If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, it is important to select a good nursing bra to provide support and a comfortable fit (and a place to hold your nursing pads!). A good time to purchase a nursing bra is during the final weeks of your pregnancy. That way, you will have one or two with you during those first few hectic days at home with the baby, and when your postpartum rib/bust size will not be substantially different.
In order to ensure a good fit, take the following measurements:
Measure around your body just under your arms with a measuring tape. Keep the tape snug, but not tight. If the measurement is an uneven number, round it up to the next even number. This is your band size.
Next, while wearing a good-fitting, unpadded bra, measure around the fullest part of your bust. Each 1" difference between your band size and this measurement represents one cup size. So, if your band size is 38" and your measurement at the fullest part of your bust is 40", you would wear a 38B.
Keep in mind that if your current bra is too small or not supportive, your measurements may understate your true cup size, so you may need to try one or two cup sizes larger to find the right fit.
Since different manufacturers size their products differently, you may also need to try a few different styles and sizes before you find the right fit. There should be no breast tissue beyond the side seam or "spilling" out of the top of the cup.
Most women's upper bodies slim down after delivery, so make sure you have the ability to tighten the band in the future. This means if you are purchasing a bra toward the end of your pregnancy, choose a nursing bra that you can wear on the last set of hooks, or which is stretchy around the rib cage.
The band should be snug, but should not "ride up" on your back. If your milk has not come in, try to allow for extra cup room, or have hooks that will adjust to accommodate your changing breast size. If you need to purchase a larger size after your milk comes in, you may be able to switch back to the smaller size after your milk supply is regulated (usually about 3 to 4 months postpartum).
Underwire bras can dig in to your breast tissue, clogging a milk duct without your being aware of it. Many lactation consultants prefer nursing mothers to wear softcup bras, especially in the early weeks of breastfeeding.
However, many women prefer the support of an underwire bra, and can wear one comfortably. If you do choose an underwire bra, make sure that all your breast tissue is inside the cup, and that the wire is not pressing on any part of your breast.
The Nurture Center stocks a wide selection of comfortable, high-quality nursing bras from Bravado, Melinda G, Leading Lady, Medela, Anita, and Fancee Free. We are happy to answer you questions by email or over the phone as well!