How to Buy Nursing Bras Before You Give Birth
Congrats on your new baby! He’s adorable!
I’m expecting my first baby in January and I’ve heard from several sources that I need my nursing bras before I go to the hospital to deliver, which is confusing to me since my milk won’t be in until after the baby gets here. How do you know what size to get? How do you keep from buying a size that fits for a little while and then doesn’t later once things calm down?
Well, you kind of…can’t. You make a guess, really, and you make that guess based off your bra size late in the third trimester. And you make that guess knowing there’s definitely a chance that you won’t wear that bra again. Which basically means — don’t buy a ton of nursing bras, and don’t spend a ton of money on them.
Personally, I didn’t wear a bra for my first couple days in the hospital. (I had a c-section, so my hospital stay was longer — four days — than a vaginal delivery.) I was in bed, wasn’t walking around, and was sporting a lovely hospital nursing gown with the big ol’ slits down the front. The baby was nursing so often that I could barely bring myself to keep my gown snapped up at the shoulders — hooking and unhooking a nursing bra definitely didn’t seem worth it.
By day three, though, I definitely felt the very early beginnings of something very vaguely resembling my milk coming in. So I wore a “sleep bra” by Medela from Target. Kind of a hybrid nursing/sports bra thing. $19.99. Comes in idiot-proof S/M/L/XL, goes on over your head, with no cup or band sizes to worry about.
I bought two to take to the hospital. One ripped when I was pulling it off, the other one stopped fitting during my early days of crazy engorgement. No great loss. (Although I’ve been wearing it at night again lately, as Ezra ups his sleep time and having my boobs constricted is actually more comfortable.) My going-home outfit included a plain black nursing tank. These days I can get away with tanks at night or just around the house, but they’re certainly no replacement for my “real” properly-fitted and supportive nursing bras.
If nursing tanks or sports-bra-like options aren’t something you think will work for you, even as a temporary stop-gap measure, go ahead and buy some nursing bras late in the third trimester. Don’t spend a lot on them — stick with places like Target or Motherhood Maternity — but get something that seems to fit you pretty well then. Try to avoid underwires since you WILL be spending those early days in bed. I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get out for nursing bras after the baby was born, so I did buy a couple at Motherhood right before my c-section, and was lucky enough to end up with the size I currently wear. (I went for something that fit in the band but was a little roomy in the cups. Sure enough, my band size stayed the same and I filled the cups out FABULOUSLY. I was tempted to go up another cup size, but once some oversupply issues [!!!] evened out, it turned out I didn’t need to.)
Milk production is a total crapshoot, of course. With Noah, my milk took an agonizing time to come in — close to a full week, I think — while my hospital roommate would NOT stop complaining about her crazy engorgement the day after she’d given birth. This time my milk came in with a vengeance on day five, when my husband took the baby to the farmer’s market for a couple hours in the morning, and I had to call him, howling in pain to GET THAT BABY BACK HERE OH MY GOD. So you may not really NEED a nursing bra at the hospital, but you may just want a little support with some easy nipple access. Or you might need the whole shebang of bras and cabbage leaves and nursing pads right from the start.
Like everything with babies and shopping for babies, I say aim for getting the bare minimum — a tank or stretchy sleep bra — and remember that yes, you had a baby, but you are STILL ALLOWED TO GO TO THE STORE! You can totally buy things you need after the birth! You can send people to the store for you! Your mom, your sister, a friend — hell, send your husband to the nearest maternity store with your best guess at your measurements. (I may have actually done this.) (He did great!)
Published December 2, 2008. Last updated March 27, 2018.