- What We Like: 10 sorbet colors including tie-dye and mulberry pink, removable pads
- What We Don't Like: larger chests might not feel enough support
- Material: 94 percent polyamide, 6 percent spandex
- Size Range: S to XL
- Underwire: no
- Style: clip down
“Gratlin is one of the best full-coverage nursing bras without underwire,” says Kotlen. But it’s also only $18, which is a real plus if you’re buying a bunch at one time. (Trust us, you’ll want to wash your nursing bra frequently—or else endure the wafting aroma of sour milk.) Other details that make this a standout: The tightly knitted underband and the soft, smooth fabric, which comes with body-hugging stretch but also a side panel to help reduce under-arm bulge. Also, the nursing clips can be wrangled with one hand. “This bra checks all the boxes,” one mom added. “I recommend it constantly.”
What to consider when shopping for a nursing bra
Primary among all our sources was an emphasis on fit. "First and foremost, understand how much your body is going to change and grow from your initial postpartum period through the length of your breastfeeding experience, however long you choose to breastfeed," said Motherboard lactation consultant Brandi Jordan. "You want to make sure you are buying nursing bras that can support that change in size over time, as well as the daily ebb and flow of engorgement and fullness that will fluctuate between feedings." According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, comfort is critical, especially since breasts are not just enlarged but often sore as well. As the AAP explains, a nursing bra should never be tight or constricting—if it is, you could be more prone to clogged ducts. (So, supportive but never binding or pinching, okay?)
Consider specific features including wide straps (for added support and comfort), adjustable band size and/or band extenders (to fit around your expanding ribs) as well as supportive lower cup design (to hold your boobs up, of course). Make note of the fabric the bra is made from: Jordan recommends "natural breathable materials like cotton. Synthetic fibers can often trap moisture such as leaked milk which can cause irritation or worse conditions like thrush." Finally, look for easily accessible clips that you can open and close with one hand. This last feature will come in handy not just for moments when you’re trying to discreetly nurse in public, but for those times when you’re using the other hand to position a wiggly, hangry baby.
What are the different types of nursing bras?
"Nursing bras come in various styles, including sports bras, sleep bras, everyday bras for nursing and/or pumping and standalone bras meant only for pump support," said Kathleen McCue, who counsels women to consider lifestyle when choosing the styles that suit them best. "For example, Simple Wishes even has tank tops and night dresses with nursing and pump support features." The common design element in all these bras is quick access to the breast, either by drop-down clips that reveal the nipple or via soft chest bands or crisscross cups that can be lifted up or over the breast to make way for baby’s latching. But a reminder per La Leche League International, “Bras with under-wiring, or other firm structure, can contribute to blocked ducts and even mastitis, so are best avoided in the early months.”
Do I need a separate pumping bra?
"If you plan to return to work, invest in a few all-day wear nursing and pumping bras for convenience," McCue says. "You'll thank yourself." According to breast pump brand Willow, a separate pumping bra is different from a traditional nursing bra because it not only provides easy nipple access but also has inserts to hold your pump flanges, enabling hands-free, on-the-go pumping. So if you’re planning to try pumping, it’s worth adding at least one pumping bra into your fourth trimester undies wardrobe.
How do I know what size nursing bra to buy?
Kotlen recommends checking out a breastfeeding specialty store (just do a Yelp search in your area) in order to get fitted and find your proper size. "The truth is most women don’t know how to get the right size bra prior to pregnancy and this carries over to the period of time when you are looking for a nursing bra," says Jordan. "I always encourage my clients to go to a department store like Nordstrom or a specialty bra store where they can be properly fitted for their bra. However a good rule of thumb is to add one cup size and one back band size to that bra size that you normally wear. For example, if you are normally a 32A you might start with a 34B." Authorities agree that it's best to try to wait until late in your pregnancy, say until after your 36th or 37th week, to fit your nursing bra, since there’s no way of predicting exactly what size you will be once your baby has been born. Additionally, says bra seller Bravissimo, you may well need to re-assess your needs after you’ve been breastfeeding a while, based on your engorgement patterns and comfort preferences. For example, underwires may be too stiff and softer flexi-wires or fabric bands might feel better to you. One final note: Nursing bras are qualified expenses under many FSA/HSA plans, so save your receipts.