Bra Guide

When to Buy Nursing Bras

Short answer: when your regular bras no longer fit
When to Buy Nursing Bras

First off, congratulations on the pregnancy and welcome to this exciting, wonderful and sometimes overwhelming stage called motherhood. 

As you go through your pregnancy, your body will change (dramatically). One of the earliest pregnancy symptoms is breast changes, which can happen in the first trimester, as early as Week 8. 

Your breasts may start to feel swollen and tender, and start to get bigger. Your cup size might go up a size or more throughout your pregnancy. Your band size will go up as well, as your ribcage expands to make room for baby. 

We don't talk about this enough but your nipples will change too - they stick out more, and the areolas and nipples will grow larger. You may also notice little bumps on the areolas. TOTALLY normal!

At some point, you will outgrow your regular bras, and wonder if it's the right time to invest in a nursing bra. Is it too early to buy one? What's the difference between a maternity bra and a nursing bra? Do I even need a nursing bra?

When is the best time to buy a nursing bra?

We recommend buying your first nursing bra when you outgrow your regular bras. This is likely occur during your second trimester. If you're worried about outgrowing your nursing bra during your third trimester, the good news is - you will likely find use for it again during the later stage of your breastfeeding journey!

Most mothers go through two sizes (or even three, especially for those carrying twins - whoop whoop!) of nursing bras throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. 

To understand why you might need two different sizes, we have to understand the different stages of breastfeeding and how your breasts changes during breastfeeding.

STAGE 1: 0 - 3 months postpartum (a.k.a. The Fourth Trimester)

For the first three months after baby is born (after your milk comes in), your breasts will be at its fullest and most sensitive. During this time, your breasts are likely to get engorged due to overproduction - and your breasts might feel hard, tight and painful. 

Some moms notice a slight increase in cup size, while others might experience an increase of up to four cup sizes. I myself went from a B cup to F (!!) when my milk came in.

Your band size will be similar to your band size during your final trimester, as it takes time for your ribcage to contract post-birth.  

During this stage, you will likely be wearing the nursing bra you wore during the final weeks or month of your pregnancy. 

STAGE 2: 3 - 8 months postpartum 

At this stage, your milk supply should have regulated i.e., your breasts have learnt to produce the right amount of milk for your baby. This means lower risk of engorgement and your cup size should be smaller than they were during the first three months postpartum. 

Your band size will also likely decrease, as your ribcage gradually contracts. For some women, their ribcage do return to their pre-pregnancy size - this can take anywhere between 6 to 18 months. For others, their ribcage may never return to their pre-pregnancy size. 

During this stage, you will likely be wearing the nursing bra you wore during your second trimester.

STAGE 3: 8 months and beyond

When your baby starts eating solids, their milk intake will decrease. The more solids they eat, the less milk they drink. Your milk supply will continue to drop to match their milk intake - so will your cup size. 

Your ribcage/band size may or may not have contracted back to its pre-pregnancy size by now - it does for some but not for everyone! 

You might find yourself getting closer to your pre-pregnancy bra size, perhaps 1-2 cup sizes larger (since you're still producing milk).

During this stage, you might still fit the nursing bra you wore during your second trimester, or perhaps find yourself needing to size down again to your pre-pregnancy size depending on how your body has changed. 

Can I go braless when I am breastfeeding?

Most nursing mothers find that they NEED to wear a bra - even for those who were accustomed to going bra-less before.

This is because your milk-filled breasts are now significantly heavier and need love and support more than they ever have. When my milk came in, my breasts were so heavy, I literally thought they might fall to the ground when I took off my bra. It's crucial to invest in a supportive bra to relieve the newfound weight of your breasts and support your back.

Wearing a nursing bra also helps to catch leaks that occur frequently - even when you're sleeping - during the first months of breastfeeding. 

How many nursing bras do I need?

At least three: one in the wash, one to be worn, and one in your drawer.

That said, given the high likelihood of spit-ups (you'll get used to it haha), and depending on how often you do the laundry, most moms find themselves buying 5 - 6 nursing bras to rotate through. 

How long do nursing bras last?  

That depends on the quality of the nursing bra - and you typically get what you pay for. Ours are made with natural, long-lasting fabrics that is meant to last for years to come :)

About the author: Claire is a nursing bra specialist, designer and founder of maternity brand Embrace. She is a mother of two and has spent four years breastfeeding her babies. Understanding firsthand the unique needs (and woes) of breastfeeding mothers, Claire has made it her life's mission to help make mothers' breastfeeding journey a little more comfortable.