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Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & Underwire Bras

By Amalah

I’m 6ish weeks away from pushing my first human out of my vagina and I was told a long while ago to stop wearing underwire bras as they will do Bad Things to milk ducts. And, yes, they’re uncomfortable and leaving dents in my body but…what else do I wear? Do I need to get that Rhonda Shear bra? Those things don’t look like they could hold anything up. Must I be droopy and floppy from now on to save my boob juice?

Many thanks,

Okay, two different things to address here:

First, you can absolutely wear underwire bras while you are pregnant. I did. Hell, I arrived at the hospital in padded push-up bras. The warning/fear/belief that the wires will inhibit or hurt your milk supply and ducts before the baby arrives is unfounded. That said, you shouldn’t be wearing bras that don’t fit. Pregnant or not. If a bra is digging at you, pack it away and buy one in the proper size.

There’s always a dilemma in late pregnancy about buying bras — you know your current boob size isn’t permanent, so should you bother with a regular bra or should you just start buying nursing bras? I have no magic one-size-fits-all solution to this problem: It comes down to personal preference. Personally, I don’t really like wearing the full-coverage nursing bras until I have to. I’m on the small side, though, and able to buy inexpensive new bras in my pregnancy size at Target, or in the clearance bin at Victoria’s Secret. At most I go up to a 34C during pregnancy, but for someone who finds themselves in an unusual, special-order-$60-a-bra size, it might make more sense to buy a couple nursing bras and hope that you’ll be able to use them for longer.

Now! Once your baby is born, the underwire bra thing is more controversial. Officially, there’s no real hard evidence that underwire bras are linked to lactation problems, but there IS a lot of anecdotal evidence that poorly-fitting underwire bras can lead to clogged ducts and such. So some women are told to avoid underwire bras completely for six weeks or 12 or however long it takes for their breast milk supplies to regulate. Because until your supply regulates, your boob size can change by the DAY, if not the HOUR. So again, it’s not that that underwires = evil, it’s just that you’re more likely to wear one that’s the wrong size during the early days of nursing and wind up with a plugged duct.

Which I did. Twice! I NEVER experienced ANY duct problems while nursing my two older sons, Noah or Ezra, — and I’d never even heard the underwire warnings with Noah, and know that I wore them — but with my youngest (Ike)…oy. Both times, though, it wasn’t JUST that I was wearing an underwire bra. It was that I was wearing an underwire bra that was too dang small, and wore it when I was away from the baby, like an idiot. One time it was just vanity — I wanted to look pretty when my husband and I went out for a child-free dinner and show off my nursing-enhanced cleavage. Milk came in, Ike wasn’t there to immediately drink it, duct got clogged. The second time was laziness — my nursing bras were all in the wash and I grabbed one of those late-pregnancy 34C bras to wear instead. Except that early on, my boobs would swell to a D cup when my milk came in. I wore the too-small bra to get mah hair done and…oh, crap. Once again, I was baby-less and unable to nurse promptly and the same duct clogged AGAIN.

So the lesson here? It wasn’t that underwire bras are universally BAD and WRONG, it’s that if you DO wear one, 1) make sure it FITS and 2) make sure you’re able to nurse whenever you need to the whole time you’re wearing it.

That said, clogged ducts aren’t the end of the nursing world or a one-way ticket to mastitis. (Here’s how to tell the difference, and what to do about it.) They do HURT, though, almost like a black-and-blue mark coming from inside your boob. The first time I got one, it went away after a few nursing sessions all on its own. (I made sure to start Ike on the plugged side, to ensure it always got emptied and the more vigorous sucks.) The second time was less fun, because I had to leave for BlogHer RIGHT as it happened, and was stuck on a cross-country flight with a terribly sore boob and only a crappy hand pump to try to work the plug out. Didn’t happen. But! Once I got to my destination and could break out the electric breast pump, the problem went away pretty quickly.

So. This is all a long-winded, roundabout way to say: You can really wear whatever style bra you want, AS LONG AS IT FITS. If it’s uncomfortable, stop wearing it, underwire or no underwire. I admit I’ve never even heard of the bra you specifically mentioned in your question, so…I guess that’s a sign that you don’t need it, if you don’t want it. I always opt for a variety of nursing bra styles — in the non-underwire styles I go for the lined shaped/molded cup kind and find them to be both very comfortable and pretty flattering. (And yes, Target makes them in my size. I AM CHEAP.)

In the early weeks, when my size was still fluctuating, I went more for stuff that didn’t have a specific cup size, like nursing tanks and sleep bras. (Again, a benefit of being smaller-chested, other women definitely need more substantial support from the get-go.) I avoided underwire bras because I just wanted the most comfortable option, most of the time. Now that everything has settled down, I definitely wear properly-fitting underwire bras occasionally with no problems at all.

Basically, listen to your boobs, and not the warnings. If they feel uncomfortable, you should ditch the bra, underwire or otherwise. Treat them to a nice bra that fits, even if you’re worried you’ll only get six weeks of wear out of it. Your boobs are about to do AMAZING things for you and your baby — they more than deserve it.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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