Bra Fitting Room-General Buying Tips For Bras

Some women may find their bra getting snug just a few months into pregnancy. My advice for women who experience such growing pains in pregnancy is to NOT buy a maternity bra. Here is why: The maternity bras made by most companies are exactly the same as their nursing bras, except for the opening cups of the nursing style. Breastfeeding mothers who buy maternity bras will have to buy, essentially, the same bra again. Maternity bras are a marketing idea. You don't need one. Consider purchasing a nursing bra even if you are undecided about breastfeeding, or intend to use an artificial baby milk. Many women decide to breastfeed late in pregnancy as they become better informed about the hazards of not breastfeeding. Even though your first size change may not be the final size you wear for nursing your newborn, you will probably find that after several months of breastfeeding you may return to that size. So unless you like to collect extra bras, stick to the nursing styles!

Pressure from the consumer has brought many changes in the "nursing harness" of yesteryear. These days, it is possible to find comfort and support in a pretty bra. The primary considerations when choosing a bra are; fit, underwire or softcup, fit, choice of fabric, fit, lace type (and location), fit, expandability (as milk supply changes), fit, correct strap for shoulder type, fit, support, fit, cup location and fit.

Fit, how the cup conforms to the shape of the breast, is the most important consideration when choosing a nursing bra. It is often ignored or compromised because of ignorant sales help, limited selection, or the marketing of less important aspects of the bra. After trying on one or two styles in ten different locations, frustrated, very pregnant women and moms with new babies sometimes settle for anything that comes close.

Fitting may be difficult because breasts are rarely symmetrical in size and shape. Since bras are made symmetrically, some compromise must be made from the start. Usually (but this comes with no guarantee!), a woman in her last month of pregnancy will be about the same size as when she begins nursing. It is best to be fit during the last month of pregnancy, rather than in the first two weeks after giving birth (a "full" time for which most nursing bras are designed to accommodate). Most women increase one size in girth and one size in cup size, but again, there are no guarantees. The cup should fit without pushing the breasts together (creating too much cleavage) and should also be big enough to accommodate all the breast tissue without strain. The snugness around is partly personal preference but should be fit for comfort on the second (from the outside) of the four sets of hooks.

There is some controversy about whether or not underwires are appropriate for nursing bras. If you can get a good fit and sufficient support without an underwire, that is usually best. Keep in mind that most fashion bras compromise on support for looks - and therefore need the underwire to make up the difference. Most nursing bras have the extra support built in whether softcup or underwire. Another important consideration is that in the last few months of pregnancy rarely will any underwire be comfortable, especially when you sit down and it pokes into the baby. You may want a comfortable softcup for lounging around the house and an underwire for when you are going out and want to look a little perkier. The most important is be patient and make sure you find a truly good fit and don't settle for less.

There are three basic kinds of wires - the "U" that comes lower onto the chest and works pretty well with the more pendulous shape. The sideways "C" fits the basic bust and round grapefruit shapes. The most easily fit is the tilted "J" wire. It doesn't come up as high in the center so there is less chance of it protruding outward - even though all styles should stay close to the breastbone. Even more importantly, the wire should not protrude on the sides where it could chaff the arms as they swing. Make sure the wire comes behind the breast tissue under the arm so there is no chance of it pushing on a milk duct and clogging it. The final test is how the bra looks under your clothes!

The most popular fabric for nursing bras is cotton - and with good reason. The breathability cotton provides is important in keeping the nipples dry and allowing air circulation. Look for "pima" cotton, as it is the longest cotton fiber available, which means it shrinks the least. You want the "fit" of the new bra to be the same after the first wash and dry. One of the popular styles has heat shaped cups, but to retain the shape it has to contain some polyester. One disadvantage of cotton is that when it warms up it may "melt" a little, thus losing a small amount of the needed support in larger sizes. Using a fairly breathable fiber in conjunction with cotton can give the softness of cotton and not lose the needed support. Nylon tends to be a good fiber for breathability, wear and fast drying. The new micro-fibers, which are touted as being very breathable and wick moisture away from the skin are being used more and more with great success!

Take notice where the lace is. Lace is pretty, but it can be irritating if placed in a position where it rubs your skin.

The majority of strap styles have a "quick clip" opening at the top but some are going back to the three step ladder loops for expansion and contraction that goes on all day. Engorgement is often avoided by nursing almost continuously (12 to 18 feeds/24 hours) during the first few days, but there may be some fullness as the milk comes in on days three to five. This is not a good time for fitting a bra! Some styles come with a center snap. Most of these styles are made with a knit - so the expandability comes from the stretchiness of the knit fabric. Other styles have center front hooks, a variety of patented plastic snap closures or no hardware at all. These are designed to pull down or up to nurse. They can be very comfortable and work well but make sure there is no tightness across the top of the breast that could prevent drainage and clog a duct - this goes for pulling the cup down under the breast as well. The style of opening is secondary to the fit. One can get used to any kind of opening device, but not to a poor fit.

One note of personal preference: When I'm pulling up a T-shirt, the center snaps are nice but when I'm wearing a nursing fashion with slits on the side, the top hooks are the fastest. Those "quick draws" can be a life saver in quiet situations when you need to quickly comfort a crying baby.

One reason for recurring problems with mastitis (inflammation from a duct not emptying properly) may be an ill-fitting bra. If the clogged duct is located near a poking wire, a binding fabric or any other irritation - change bras immediately. Check out the alternative treatment sections for more ideas on how to handle problems such as clogging ducts.

Bras are expensive and you usually get what you pay for. Look for value, but remember that you must live intimately with this purchase and even minor irritations can grow to be major cankers. Splurge a little on this purchase if it means getting your favorite fit - you will smile everyday. If you settle for second best, just because of price, your misery will soon cause you to forget the money saved and you will probably end up with the cheap bra in your drawer and your having to buy another one.

If after getting through this information you are still confused or not comfortable choosing a bra by yourself, send an E-mail with your THREE measurements, shape descriptions and what looks interesting to you to pj@birthandbaby.com or call 1-888-398-7987 and we can give you additional suggestions. We will help you find your ultimate bra!