When it comes to breastfeeding and pumping, there can be a lot of ups and downs — literally. You may experience some discomfort and engorgement a few days after birth, and soreness as you start breastfeeding. That’s just one of the reasons buying a nursing or pumping bra (or one that does both!) is essential — and tricky. You’ll want one that fits well, is comfortable and allows for easy nursing.
Though you may be tempted to simply buy a larger sized regular bra, nursing and pumping bras are worth the money. Not only do they allow for easy maneuvering, but some also have special features that were designed with new moms in mind.
After having a baby, a woman’s body is continually changing, which can make finding a good fit difficult. Not to mention all the different styles that are on the market. Support, comfort, ease of access — how do you find the perfect nursing bra for you?
Start with us! If you’re ready to buy, check out the product list above for our five best nursing bras. If you need to know more about what to look for in a nursing bra, just keep reading.
5 Best Nursing Bras in 2021:
If you’re larger than a DD cup, you already know the frustration that comes with bra shopping. The Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra is available in sizes XS to XXL to accommodate traditional cup sizes from A to J.
The soft, wire-free construction features molded cups, removable foam inserts, and a four-way stretch fabric that not only hugs your shape but can accommodate your breasts as they grow — so important while breastfeeding! And nursing is made easy thanks to the clips and drop-down cups.
While most reviews of this nursing bra are positive, some women noted that the seams frayed in critical areas such as where the clips are fastened to the straps and bra cups. Others noted that this bra can run a little small and recommended ordering up a size to guarantee a comfortable fit.
- No metal hooks or underwires
- Soft fabric and cup-free design
- Not as flattering under clothes
When Bodily named this the “Do Anything” bra, they really meant it. It’s common for nursing bras to look and be worn like regular bras—many are comfortable enough to be worn all day—but wearing a pumping bra all day? Basically impossible, until this bra came along. Not only does it look like a regular, non-maternity bra, it feels like one, too!
The cups unclip and fold down for breastfeeding, but they also separate in the middle so you can easily insert the flanges of your breast pump for hands-free pumping. Because holding pumping bottles up to your breasts for 20+ minutes at a time isn’t a great way to spend your day. This bra is a great option to cover your bases if you’re not sure yet whether you’ll be breastfeeding, pumping or both.
And no need to worry about pump parts, bottles and milk falling out; this bra is super supportive, so even after pumping a full five ounces, everything will still stay in place without you needing to hold it up yourself. Keep in mind: Because of the way the cups are designed to allow for pump parts, this bra doesn’t look seamless under tight shirts. Consider wearing a loose or flowy top with this bra to prevent any visible lumps.
- Comfortable and supportive
- Good shaping benefits
- Ideal for long-term nursing
- Underwire may not be preferred in early breastfeeding days
If you’re going to pick one bra to pack for when the baby comes and to rely on in the weeks immediately following, we think the Cake Lingerie Cotton Candy should be it. The Cotton Candy’s high-coverage design and substantial construction offer more support than similar models we tested while also allowing for easy adjustment. Its stretchy fabric feels soft and forgiving—important for those first days, when engorgement is common—and its clasps are among the simplest to use. The bra comes in a wider range of sizes and colors than most of the models we tested. It doesn’t do much to mask nipples, though.
Though the Cotton Candy is made of a thin, stretchy fabric typical of seamless nursing bras, it provides greater support and a closer fit than similar models we tested. Its higher-than-most neckline allows for fluctuation in breast size—we never spilled out. Unlike other seamless bras we looked at, the Cotton Candy has a full-coverage back, which helps get more weight off your shoulders.
- Soft, smooth, and stretchy fabric
- Converts to different strap styles and band sizes
- Not as supportive
No other bra we tested was as simple and comfortable for nighttime use as the clasp- and hook-free Kindred Bravely French Terry Racerback. It never committed the largest sleep-bra offense: being noticeable. The French terry sits perfectly like second skin, is baby-blanket soft, and stays supportive all night while also moving aside easily for feeding. The rayon fabric (from bamboo) combined with spandex makes the bra ultra-breathable, and it effectively absorbed moisture when we leaked. It’s one of the most affordable sleep bras we tested and can fit a wide range of sizes, from 28B to 42G.
We found that the French terry fabric is taut enough to offer the low-key support most nursing moms want overnight but doesn’t stretch out like other sleep bras we tested did. “I felt effortlessly supported,” our 42H tester said. The bra’s full-coverage racerback keeps everything in place, takes more of the weight off your shoulders than other similar bras do, and distributes it more comfortably across your back.
- Ideal for cup sizes D through K
- Supportive underwire style
- Clip-down access
- A few reviewers disliked the wider separation
Whether you’re not ready to invest in pricier nursing bras or your budget won’t allow you to, you don’t have to go without. The Daisity Seamless Sleep Nursing Bra is a great value — three bras for a modest price.
These seamless, wire-free nursing bras provide core features like clips with drop-down cups, adjustable straps, light padding, and breathable nylon and spandex fabric.
However, some women found the material to be scratchy and felt that the stitching dug uncomfortably into their skin. And for some people, this discomfort created skin irritations. So if you have sensitive skin, this might not be the bra for you.
- Minimal bralette style
- Front-adjust straps
- Runs a bit small
What to Look for in Nursing Bras
It’s a good idea to have a nursing bra on hand as soon as you give birth since you’ll likely be breastfeeding your newborn around the clock. That being said, your bra size may change once you start breastfeeding, so don’t stock up on too many in advance. Here’s what you should keep in mind to find the most comfortable, supportive, and convenient nursing bras:
- Easy access: Most bras have clips that snap on and off at the base of the shoulder straps. These are convenient and let you move the bulk of bra out of the way when it’s time to breastfeed.
- Adjustability: Your breast size may change over the course of your nursing journey (and even over the course of the day based on how full you are with milk!), so it’s a good idea to look for a bra with adjustable features.
- Padding: Some bras just have layers of fabric covering the breasts, some have light layers of lining, and others are fully padded with molded cups. The more minimal styles are ideal for lounging and comfort, but won’t give much shaping benefits under clothing.
- Support: Some nursing bras have underwires, while others have wireless bands around the ribcage for support and to help the bra stay in place. Also pay attention to the straps: Most nursing bras don’t use thin straps because they’re not supportive enough for heavy breasts.
What To Avoid In A Nursing Bra
Fit is key with any bra but especially so when you’re breastfeeding. Common pitfalls are too-tight straps that dig into shoulders and overflowing cups. Beyond the discomfort of a bra that’s too small, it can result in swelling and other issues while you’re breastfeeding, including the dreaded mastitis. Skip bras with underwires since they can add unwelcome pressure to your milk ducts.
How We Tested
We recruited 17 nursing moms with babies ranging in age from 2 weeks to just over 2 years old to help us test the 24 finalists. They live all over the country, from Massachusetts and New York to California and Oregon, and have different lifestyles. Our testers included junior high and preschool teachers, stay-at-home moms, part-time students, a midwife, college professors, and small-business owners.
Most important, our panel of testers ranged from 32D to 42K with a good representation of B, C, D, DD, DDD, E, and F cups in band sizes like 34, 36, and 38 (the average bra size of non-nursing women in the US is 34DD).
In most cases, we sent each bra to at least two testers in their respective sizes, aiming for one smaller-size and one larger-size tester. If a bra was as beloved by our 42K tester as it was by our 32D tester, it was superior to ones that won over only one end of the spectrum.
Q. I have a friend who developed a painful case of mastitis while nursing. Are there nursing bras that can help prevent that?
A. While wearing the right nursing bra is no guarantee against mastitis, there are some things to avoid that could lead to its development. Underwires are notorious for causing clogged milk ducts, especially under the arm, as they put pressure on ducts and prevent milk from coming out.
Q. I’ve heard I should get fitted for a nursing bra just like my regular bra. Should I do that before or after I have the baby?
A. You won’t be able to accurately predict your bra size until two or three weeks after delivery. Your best bet is to buy one or two bras before the baby comes, so you’ll have something to wear in the hospital. Then either measure yourself or get professionally fitted two to three weeks postpartum, and order a few more nursing bras according to your new measurements.
Q. Do I have to wear a sleep bra?
A. Not unless you want to or you have a problem with leaks. Sleep bras keep breast pads in place to keep leakage under control. Some women also like having a little support while sleeping.