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Myth or Reality? A Nursing Bra That Fits

Finding a nursing bra that fits can seem an overwhelming task, I know.  My friend Rebbecca Rosen, the owner of Breastchester, Inc., is an expert on the subject, and I asked her to let us poor lactating mommies in on her secrets.  Click below to get the inside scoop –


Here is the scenario:

A new mom walks into the local maternity store, 3 week old baby in tow.  She can’t believe she is back here or that she secretly wishes she could stuff the baby back in and have the peace she had prior to giving birth.  She slowly walks over to the “nursing” section, looking for a nursing bra.  She is desperate for something to contain the “beasts”.  In her mind the perfect bra will be just like her pre-pregnancy bras.  Give her lift and separation while being super-soft and comfy.  She begins to sort through the tiny rack of bras hoping it is there.  Where is it?  “These are my Grandma’s bras,” she thinks to herself.  “No, this can’t be it.”  The sorting gets faster and more frantic.  At the same time the baby starts crying and her milk lets down leaving a huge, wet circle on the only top that fits her, somewhat.  She quickly grabs a size she guesses is right and runs up to the cashier.  When she finally gets home and tries on the bra she takes a look in the mirror and starts to sob.  Her breasts are sagging and the cup fits her like a string bikini that she would only wear if she were on spring break in Mexico.  The sobbing lasts for about two seconds because the baby starts crying again.  She sits down to nurse the baby.   As all the breastfeeding endorphins start flowing she thinks “I guess this bra isn’t that bad.”

Finding a great nursing bra doesn’t have to be this difficult.  You don’t have to look like your Grandma or feel like you just ran a 5K in a demi-cup bra.  There are a few steps you can take to ensure you get the right bra for you.  Remember, you are doing very important work - breastfeeding your baby.  You deserve to look and feel fabulous.  Not only do you deserve it but also your health can depend on it.  A poorly fitted nursing bra can lead to clogged ducts and mastitis.  It always baffles me why women will spend large sums of money on maternity clothes that they wear for about 5 months but won’t spend the money to buy well-fitted nursing bras.  This is one time in your life when comfort is essential.  Follow these steps and you will find nursing nirvana-a nursing bra that fits!

Step #1- Align yourself with a professional

When looking for a nursing bra you want to find a sales person who actually knows what they are doing.  A professional bra fitter knows how to size you and how to fit you.  They need to know how each nursing bra differs.  Nursing bras need to be fitted on every woman.  Scope out the local lingerie shops to see if they carry nursing bras.  Inquire in the maternity stores if they do bra fittings (though this is quite unusual; if you find one count your lucky stars!)  When shopping online, look at the site for instructions on how to size yourself.  Call, yes call, the site and talk with a fitter over the phone.  Any well-run website should be able to also help you with sizing.  They should know the differences in the bras and what works best for each size and type of breast.  They should also have generous return policies and low-to-no shipping costs.

Step#2- Get measured or measure yourself

This is easy if you are being measured, not as easy if you have to do it yourself.  First, make sure you have a few minutes to measure yourself.  Get a tape measure.  When measuring make sure the tape is snug but not tight.  Make sure the tape is horizontal and flat on your back.  You may need someone to help you with this.  Take the measurements while wearing a bra that you feel comfortable in.

-First measure around your torso just below your armpits but above your breasts.  Write this measurement down.  This is your band size.

-Next measure around your torso at the fullest part of your breasts.  Write this measurement down.

-Subtract the measurement from step #1 from the measurement in step #2.  This number determines your cup size.  Use the following chart to find your cup size. 

  • If the difference is 1 inch your cup size is A
  • If the difference is 2 inches your cup size is B
  • If the difference is 3 inches your cup size is C
  • If the difference is 4 inches your cup size is D
  • If the difference is 5 inches your cup size is DD/E

Here are some extra hints on getting the perfect fit.  First, to double check your band size simply measure your torso directly under your breasts and add 5 inches.  If this is an odd number then add one inch.  Second, you must understand that every breast and bra are different. This is why finding a good bra fitter is so important.

Step #3- Always, Always, Always try on each bra you want to buy.

Every bra manufacturer has its own sizing methods.  Each and every bra fits differently.  Each breast is shaped differently.  Try on each nursing bra prior to purchasing it.  Just because a bra states your size that does not mean it will fit you.  Get help from a fitter that knows how each of the bra fits.  They will probably know by looking at you which bras will work for you and which will not.

To check if a bra fits correctly follow these tips.  First, make sure the band hits below your shoulder blades.  If it rides up, the band is too big.  Second, make sure your breast are not being constricted anywhere.  If they are you need a larger cup size.  Third, do not buy a bra that digs into your shoulders.  Fourth, if the cup puckers or has gaps, the cup size is probably too big.

Step #4- Do Not Settle!

If at first you do not succeed-keep looking.  There are a slew of bra companies out there who make well-made nursing bras.  Don’t settle for bras that don’t fit.  In most cases woman can find nursing bras that are comparable to what they were wearing prior to pregnancy.  Nursing bras come in every style, shape, fabric, and color.  You can find sporty and sexy, lace and microfiber, underwire and sleep bras.  DO NOT SETTLE!

Now I would like to touch on the subject of wearing an underwire while nursing.  You can do it!  Despite urban legend, underwires do not cause clogged ducts and mastitis- a poorly fitted nursing bra causes clogged ducts and mastitis.  I was wearing an underwire when I got my first case of mastitis.  Thing is, the mastitis was from the elastic in the cup being too small.  The underwire had nothing to do with it.  To know whether an underwire fits correctly you need to see look at two areas.  First, make sure that the wire is not hitting any breast tissue under your arms.  It should lie nicely on your ribs.  Second, the wire should lay flat in between your breast.  If it does not- THE BRA DOES NOT FIT!  I repeat if the underwire does not lay flat in between your breast- IT DOES NOT FIT!  I have seen countless women try to talk me into the fact that it is OK that their underwire does not lay flat.  This is simply not true.  If the wire does not lie on breast tissue it cannot cause mastitis or clogged ducts.

Finally, let’s talk about when to buy nursing bras and how many to purchase.  First, I urge women to always have at least three nursing bras.  One on, one in the wash, and one ready to wear.  Every thing imaginable ends up on your bra for some reason.  It seems as though they become sort of an adult bib/burp cloth.  It is amazing how fast you need to change them sometimes.  Second, I urge women to buy their first nursing bras a few weeks before their due date.  This ensures that they are as close to the size they will be after giving birth.  You can assume you will grow at least 1-2 cup sizes.  The first bras should be comfortable and have room to expand and retract with your breasts.  There are several sports-bra type nursing bras that are superb for this early postpartum period.  They can be slept in as well, which is important early on.  After about a month you can go for the bra that you really want.  The one that will look great under the clothes you are starting to fit back into.  Remember to have a fitting again before trying to buy.  You will have changed sizes several times during your baby’s first month and you won’t yet be back to your regular size. 

Now take a look at this scenario:

A new mom walks into a party.  She has a smile on her face and she looks fabulous.  Her baby is now four weeks old. Last week she went to the town lingerie shop for a bra fitting.  She is wearing a sleek new nursing top that lays just right.  It conceals her nursing pads and is very forgiving of her “mummy tummy.”  Her breasts are lifted and supported.  They look great under her clothes.  Her baby starts to cry but she does not fret.  She simply takes her baby to the nearest couch and quickly and easily nurses her baby.  She returns to the party feeling as supported as she did when she walked in.  She thinks “isn’t life grand?”

Ok, so I exaggerate a little.  She did feel supported though.  And her breasts did look good!

***Rebbecca Rosen is the owner of The Breastchester, Inc.  Her company includes an online Breastfeeding Boutique - www.breastchester.com - and an In-Home Sales Consultation Service in the NYC metropolitan area.  She is an RN, BSN, and a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor.  She also is a Postpartum Doula.  She lives in upstate NY with her husband and two children.  She loves making new moms feel good about themselves!


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