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Underwire Bras for Pregancy and Breastfeeding

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,
J

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

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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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Karen
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Karen

I never paid much attention to my bras until my first kiddo was born and now am obsessed with a supportive well-fitting product. The bigger you are (ahem, no 34C during nursing here…), the more you should spend to be comfortable. The thing with underwires is the second you aren’t in the right size, you have a poor fit so the non-underwires are a better choice for the late-preg/post-partum stage. I have several inexpensive underwire bras from Penney’s in several sizes that I rotate through while pregnant to avoid that, uh, digging in problem. Around 6 months preg when the… Read more »

Brooke
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Brooke

FYI, if you are a larger cup size, like F or G, nursing tanks or sports bra-style nursing bras will not work. I found this out the hard way, since by the time there’s enough fabric to cover mah boobs the band size is much too big. I ended up having to buy underwire nursing bras since it was the only thing I could find in my size in a brick-and-mortar store. Milk supply was just fine, but they were mighty uncomfortable to sleep in and I wound up wearing saggy old normal sports bras at night.

Holly
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Holly

I hear (read: feel) your pain about the whole droopy/floppy problem. Unlike Amy, I tend to the larger, possibly droopy side to begin with, and during my recent pregnancy OH. man. Though I have a small waist, I ended up only being able to find bras that fit at Lane Bryant (with underwire, which I’ve never gone without since hitting puberty). BUT. based on comfort, when I had my son a couple of months ago, I went without underwire for comfort and thought I would just put up with the sagginess until my milk figured out its supply. My midwife… Read more »

Trish
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Trish

If you are larger, Bravado bras are the way to go. The Body silk are the best for those first weeks, IMO.

Hollie
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Hollie

Ok, if you’re REALLY larger (I was a 38D prepregnancy, a 42DDish towards the end, and then… ye gods, I was a 38H/I for a while while breastfeeding), here’s my experience. 1. NOTHING you can get at a store will be the right size (even Motherhood, etc. doesn’t sell that big). 2. Just order a ton of stuff from Barenecessities or other such site and return everything that doesn’t fit. Really actually get out the tape measure and look up the instructions. 3. Once you find something that fits, Zulily has higher-end nursing bras on the reg. I ended up… Read more »

Kaela
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Kaela

You didn’t mention your cup size and I’m like Amalah (card carrying member of the itty bitty titty committee), but something I found useful towards the end of pregnancy/early nursing were sports bras. Not the traditional squishy ones, but I found some that were cotton, not super tight, a little padded, low cut cross over types. I bought big enough that they weren’t super tight and it worked while my cups kept changing. http://www.ebay.com/itm/38C-Black-Angelina-Top-Sports-Bra-Padded-Racerback-NWT-/280645824390

Heidi
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Heidi

I agree with Kaela about wearing some kind of sports-ish bra toward the end of pregnancy; I don’t have a specific brand/style recommendation, but something that has separate pockets for the breasts to avoid the uni-boob look. Bras were uncomfortable through pretty much the last half of both pregnancies, not so much because my breasts got bigger but because I carried high, and my upper rib cage seemed to fluctuate in size with every growth in the baby, not to mention with every move the baby made. Until I gave up and went to a sports bra in the last… Read more »

Kati
Guest

I actually found some larger sized underwire playtex nursing bras (they are ugly) on Amazon.  I remember them being CHEAP (I’m a card carrying member of the 100+ per bra+special order club) and pretty comfy even in those first couple of months when things were evening out.  I couldn’t IMAGINE going bra-less (I still sleep in my sleep nursing bra).  I recommend the sleep bras they have a Motherhood if you’re just going to be around the house and don’t need a whole lot of support (read, none really).  

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I am also a total fan of the Bravado Body Silk bra for late pregnancy through nursing. It is awesome! (They actually look far more matronly in their images that it does on you. They look like a regular bra on you.)

This bra actually made me nicer to other people.

Olivia
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Olivia

Large boobed mama here, 42DDD. If you have a tight budget you can also buy a regular bra, whatever style and type you like, and convert it to a nursing bra. It’s been a while so I don’t have the websites, but google nursing bra clips and instructions. I bought a dozen pairs of clips for about $5 and sturdy elastic. 30 min later I have a nursing bra that actually fits and is supportive for less than $30.

Lisa
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Lisa

Another bravado fan. I’m normally a 36DDD (or F) that went to a 36G-38H during pregnancy/nursing. I never go without the underwire also and paid no attention to the warnings. I found the bravado comfortable, especially while sleeping. I also found a nursing tank that was pretty supportive, I thought it was by bravado also, but i’m not sure. I was also a fan of the the Anita nursing bra. Hated the sports bras…(a) could get them big enough to fit the cup size/small enough band size or (b) i’d fall out of them. Due to my large cup size/small… Read more »

Caitlin
Guest

I’m on the smaller end, and a great brand that doesn’t give unnecessary coverage is Emma Jane (I think my style is 411 – how evocative). I think they’re a British brand, but I buy them in a store in Canada. I hate the hugeness of most nursing bras – they make me hot at a time when you can already have hot flashes. I’ve been wearing my non-underwire Emma Janes for 3 years since my daughter was born (next one coming any day) since they also give a great shape and are SUPER comfy.

Clueless
Guest
Clueless

I nursed my son for 16 mon. and only had 1 (maybe 2) problem(s) with clogged ducts. The most memorable occasion I can link to running with 2 sports bras (cause one just wasn’t going to cut it!). However, I did have a problem while pregnant and that was not fun. After the baby comes the solution to a clogged ducts is just lots of extra nursing sessions on that side. I just took a nap with him and allowed him to side nurse as needed. When we woke up the problem was pretty much gone. But when you get… Read more »

liz
Guest

If you live near a Nordstrom’s, go get fitted. They do have a variety of bras in an actual variety of sizes (Hello! 34 F, and not nursing!), and they can special order you stuff.

Tracy
Guest
Tracy

1. the Rhonda Shear bras are floppy useless things. I was a 34DD before I had my baby – now, I’m in the 38G category – Although the Rhonda Shear bras are comfy – I look TERRIBLE in them, as they are about as supportive as going bra-less. And, sure, if I wear 3 of them at one time, as they suggest, they almost feel like a real bra – but wearing one at a time is sleep-bra territory, and nothing more. 2. HotMilk, despite their nauseating company name, has very pretty nursing bras – I bought 2 while preggers,… Read more »