamless, knitted fabric with a wide, soft underband and reduced stretch straps for extra support. It is also very easy to fit, as it comes in back sizes 32-38 and only one cup fitting, which will fit cup sizes B-F as the fabric will adjust to your changing size throughout the day. If you’re after something a little glamorous, this isn’t the bra for you, but for comfort, practicality and relaxed style it is a winner.
Buy: Black, white or skin, sizes 32-38 B-F, £11. Figleaves.com.
The Body Silk Seamless nursing bra from Bravado Designs is another easy-to-wear and super comfy style that has won numerous awards from mums. It is one of the brand’s top selling bras because of its soft and seamless construction and flexible fit that makes life so much easier in those early days. It also has removable foam pads that can help conceal breast pads if necessary and provide a smooth breast shape under clothes. The drop clips are easy to use with one hand, and the bra comes in a wide range of shades including seasonal fashion colours. The sizing system is also simple and straightforward – see the sizing chart on the brand’s website.
Buy: Five basic and two seasonal shades, sizes S-XL, £30. Bravadodesigns.com.
The Second Skin nursing bra from Amoralia (which also comes in an organic option) gets its name from its barely there feel once on. Beautifully soft, the bra is made from stretchy microfibre that moulds to your changing size, and there are six hook and eye fastenings to give you great flexibility in sizing. What we love about this bra is the way the cross-over front design creates an attractive and supportive plunge shape, making what is essentially a basic style into something a little more feminine. It also comes with removable foam pads and cups are dual sized for flexibility.
Buy: Black, ivory or nude, sizes 32-40 B/C-E/F, £29. Amoralia.com.
Royce Lingerie introduced its Blossom nursing bra last year after a lengthy period of development to create a bra with a more flexible fit for pregnant women and nursing mums and it was an instant best-seller. Made from a stretchy fabric and supported by an inner foam sling, the cups can accommodate changes in shape of up to three cup sizes, which is not uncommon in those early weeks of breastfeeding. Blossom also offers adjustable style, with a drawstring front that can be tightened for a bra-like look or loosened for a more crop top style.
Buy: Polka dot, animal print or spring blossom, sizes 32-40 C-DD, E-FF, G-H, £30. Royce Lingerie.
One of our absolute favourite nursing bra designs is this polka dot style from Anita Maternity. A polka dot print is always a winner, and the contrast print sizes on this style just add to its appeal. But it’s not just a case of a pretty design. This is also a wonderfully practical bra. More structured than the other styles but still wirefree, it is made from a beautifully soft and silky fabric that is super comfortable, and the straps are foam lined for even greater comfort. The foam cups conceal breast pads and give a nice shape while opening wide for breastfeeding, and there are four hook and eye fastenings.
Buy: Black or stone grey, 32-42 B-G, £36.95. Expectingmaternity.co.uk.
For super stylish nursing bras that will make you feel a bit special while also offering all the functionality you need, you can’t beat Lorna Drew. The brand has a number of sexy yet practical styles in its range, but our favourite is Alexa, one of Lorna Drew’s original best-sellers. Made from contrasting panels of cotton lined ice blue and white satin, Alexa is a gorgeous bra and it also comes with Lorna Drew’s clever adjustable cup size functionality. This is in the form of a sliding clip that can be used to evenly increase or decrease each individual cup of the bra by up to three sizes (watch the brand’s fitting video). This makes it uniquely adaptable to changing breast shape and has been the secret of the brand’s success, along with those fab designs!
Buy: Ice blue or animal print, 30-38 B-J, £39. Lorna Drew.