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The Best Nursing Bras, Tested by Breastfeeding Moms

Whether you need extra support in the postpartum period or quick access for 3 a.m. feedings, these nursing bras have you covered.
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mother wearing a nursing bra while breastfeeding baby in bed
Image: Anastasia Khandozhenko
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In a nutshell:

Based on advice from lactation consultants and a stylist, two surveys of almost 650 moms from The Bump community and feedback from our team of independent product testers, we chose the Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra as the overall best nursing bra. In particular, it stood out due to its seamless support, breathable material and inclusive sizing options.

Whether you’re nursing on the go, pumping in the office or fumbling through a 3 a.m. feeding, the right nursing bra can be a lifesaver. La Leche League—a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting mothers who want to breastfeed—notes that as your milk comes in over the early weeks of breastfeeding, your breasts can become heavy and engorged. In turn, this creates a need for more support than you might normally require. The good news is, there’s a nursing bra out there for every situation, whether it’s for everyday wear, sleep or exercise—the cup runneth over with choices.

To help you find the right nursing bra, we’ve not only compiled advice from a lactation consultant and a style expert but also enlisted a team of breastfeeding moms to help us test the best nursing bras out there. Read on to browse the top-rated nursing bras on the market, including this year’s Best of The Bump award winner. Below, you’ll also find everything you need to know about nursing bras, including shopping tips.

How We Chose and Tested the Best Nursing Bras

Image: Kristina, Danae, Mallory

For more than 10 years, The Bump has recognized the absolute best baby and pregnancy products on the market through our awards series. To help you find the best nursing bras, The Bump editors scoured the market to find the most popular and highest-rated options available. Then, we put them to the test. Here’s how we did it:

  • We enlisted the help of 16 product testers to try out different nursing bras. These breastfeeding moms wore the bras while nursing or pumping in various situations—from middle-of-the-night feedings to wedding receptions and everything in between. Then, they rated each bra across categories like support, comfort, fit, quality, style and value for money.
  • We interviewed two lactation consultants and a stylist to understand the essential features to look for when shopping for and wearing nursing bras.
  • We surveyed almost 650 new and expectant moms in The Bump community for additional insight on the pros and cons of specific nursing bras.
  • We researched what was being said about nursing bras in The Bump community forums to learn what moms liked (and didn’t like) about certain brands and styles.
  • We leveraged our familiarity with leading fashion brands and trusted online retailers and browsed dozens of styles.
  • To understand how these top-rated nursing bras have worked for moms, we conducted exhaustive market research, scouring external forums and message boards and reading user reviews to find out what mothers across the country looked for in bras for breastfeeding.
  • When sourcing nursing bras, we considered several factors, including fabric, supportive details, style, type of closure and nursing features.

Editorial integrity is at the heart of everything we publish. Read about how The Bump develops and reviews all articles, including product reviews.

The Best Nursing Bras for Every Need

Overall best nursing bra

What We Love
  • Thick straps for added support
  • Zones of extra support around the cups
  • Comes in tons of pretty colors
Things To Consider
  • Some moms suggest sizing up
  • No racerback option

The wildly popular Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra by Bravado Designs blew our product tester, Danae, away when it came to comfort, fit, quality and style, making it an easy choice for this year’s Best of The Bump winner. (Head here to see all of this year’s Best of The Bump winning products.) “I’m very impressed by the quality,” she raved. “Very soft and extremely comfortable; feels like I’m not wearing a bra.”

When it comes to nursing bras, this one checks every box and for all body types too. It fits busts of almost any size, with band sizes from 32 to 46, and cups from B to J. Danae loved how it felt, awarding it a 5 out of 5 for both fit and comfort. “The bra is not tight, no spillage—it’s like I was wearing nothing,” she said. “It holds my breasts up very well, and I feel very secure and comfortable in it.”

Buttery-soft and wire-free, the Body Silk lives up to its name. It’s made with the brand’s trademark eco-adapt fabric, a breathable OEKO-TEX material that perfectly stretches with your changing body. For added support around the cups, it features removable foam inserts and knit-in support zones. “This bra manages to support without feeling restrictive and tight. I’ve bought many nursing bras, and they don’t stand up to the comfort I feel in this one,” Danae told us.

Maybe best of all, this clip-down bra features the brand’s special “B” clips, which require only one hand to lower, and which Danae found “easy to undo,” awarding the bra 5 out of 5 for ease of use and describing it as “very comfortable to nurse in.” The clips are tested to hold up to 25 pounds, with cups that provide the support you need but drop away completely during feeding for that vital skin-to-skin contact. The final verdict: It’s safe to say this option has everything we’re looking for in the best nursing bras!

Material: 70% recycled nylon/20% virgin nylon/10% spandex | Sizes: S to XL-FC | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Machine wash, line dry

Our product tester says:

“I’ve bought many nursing bras and they don’t stand up to the comfort I feel in this one.”

Our community says:

"It's very comfortable and easy to nurse in. It looks and makes me feel good." – Elena, mom of a 2-month-old and The Bump survey respondent

"For going out and about I finally bought a good, comfy nursing bra. I am all about comfort over style so it's not sexy at all, but I love it—the Bravado Seamless Silk nursing bra. […] no underwire, very comfy." – ibis, The Bump forum member

"Girl with a large chest here! Lol. I highly recommend Bravado nursing bras." – mloubert, The Bump forum member

Buy Now

Best nursing sleep bra

Cake Maternity Cotton Candy Seamless Nursing Bra
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Great large bust support, according to moms
  • Side support panels
  • Comfortable material and fit
Things To Consider
  • Some moms wish it had better padding

Whether heavier-than-usual breasts need more support or leaking milk demands a nursing pad, a good sleep bra can be a nursing mom’s best friend. In fact, 48 percent of moms who responded to our survey said they wore a nursing sleep bra during their breastfeeding journey.

The best nursing sleep bra has two main features: superior comfort that makes you almost forget you’re wearing a bra at all, and the ability to clasp and unclasp easily, even when fumbling around for a night feeding in the dark. The Cotton Candy bra checks both boxes. Our product tester, Mallory, loved this style, especially how simple it was to unclip for those inevitable middle-of-the-night feedings. All in all, she awarded it 5 out of 5 for ease of use. “I was able to nurse my baby very easily with this bra. I was able to clamp and unclamp the strap one-handed, [so] it was very convenient,” she told us.

Made largely of nylon that provides a gentle stretch, the Cotton Candy bra includes removable foam pads and molded cups for a hint of added definition. The soft, lightweight material is seamless, making it perfect for that second-skin feel while sleeping. According to Mallory, who awarded the Cotton Candy 5 out of 5 for comfort, “I couldn't even tell I was wearing a bra when I slept in this! It's lightweight, comfortable and the material is soft.” If that’s not all, this option also comes in an array of colors, whether you’re looking for a neutral or something a bit more fun.

Material: 90% nylon/10% spandex | Sizes: S to XL | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Machine wash cold, lay flat to dry

Our product tester says:

“The quality is great, and you can tell it will last a long time. I have worn this bra multiple times, during the day and night, and washed it multiple times—and the material is still good as new.”

Our community says:

"My favourite [nursing bra] for pregnancy and for the first while afterward are the Cake brand cotton candy bras. Super comfy and they stretch but still provide support." – Koukonei, The Bump forum member

Buy Now

Best plus-size nursing bra

Simple Wishes Undercover Maternity, Nursing & Beyond T-Shirt Bra
Image: Simple Wishes
Buying Options
Simple Wishes|$38
What We Love
  • Buttery-soft, smooth and supportive
  • Great for pumping, according to moms
  • Inclusive sizing options
Things To Consider
  • Cup extender for pump compatibility sold separately

If you had large breasts before pregnancy and breastfeeding, finding a nursing bra that can comfortably accommodate your bust may feel daunting. Fear not—the Simple Wishes Undercover bra is our pick for the best plus-size nursing bra, offering sizes up to 40H. Featuring a cozy nylon/spandex blend that makes this style as soft as a T-shirt, this non-wire bra is all comfort, all the time. Kayla, our product tester, rated it a 5 out of 5 for comfort and quality. “This bra was extremely comfortable. I wore it a lot at night for sleep with nursing pads to help with leakage,” she raved.

You don’t have to worry about a lack of support either. A wide, adjustable band provides support underneath your breasts, while fixed padded cups offer the same. “As a woman with large breasts, it’s hard to find a supportive nursing bra in my size,” Kayla told us. “This one was supportive even without any structure.”

Material: 80% nylon/20% spandex | Sizes: Band sizes 30 to 40, cup sizes A to H | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Machine wash cold, tumble dry low

Our product tester says:

“I would recommend this bra to other nursing moms, especially those like me with larger breasts. It’s hard to find nursing bras that fit me correctly and comfortably!”

Our community says:

"I appreciate the easy clip system for easy feeding. Also, how it doesn't show when you are leaking." – Jessica, mom of a 3-month-old and The Bump survey respondent

Buy Now

Best supportive nursing bra

MomCozy Seamless Nursing Bra
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Wears well under clothing, according to our product tester
  • Moms say it’s absorbent
  • Adjustable features for a perfect fit
  • Seamless design
Things To Consider
  • Only available in neutral colors
  • Two hands needed to clasp it

While it’s not the only thing a good nursing bra needs, support is critical. The MomCozy not only provides great support—receiving a 5 out of 5 score from our product tester, Mallory—but it’s soft, seamless and easy to unclasp too. “This bra is very supportive!” she told us. “The quality of this MomCozy bra is superior to any other bra I have worn! The material is seriously so soft, it's now my go-to nursing bra.” No wonder 18 percent of our survey respondents told us they were fans of MomCozy’s nursing bras!

Proper fit is key to providing excellent support, and this nursing bra’s extended back closure and front-adjustable straps earned it a 5 out of 5 from Mallory for fit. Molded cups add support and enhance the look of your bust under clothing. “The fit of this bra was perfect in comparison to what I am used to,” Mallory said. The extra adjustable hooks help make the bra fit more appropriately as well if needed.”

Material: 58.4% nylon/41.6% spandex | Sizes: S to 3XL | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: N/A

Our product tester says:

“This bra is so comfy! It's my absolute favorite. The material is so soft and buttery smooth.”

Our community says:

"I like how easy it is to unclip when my baby is ready to nurse. It makes feeding quick and easy. I also like how padded it is." – Ava*, mom of a 4-month-old and The Bump survey respondent

"I like the support and ease of wear. Quick shipping is a plus." – Agustina*, mom of a 6-month-old and The Bump survey respondent

Buy Now

Best underwire nursing bra

ThirdLove 24/7 Classic Nursing Bra
Image: ThirdLove
What We Love
  • Moms say it’s super supportive
  • Comfortable fit with flexible wire
  • Inclusive sizing options
  • Matching underwear available
Things To Consider
  • Only one color option
  • High price point

Sometimes, underwire styles can provide an additional level of support that wireless options simply can’t—and that’s especially important while you’re breastfeeding. If you’re searching for an underwire nursing bra that will cover all the bases, look no further than ThirdLove’s popular Classic Nursing Bra. It’s complete with a flexible wire that will move with your body throughout the fourth trimester. Designed for both comfort and functionality, it’s made of Pima cotton that has just a touch of stretchiness. All that’s to say, we’re not surprised our product tester, Kayla, gave it 5 out of 5 for comfort and ease of use. “This bra is extremely comfortable. The material of the cups and bands is so soft. I’ve even fallen asleep in it and it didn’t leave any impressions or aggravate me…it’s so easy to nurse in.”

This top-rated nursing bra also delivers when it comes to style. Details like pleated straps, gold accents and well-defined cups will help you feel your best while wearing it—no matter the time of day. You can count on the hook-and-eye closure to stay secure throughout your everyday activities. Fans rave about the quality and durability of this design, and Kayla wholeheartedly agreed. “I think this bra will definitely last a year or more. It’s well made and has held up after a wash,” she told us.

This underwire nursing bra is available in inclusive sizing options, from 32A to 44H. “This is the first nursing bra I’ve worn with a wire. As a breastfeeding mom with large breasts, it’s important to have full support. I recently wore this bra to a wedding and it was so supportive, I could barely tell I had on a nursing bra,” Kayla gushed. Even better, if you’re ordering from ThirdLove for the first time, save 15 percent with code BUMP15.

Material: Pima cotton/spandex | Sizes: Band sizes 32 to 44; cup sizes A to H | Underwire: Yes | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Machine wash cold, lay flat to dry

Our product tester says:

“This bra fit perfectly. I love the wide band to help support my large breasts, and the thick strap made it comfortable to wear all day.”

Buy Now

Best combo nursing and pumping bra

Kindred Bravely Sublime Hands-Free Nursing & Pumping Bra
Image: ThirdLove
What We Love
  • Comes with a band extender
  • Fits most pump flanges
  • Inclusive sizing options
Things To Consider
  • Bulky material, according to some reviewers
  • Sizing between the cups and the band can be tricky

A whopping 37 percent of our survey respondents told us they wore Kindred Bravely nursing bras and this option is no exception. If you’re looking for a bra that works well for feeding and pumping, the Kindred Bravely Sublime is the perfect choice. Thousands of five-star reviews indicate this bra should be the first and last one you buy, even if you’re an exclusive pumper.

The Sublime Nursing & Pumping Bra features an innovative all-in-one design, with a top layer that easily clips down to reveal slits that hold flanges in place while pumping. That can also clip down for full nursing access, making this bra a true combo piece that fits all your feeding needs. According to our product tester, Jaclyn, “this was really easy to clip and unclip even while holding baby.” One of our survey respondents, Beatrice*, mom of a 6-month-old and a 5-year-old agreed. “It's very easy to pull the clips down to breastfeed or pump. I didn't need to put on a different bra if I wanted to change from pumping to nursing or vice versa. The bra fits well because of the wide range of sizes available,” she explained.

Kindred Bravely's nursing bra is supportive and comfortable enough to wear as a sleeping bra but also great for daytime use. Jaclyn awarded it a 5 out of 5 for comfort and fit, saying: “This really is a comfortable bra—the fit is spot-on for the sizing chart, and while it’s not a sleeping bra, it was comfortable enough to sleep in, which is great for middle-of-the-night pumping.” When you start nursing, your breasts will grow quite a bit, so you’ll need a nursing bra that stays supportive without becoming restrictive. Thankfully, this style is made of a stretchy nylon/polyester blend for a smooth feel. It also features adjustable straps and a wide, supportive chest band that gently expands as your changing body needs it.

Material (outer): 94% nylon/6% spandex | Material (inner): 84% nylon/16% spandex | Sizes: B to K | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Hand wash, line dry

Our product tester says:

“It has a great fit, is smooth under clothing and is supportive without being too bulky.”

Our community says:

"This is a very durable bra. I like that it comes with an extender, because I needed that immediately postpartum." – Lisa*, nursing mom

"I really didn't want to spend money on a bra that would only temporarily be of use because my size is changing wildly, but the cheaper ones I bought were awful. In contrast, this bra delivers. I don’t know how it manages to be so comfortable yet supportive—with no underwire." – Sydney*, nursing mom

"Amazing bras. Material is great and very comfortable. I love the ease of nursing and the ability to also do hands-free pumping. I lived in these bras!" – Amaya*, mom of a 4-month-old, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old and The Bump survey respondent

Buy Now

Best sexy nursing bra

Cake Maternity Chantilly Maternity & Nursing Bralette
Image: Cake Maternity
What We Love
  • Beautiful lace detailing
  • Feminine scoop-neck design
  • Doesn’t look like a nursing bra
Things To Consider
  • Moms recommend sizing up
  • Some say it could be softer
  • No matching panties available

This beautiful lacy number proves you don’t have to sacrifice style just because you’re breastfeeding. Our product tester, Serena, loved how she looked in this option, telling us that it’s “such a sexy look for a nursing bra!” No detail was spared regarding this pretty all-lace style, which comes in chic colors like blush, pale blue and black. The French-inspired pattern is sheer and incredibly lightweight for that added touch of sexiness, while a wide underband provides crucial support even when your breasts are full and uncomfortable.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Serena gave this bra a 5 out of 5 for style, but it earned equally high marks for comfort and even support. While this bra is sheer, it has a mesh microfiber lining for added comfort and to reduce the possibility of showing through clothing. You’ll also appreciate that there aren’t any uncomfortable wires, another feature that enhances its all-day wearability. Available in cup sizes B through G, this versatile bra offers support for women of all sizes. “This bra has great support and isn’t too constricting!” gushed Serena. “I love how comfortable the fabric is.”

Material: 81% nylon/16% spandex/3% viscose | Sizes: S to XL, cup sizes B to G | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Hand wash

Our product tester says:

“This is one of the best nursing bras I’ve used and has a great style!”

Buy Now

Best padded nursing bra

Cake Maternity Tutti Frutti Maternity & Nursing Bra
Image: Ingrid & Isabel
What We Love
  • Slim foam padding
  • Lace detailing for added flair
  • Super soft bamboo viscose material
Things To Consider
  • Only available in neutral colors

The Tutti Frutti nursing bra offers a slim, barely-there foam pad that expertly smoothes and hides bulky breast pads under clothing. Luxuriously soft and stylish, with delicate lace detailing, this beautiful bra received high marks from our product tester, Kristina. She told us that “this bra has a beautiful print. It looks like a stylish high-end bra while still maintaining its mommy comfortability.”

Moreover, the Tutti Frutti offers plenty of support, even for the largest chest sizes, earning 5 out of 5 from Kristina for support and fit. You can find cups sizing up to H, and the bra comes in regular and busty sizes from small to extra large. “This bra was able to support my breasts really well. The cup fully held my breast, and the straps fit just right,” said Kristina. This excellent support comes from the bamboo viscose fabric, which offers a touch of comfortable stretch and is stitched in panels for the strength and shape of a wired bra without the restrictive underwire.

This padded nursing bra will make you feel like your best self when wearing it, thanks to the lace detailing. Its shape, just like a non-nursing bra, adds a touch of femininity—priceless during those postpartum months of adjustment and change!

Material: 43% viscose/27% cotton/25% nylon/5% spandex | Sizes: S to XL, cup size B to G | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: Hand wash cold

Our product tester says:

“This bra is so supportive and comfortable! It makes breastfeeding so much easier. It’s beautiful too! I’m in love.”

Buy Now

Best racerback nursing bra

Kindred Bravely Sublime Nursing Sports Bra
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Versatile style
  • Moms say it’s easy to adjust
  • Comes with a band extender
  • Inclusive sizing options
Things To Consider
  • Sizing between the cups and the band can be tricky

Next is a style made from a stretchy nylon/polyester performance fabric that can grow with your changing body. The Sublime Nursing Sports Bra’s racerback design offers more support than traditional straps, combined with a comfortable pullover style. This blend of support and comfort didn’t go unnoticed by our product tester, Nadia. “It fits really well and can be adjusted in the places that I needed to adjust,” she explained, giving the Sublime 5 out of 5 for comfort, fit and style. “It looks good under a shirt. Didn’t do too much of the uniboob thing that some sports bras do.” Aubrey*—a mom of a newborn and one of our survey respondents—agreed. “It's easy to put on and has cups that stay in place after washing,” she told us.

Perfect for low-impact exercise, the Kindred Bravely sports bra also works well for everyday use and even for sleeping and nursing overnight. The lightweight material feels divine; combined with the racerback design, it creates a bra that’s breathable and will help keep you dry and comfortable. Even better, it boasts high performance while still feeling soft against your skin, instead of slick like lots of workout wear often does. As Nadia says, “It’s a great nursing sports bra, but also just a really comfortable sports bra overall.”

Material: 92% nylon/8% spandex | Sizes: S to XXXL, regular and busty fits | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Pull-over | Care instructions: Hand wash, line dry

Our product tester says:

“Super-duper comfortable! No complaints.”

Our community says:

"I like how comfortable and soft it is." – Kate*, nursing mom

"It has decent support. It's also easy to unclip one-handed." – Mckenziey, mom of a 2-month-old and The Bump survey respondent

"I'm small-chested to begin with, so I just get soft, stretchy bras that I can use in a wide range of sizes. I love the Kindred Bravely French Terry nursing bra, and their Simply Sublime nursing bras for a little more support." – hedgepig, The Bump forum member

Buy Now

Best budget-friendly nursing bra

Gratlin Women's Comfort Support Maternity Wirefree Seamless Nursing Bra
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$23.99
What We Love
  • Lightweight, comfortable and supportive
  • Highly adjustable sizing in straps and back
  • Removable pads
  • Affordable price point
Things To Consider
  • Some moms suggest sizing up
  • No racerback option

If you’re looking for something basic that gets the job done but still feels comfortable and has the same great features as much more expensive nursing bras, check out the Gratlin brand. Comfortable, lightweight fabric ensures you feel supported but not restricted, making this a great nursing bra for day and night wear. Our product tester, Karly, gave it 5 out of 5 for comfort and fit. “The material on this is very soft and lightweight, and the fact that there are more than three clips to adjust the back makes it super comfortable,” she praised.

The nude color and seamless fabric provide a nearly invisible look under clothing, and molded cups provide just the right amount of definition. But the major feature that makes this style stand out is its excellent clips. Like just about all top-rated nursing bras, this one has clip-down nursing access, but Karly gushed that they’re heads and shoulders above the competition. “It’s the best clip design I've ever tried! This clip on this one is so easy to undo, even with one hand. Definitely the best clip design, and the material is easy to stretch and fold over too.” All at an excellent price point that our product tester gave a 5 out of 5 rating for value? Sign us up.

Material: 94% polyamide/6% spandex | Sizes: S to XL | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: N/A

Our product tester says:

“I would definitely recommend this bra to new moms; it’s good quality for the price and is very comfortable and functional.”

Buy Now

Best nursing sports bra

Love & Fit Athena 3.0 Nursing Sports Bra
Image: Love & Fit
Buying Options
Love & Fit|$72
What We Love
  • Super supportive band
  • Adjustable thick straps
Things To Consider
  • Back strap has only three rows
  • Some moms recommend sizing up
  • High price point

Whether you’re looking for a nursing bra to wear during a good postpartum workout or simply prefer a more comfortable, casual style for your nursing bra, this nursing sports bra is the way to go—and 44 percent of our survey respondents agree. Online reviewers rave about this popular pick, and our product tester, Kareene, was no exception. “The support is amazing!” she told us. “I’ve had other nursing sports bras before that weren't as supportive as I'd hoped they'd be, but this one is actually supportive! I've been using this nursing sports bra for cardio and lifting and it has great support.”

A stretchy polyester/spandex blend pairs with thick straps that can be worn in two ways to ensure your breasts feel secure and supported at all times. You can choose a traditional fit or cross the straps for added support across the back, and easily adjust the length of the straps to account for the constant size fluctuation that’s so typical of the postpartum period. To say the design impressed Kareene would be an understatement; she awarded the bra 5 out of 5 for comfort, fit, style and quality, telling us, “Love, love, love that you can interchange the straps to make it a criss-cross or a vertical strap. The clips that change it from crisscross to vertical are genius! Love that it won't easily unhook.”

“When it’s time to switch from a sweat sesh to a nursing sesh, the clips are easily unhooked with just one hand, providing quick and easy access for your hungry baby. “Super easy to feed my baby after a workout,” Kareene said. “The clip is easy to unclip for fast access to the breast…really convenient when baby is extra fussy.” And if you’re using any one of today’s popular wearable pumps, the Athena 3.0 can easily accommodate, with a generous opening to keep the pump in place and a secure clip that prevents it from slipping.

Material: 77% polyester/23% spandex | Sizes: S to 3XL | Underwire: No | Type of closure: Hook and eye | Care instructions: N/A

Our product tester says:

“The material is soft so I love how it feels on my skin. The band isn't tight so I can keep it on all day, unlike other sports bras.”

Buy Now

*Note: Some names have been changed due to privacy requests.

What Is a Nursing Bra?

Initially, nursing bras may seem very similar to regular bras. However, they serve two important purposes. First, they provide extra support and comfort for your breasts during the postpartum period, when swelling, soreness and heaviness are common. Second, they allow you to easily breastfeed your baby. A breastfeeding bra uses specially designed cups and supportive features (like extra-wide straps) to accommodate the needs of a nursing mother.

While there’s some overlap in function between maternity bras and nursing bras (and many multifunction bras cover both stages!), they serve very different purposes. The former is meant to provide additional support as your breasts grow and change throughout the early stages of pregnancy, as well as flexibility for the fluctuations that occur over the course of all nine+ months.

On the other hand, the nursing bra is also meant to provide additional support and comfort as your breasts transition throughout the fourth trimester. However, a nursing bra is also designed so the wearer can easily breastfeed or pump without completely removing their bra. It uses one of several design features (described below) to allow access to the nipple.

When should you buy a nursing bra?

Since breast size can change a lot post-birth, Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, LCCE, a board-certified lactation consultant, suggests that “it’s good to purchase one or two nursing bras in the third trimester” to start off with. Then, you can pick up two to four more about a week or so after baby is born. This time period will “give the breasts a chance to make milk and [determine] what size the nursing parent will ‘land’ on,” explains O’Connor.

That being said, when you buy a nursing bra largely comes down to personal preference—and this variety was reflected in our survey results. According to our survey, 34 percent of expectant and new moms told us that they purchase bras for breastfeeding during the second trimester of their pregnancy. On the other hand, 25 percent bought one early in their third trimester and 20 percent did so late in their third trimester. 7 percent of moms told us that they waited until they gave birth up to three months after to buy a nursing bra.

“Luckily, most nursing bras are designed to fit a wider range of sizes compared to a typical bra,” says O’Connor. So, if you experience a significant change in size, your breastfeeding bra can most likely be adjusted to meet your changing needs.

Types of Nursing Bras

There are several different types of nursing bras to consider, and each provides a different way to enable easy feeding or pumping:

  • Clip down. A clip-down bra features a clip that typically sits just above each cup, which you can unclip to pull the cup completely down off your breast and allow baby access for feeding. A clip-down option can be found in almost every variety of bra, whether traditional bras, sports bras or racerbacks. If that’s not all, our survey showed that 83 percent of moms prefer clip-down nursing bras over other styles.
  • Pull down. A pull-down nursing bra is just as it sounds: a bra, likely made of soft, stretchy fabric, that can be pulled aside to reveal the breast. It will likely offer a bit less support than a clip-down style nursing bra. Favored by 17 percent of our survey respondents, pull-down nursing bras are typically more casual in appearance and are great to wear as nursing sleep bras.
  • Nursing/pumping combination. A combination nursing/pumping bra typically features a panel of fabric underneath the cup with a slit in it. This slit can be used to insert a breast pump flange, while the clip-down cups can be undone to reveal your nipple for breastfeeding.

What To Look For in a Nursing Bra

Some of the same features you look for when shopping for a regular bra are especially crucial when looking for an option for breastfeeding. There are also some aspects unique to nursing that the right design will need to have. The best nursing bras include these key details:

  • Comfort. It didn’t come as a surprise that 81 percent of our survey respondents listed comfort as the number-one feature they looked for in a nursing bra. Stephanie Nguyen, RN, MSN, WHNP-C, IBCLC—a certified lactation consultant and founder of Modern Milk—agrees that this should be at the top of your nursing bra must-have list, especially during the first four to six weeks after having a baby. She recommends stretchy nursing bras to accommodate the breast changes moms experience during this time. “Look for nursing bras in soft fabrics,” Nguyen says. You’ll also want to pick a bra with thick back closures with four or more hooks and wide, cushioned straps, plus a band that doesn’t ride up in the back.
  • Support. Next you’ll want to think of support—a factor 37 percent of our survey respondents looked for as they shopped for top-rated nursing bras. Breasts filled with milk are fuller (and heavier), so you’ll want more support than you had before baby. A supportive bra prevents sagging breasts after baby graduates from breastfeeding. “The band under the bust should be snug,” says New York City stylist Samantha Brown, but make sure the straps don’t cut into your shoulders. “An ill-fitting bra can impact a woman’s posture and lead to strain and tension headaches,” she warns.
  • Coverage. The cup should fully cover your breast to provide added support as well as coverage, which 29 percent of survey respondents listed as a key feature. “I personally like bras with molded cups to help disguise nursing pads and nipples that may be a bit larger than before,” Nguyen says.
  • Ease. The best nursing bras make it seamless to breastfeed, of course. With that in mind, it’s understandable that 65 percent of survey respondents considered ease of feeding when choosing a bra—as well as ease of washing (37 percent) and styles that are easy to put on (29 percent). “Look for removable pads, no underwire (if it’s a sleeping bra) and clips for easy feeding,” Brown says.
Image: The Bump | SHAD Studio/Shutterstock

Wireless vs. wire-free nursing bras

Nursing bras are available in underwire and non-wire styles, with the latter often being the more popular choice. While 14 percent of our survey respondents told us they wore underwire bras for breastfeeding, 70 percent said they used wireless styles.

Some experts recommend non-wire nursing bras, especially in the early days of breastfeeding, since “they can put extra pressure on the mammary tissue and cause clogged milk ducts,” says O’Connor. “Clogged milk ducts can lead to mastitis and, in extreme cases, an abscess. Also, plugged milk ducts can reduce milk supply.” That said, underwire nursing bras can be a fine choice, so long as the wire is flexible enough to move with your body and doesn’t dig into or compress the breast. “It should fit appropriately, not tightly,” O’Connor says.

So how can you tell if you’ve found the best nursing bra for you? Rest assured, there’s no right or wrong here. As Nguyen says, “If it fits, if it’s comfortable, if it’s easy to nurse in and you like the style,” you’ve found your nursing bra.

How Many Nursing Bras Do I Need?

Brown suggests picking up at least two nursing bras for daily wear so you’ll always have one on hand when the other is in the wash. After all, leaking is common, and even with the use of breast pads, your nursing bra is likely to get leaked on or spit up on, so it’s always a good idea to have a spare one on hand.

Do I need a separate pumping bra?

The purpose of a pumping bra is to provide a hands-free way to express milk. Rather than exposing the full breast for feeding, a pumping bra has a smaller opening over the nipple, where a breast pump flange can be inserted and held securely during pumping.

Whether you need a separate pumping bra is, as always, up to you; 35 percent of our survey respondents told us they looked for breast pump compatibility in their nursing bras. Some women appreciate the stability a dedicated pumping bra provides, while others enjoy the convenience of a combination nursing/pumping bra. Some mothers may even circumvent the need for a pumping bra entirely by using a wearable breast pump that fits directly into their bra cup, keeping their hands free during pumping.

About the writer:

Christin Perry is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting and health and wellness topics. As a mother of four (ages 5, 10, 12 and 14), she’s gone through the paces and has used what seems like every product under the sun—and she’s used that experience to write dozens of product roundups for The Bump. Christin considers herself lucky to have worked for a long list of other large clients, including Forbes Advisor, VeryWell Family, Parents, Parade, The Knot, Apartment Therapy and Dwell, to name a few.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, LCCE, is a New York-based lactation consultant with more than 20 years of experience working with breastfeeding families. She is a past president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA) and a member of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) and United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA). Additionally, she has been an accredited La Leche League Leader since 1997.

Stephanie Nguyen, RN, IBCLC, is a board-certified lactation consultant and founder of Modern Milk, a breastfeeding clinic and prenatal-postnatal education center in Scottsdale, Arizona. She previously worked as a postpartum, labor, and delivery nurse. She received her master of science degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati.

Samantha Brown is a professional and celebrity stylist based in New York City.

La Leche League, Bras, September 2023

The Bump May 2023 Survey. Editors conducted a survey of 300 new mothers from among The Bump community, and asked whether they used a nursing bra and what type and brand they used.

The Bump March 2024 Survey. Editors conducted a survey of almost 350 parents from The Bump community, and asked what brand and style of nursing bras they’ve used and what they liked and disliked about them.

Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial process.

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