Shopping for a bra is tough, but shopping for a nursing bra can be downright excruciating. After all, the breasts you’re used to buying for are changing. They’re growing, leaking, sensitive and unpredictable. “I have to say, even as a bra lady, buying a bra during all of these changes even stumped me,” says Jené Luciani, a mom of four and bestselling author of The Bra Book: An Intimate Guide to Finding the Right Bra, Shapewear, Swimwear, and More! However, if you arm yourself with some know-how before you shop, you’ll be better able to land the best nursing bras—and less likely to be crying in the fitting room.
How to buy the best nursing bra
Here are six tips to keep in mind when stocking your underwear drawer with new nursing bras.
1. Buy before your baby arrives
It’s often recommended that you have a good nursing bra by the time you’re eight months pregnant, but there’s no reason not to get a good nursing bra earlier. “Your breasts deserve to be comfortable throughout pregnancy,” says Luciani. “Stretchy, breathable bras are perfect for a growing pregnant woman. Plus, you’ll be prepared when the time comes.”
2. Get professional help
If a professional bra fitting is available at a nearby department or maternity store, lingerie boutique or breastfeeding support network, you should definitely get a fitting. After all, many women—pregnant or not—wear the wrong bra size. “At certain stores, like Soma, the lingerie salespeople go through a certified bra-fitting training program, so they’re knowledgeable about fit and which styles and brands will work best for you,” explains Luciani.
3. Look for bras that move
Nursing bras that are 100 percent cotton, a blend of cotton and Lycra or another stretchy synthetic will move and grow with your fluctuating breasts. If a nursing bra is too tight and puts pressure on your breasts, it can increase your risk of mastitis and clogged milk ducts.
4. Seek support
Women with larger busts will likely want to look for wide-set straps that have cushioning, a back band that has at least three or four rows of hook-and-eye closure options and side seams that sit almost under the armpit.
5. Get a good fit
The best nursing bras for you shouldn’t cut into your breasts or cause them to spill out. The straps shouldn’t dig into your shoulders, and the band across your back needs to sit horizontally without riding up.
6. Don’t forget about you
“While comfort is most important, how you look and feel plays a huge part in your confidence,” says Orit Hashay, a mom of one and CEO and founder of Brayola, an online bra retailer that sells bras based on crowdsourced information. “Having a nursing bra that fits and looks good can help you feel more like your pre-baby self,” she says.
The best nursing bras to buy
“You’ll definitely need more than one,” says Hashay. “I recommend having at least three or four nursing bras: one to wear and a few extras to have on hand when those get dirty and need to be washed.” Plus, even nursing moms need a sexy nursing bra or one just for the gym. Here are our top picks.
1. Knix Leakproof Nursing Bra
No nursing mom wants an itchy or pokey underwire. Plus, the removable (and machine-washable) absorbent pads slide right into an opening between the soft fabric layers of the super-stretchy cups. The end result is as smooth as can be, instead of the crumpled, bulky or bumpy look you can get while wearing the disposable drug-store nursing pads.
Knix Leakproof Nursing Bra, $65. knix.ca
2. Sleep nursing bra
A great stretchy, cotton-blend bra to sleep and lounge in is ideal for new moms and moms-to-be. Expectant moms who need a little extra support throughout the night will barely notice this light and cozy Wrap Nursing Sleep Bra from Motherhood Maternity. And, fingers crossed, that added comfort just might promote some much-needed shut-eye, too. Moms who are new to nursing will love the criss-cross design for easy breast access (no clips!) during middle-of-the night feedings when they’re too tired to be fumbling around.
Wrap Nursing Sleep Bra, $10 to $17, motherhood.com
3. T-shirt nursing bra
T-shirt bras are a mainstay in many lingerie drawers for a reason: They are impossibly practical and look great under any top. There’s no need to give that up when you’re nursing. Instead, invest in a Forever Yours Contour Nursing Bra, with its one-handed drop-down cups, for easy-peasy breastfeeding. It also boasts the contour and foam-moulded cups you’ve always counted on for a smooth profile, and its flexiwire design is less rigid than your standard underwire nursing bra.
Forever Yours Nude Contour Nursing Bra, $65, hotmilklingerie.com
4. Sexy nursing bra
Just because there’s no such thing as a Victoria’s Secret nursing bra doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as a sexy nursing bra. This one from Le Mystere is a stunner, with black lace atop nude cups. This contoured underwire bra features darts to create a lovely silhouette. All the while, it has just enough padding to keep surprise leak-throughs at bay.
Le Mystere Sexy Mama Nursing Bra, $95, soma.com
5. Nursing bra for larger breasts
Yes, you can flatter your full figure in a nursing bra. This wire-free Goddess nursing bra offers the support you need, the style you want and the breastfeeding ease you deserve. The bra cups feature a special multipart construction (plus side panels) to ensure that side spillage doesn’t occur and your breasts are always pointing in the right direction (hallelujah!). Hook count varies by size, so comfort and support can be had by all. Finally, the wide elastic underband adds even more stability and support.
Goddess Keira Wire-Free Nursing Bra, $66, barenecessities.com
6. Nursing sports bra
Like nursing, running can do a number on your breasts. That’s why you need a super-supportive double-duty nursing sports bra like Zest Flexi Wire Maternity & Nursing Sports Bra. Its innovative construction is breathable and moisture-wicking and does a fab job of minimizing bounce, which will not only stave off pain but also help prevent sagging. Available in sizes 32B to 40K, it has padded straps, features drop-down breast access and comes with a racerback conversion clip. Win-win!
Zest Flexi Wire Maternity & Nursing Sports Bra, $95, cakematernity.com
7. Adjustable nursing bra
The La Leche League knows breastfeeding. That’s why one of the best nursing bras around is its Q-T Intimates Wrap ’N Snap Nursing Bra. This wire-free, stretch-cotton nursing bra features a front-snap closure just beneath the breast that allows you to easily adjust the bra as your body changes during pregnancy and after. But you don’t actually have to open it all the way to nurse—simply undo the clips at the base of the straps. It’s flat-out ingenious! And the satin trim gives it a nice feminine touch.
Q-T Intimates Wrap ’N Snap Nursing Bra, $22, amazon.ca
8. Nursing bra tank
Most nursing camis and nursing tanks feature hidden shelf bras. They can be fine for some women, but when they’re just not enough support, there’s an alternative. This layering nursing tank from Undercover Mama isn’t really a tank top at all. Instead, it’s a long, stretchy strapless shirt that easily attaches to the top of your nursing bra with elastic bands. Your bra straps act as the tank’s straps. The discreet clips are easy to release when it’s time to breastfeed while allowing your belly and back to remain covered.
Undercover Mama Nursing Tank Top, $20 USD, undercovermama.com
9. Racerback nursing bra
Practical, comfy, easy to use and sexy? It exists in this Marvella Maternity & Nursing Bra. Plus, it’s a wireless racerback that has moulded cups to accommodate a deep-plunge top, making this a super-versatile nursing bra—because eventually you might have a fun night out, mama! As an extra bonus, the straps adjust from the front, so you can easily shift the fit whenever you need to.
Marvella Classic Maternity & Nursing Underwire Free T-shirt Bra, $50 USD, kindredbravely.com
10. Nursing bra for pumping
A hands-free pumping bra is a game-changer that will give your arms a much-needed break—you’re now free to scroll through Instagram. This Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra is adjustable, so you can get that comfy fit you’re looking for. Plus, it has a 10-inch-wide Velcro closure on the back so that you can adjust it to your changing breast size. Compatible with all electric breast pumps, it has removable straps and is comfortable to wear—we promise!
Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra, $42, amazon.ca
11. Nursing yoga bra
You don’t have to go to mommy-and-me yoga or Pilates to wear this yoga nursing bra. After all, the Bravado nursing bra is one of our very favorite nursing bras for everyday wear, too. Seamless and wire-free, it has convertible straps and is designed to keep you comfortable and well supported throughout your favourite low-impact activities. It’s even woven with special technology to help stave off workout odour. It’s no slouch in the nursing bra department either, with an easy, one-handed fold-down design and removable foam inserts.
The Body Silk Seamless Yoga Nursing Bra, $55, bravadodesigns.com
12. Nursing bralette
This comfortable and lovely sweetheart lace pullover bralette is sure to make any nursing mom feel pretty. It’s easy to nurse in (hello, quick-release clips!) and lightly padded for a supportive fit. There are also zero back clasps to deal with. Plus, it comes in pretty much every colour of the rainbow.
Cosabella Never Say Never Mommie Nursing Bra, $70, cosabella.com
13. Cheap nursing bra
So pretty, feminine and affordable! This two-pack at H&M offers soft-cup, jersey-lined bras made from 95 percent organic cotton. The wide-set straps give solid support and lift, and the nursing clasps are easy to use. There are two packs to choose from: a grey and white duo and a black and striped set.
Mama 2-Pack Nursing Bras, $30, hm.com