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Maternity Bras

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It's important to have the proper bras during pregnancy to relieve breast strain and give needed support. Your breasts are made up of fatty and connective tissue, and glands. During pregnancy, each breast becomes 10 to 18 ounces heavier due to increased fluid and mammary gland growth. This puts the surrounding skin and tissue under considerable strain. Without proper bra support, your breasts could become deformed, and for women with already large breasts, there can be significant tension in the neck and shoulders.

Maternity Bras

Maternity Bra vs. Nursing Bra

- Many women use these terms interchangeably, but a maternity bra is very different from a nursing bra. A maternity bra (also known as a pre-natal bra) is worn both before and after pregnancy if you are not planning on breastfeeding. The cups on a maternity bra are designed to be stretchy so that the bra can grow with your growing breasts. These bras also come with additional breast support.

Nursing Bras A nursing bra (or feeding bra) is worn once your child arrives, and you have made the decision to breastfeed. The cups are designed to drop down from a clip, thus exposing your breasts for nursing. Nursing bras are usually seamless and have an all-around breast support system to give a natural shape and provide much needed support.

When is the right time to buy a maternity bra?

The right time is as soon as your breasts begin to swell and your existing bras no longer fit. This is usually from the 4th month onward. Maternity bras are specially designed to give extra support. They are also made to fit comfortably on the first (tightest) hook early in your pregnancy, and adjust to the final (loosest) hook by your last trimester. However, it is not unusual for women to need a whole new size bra towards the end.

How do I measure for a maternity bra?

Wait until your fourth month of pregnancy, then, wearing your most comfortable bra, measure yourself as described in our "Measuring for the proper bra fit" section.

What features should I look for in a maternity bra?

A comfortable maternity bra should have wide side bands and shoulder straps to support growing breast tissue. Shoulder straps should have some cushioning and not stretch.

features in a maternity bra • Look for a bra with three or more back closures to offer the most flexibility in fit. A maternity bra should fit you on the tightest hook when you buy it - this will allow you to loosen the band as you grow.

• The bra's band should lie under the breasts and on the rib cage - not creeping up on the breast tissue. If the breast tissue is receiving pressure, this could lead to a plugged duct and ultimately mastitis or breast infection.

• Be sure the cup is large enough to give you adequate coverage and depth for your breasts. If the cup is not large enough for proper coverage, some of the breast tissue may spill out on top and under the arms resulting in inadequate support.

• If you will be pregnant during hot summer months, or you find yourself getting hot easily, look into bras made with cotton or wicking microfiber. And remember, you will be wearing these bras for several months after your baby is born, so it's wise to buy a good bra that will adjust with your changing sizes.

Should my maternity bra be soft cup or underwire?

Properly fitted underwires generally cause no problems during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. However, softcups are usually more comfortable when the breasts are at their fullest. This is during the last months of pregnancy and during the first month of breastfeeding. If you do choose an underwire bra, it is imperative that the wire fits well under and behind the breast tissue. Any pressure on the breast tissue can result in a plugged duct and ultimately mastitis or breast infection. Wearing an underwire while sleeping is not recommended.

When is the right time to buy a nursing bra? Try and wait until about the 8th month to buy a nursing bra since your breasts should stabilize by the7th to 8th month of your pregnancy. Then, buy one cup size larger than your measurement at 8 months. In general, this is how much a woman's breasts will increase once milk comes in after the birth. Do not wait until your baby is born to buy a nursing bra. There is too much going on in your life by then and you will benefit from having your nursing bra as soon as you start nursing.

Any special tips on a nursing bra?

• Look for a bra that provides convenient, easy access to the breast. A bra that allows the cup to be opened with one hand can be helpful when you're holding your baby and preparing to breastfeed.

• Choose a bra made of cotton or other smooth breathable fabric. Bras made with synthetic materials may trap moisture against your skin. Make sure that any decorative details (e.g. lace trim) are not scratchy and irritating to your skin.

• A bra with a four-hook back closure is going to offer you the most flexibility in fit.

• The straps should be wide, cushioned, and non-stretch for best support.

• The band of the bra should fit comfortably on its widest setting because after the birth, your band size will begin to decrease.

How much is my breast size going to change during my pregnancy?

There is no standard answer. Some women change in size drastically and require several different bra sizes throughout their pregnancy, other women change very little until the baby arrives and milk production begins. Your best guess is to ask your Mom what her breasts did during her pregnancy. Immediately after the birth, you can expect a surge in your breast size as they begin to fill with milk. This can be painful. Establishing a regular feeding schedule will balance your milk supply and relieve any breast pain. After 2 weeks of nursing, your breasts should re-stabilize to about one cup size larger than your maternity bra size.

Why can't I wear regular bras throughout my pregnancy?

During and after pregnancy, your breasts undergo numerous changes. They are enlarging and becoming heavier and more sensitive. So, for late pregnancy and after delivery, choosing a bra that provides proper support can help you feel more comfortable and less fatigued. Normal bras simply aren't designed with these issues in mind. However, having said this, there are every-day bras that could work as maternity bras. They just need to have stretchy cups and good support. Some women opt to wear sports bras as their maternity bras because they are designed to be super supportive.

How many maternity/nursing bras do I need?

Most recommend that you have at least three maternity/nursing bras so that you can wear a fresh one every day. One to wear, one to launder and one as a spare just in case....

What is the best way to put on a maternity/nursing bra?

You may pick any one of the three techniques we recommend in our "Lingerie FAQ" section. However, you must take extra care in making sure your breasts are placed correctly into the bra. Your body should be bent over while doing this to allow the breasts to fill into the cups naturally.

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