If you plan to breastfeed your baby, it is very important that you select a high quality supportive nursing bra with a comfortable fit. The best time to purchase a nursing bra is a few weeks before your due date so that your rib and bust size will be close to the same size as they will be following delivery of your baby. Also, you need to be sure to have a few nursing bras on hand for the first few hectic weeks after the baby is born as you certainly will not have the time or energy for a shopping expedition!
To ensure the best fit, take these measurements at home while wearing a good fitting but unpadded bra:
- For your Band Size: Measure around your body just under your arms while keeping the tape snug but not tight. If the measurement is an odd number, round up to the next even number. This number is your band size.
- For your Cup Size: Measure around your body over the fullest part of your bust. Subtract this measurement from your band size. Each 1" difference represents one cup size. 1"=A Cup, 2"=B Cup, 3"=C Cup, 4" = D Cup, 5" = DD Cup, etc. So, if your band size is 36" and your measurement across the fullest part of your bust is 40", then you would wear a 36D.
If your current bra you are using for measurements is too small or not very supportive, you many understate your true cup size. There should be no breast tissue beyond the side seam on either side of your bra. Also, there should be not spilling out of the top of your bra, as you would have in a too small or push up bra, as this will also affect your measurements.
For a proper fit, the bra band should be snug and should not ride up on your back as you wear it. Most women's upper bodies do slim down quite a bit following delivery, so make sure that the bra you choose is either adjustable around the rib cage and you are on the last set of hooks, of has a stretchy band which will continue to fit a shrinking rib cage.
When your milk comes in, usually by 3-5 days postpartum, allow some extra room in the cup. You may need to purchase a larger size bra after your milk comes in and you can switch back to a smaller size once your milk supply is regulated and your hormones subside, usually 2-3 months postpartum. Also, your cup size will probably be bigger for those first few days when your milk comes in and subside some in the following weeks. Oftentimes women rotate through several sizes in a nursing bra during the first few months until their size is more stabilized.
Many women ask about wearing underwire nursing bras. Many lactation consultants prefer nursing mothers to wear softcup bras for the early weeks of breastfeeding as your milk supply comes in and your size is changing. Underwire bras, particularly if they are too small or tight, can dig into your breast tissue and clog a milk duct which can lead to mastitis. However, many women prefer the support of an underwire bra, and can comfortably wear one. If you do choose an underwire bar, make sure that the bra fits properly and that the wire is not pressing on any part of your breast.