three women wearing Avyn bras seen from behind

The Best Time to Buy Maternity and Nursing Bras

Sarah Gail

Pregnancy transforms your body, there’s no getting around it. Whether this is your first time or not, you may be surprised by the changes you’ll go through, because no matter what size you are when your pregnancy begins, you’re bound to grow in both size and shape. 

That means you’ll need some new clothes, especially new bras, to fit and flatter your (temporarily) new body. And if you choose to breastfeed your little one, you’ll need special bras just for that purpose. So you’re probably wondering: “What’s the best time to buy a Maternity Bra?” And, “When should I buy a Nursing Bra?”

The best time to buy a Maternity Bra is at any stage of your pregnancy when you’ve noticed that your current bras don’t fit right anymore. Although every woman’s body is different, for most women, the best time is during the 2nd Trimester. And the best time to buy a Nursing Bra is as close to your due date as possible, when you’ll be your largest.

Of course, every woman’s body is different, so some people will feel the need for a larger cup size early in pregnancy, while some may not need a Maternity Bra until their 3rd Trimester. We think you’ll need to buy 2-3 Maternity Bras while you’re pregnant and, if you’re planning to breastfeed, you’ll probably need 3-5 Nursing Bras at that point.

We spoke to experts, consulted with a couple of our favorite Bra companies, and asked all the Moms we know, to bring you this info, all about Nursing Bras and Maternity Bras.

Are you expecting? This is the perfect time to redeem your Free Pregnancy Sample Box, filled with sample-size products for you and your Little One that we think you’ll love!

mom holding a smiling baby wearing an Avyn Bra

This photo of a Mom wearing a "Foxy Bra" and holding her smiling baby is courtesy of Avyn Bras.
Note: This article contains affiliate links to some of our favorite partners.

The Ultimate Guide to Maternity and Nursing Bras

What’s the Difference Between a Maternity Bra and a Nursing Bra?

Let’s start with some definitions. A Maternity Bra offers additional support for your growing breasts while you’re pregnant, and can be comfortable enough to wear while sleeping.

A Nursing Bra is designed either with flaps on the cups that open, or made with stretchy fabric, so you can feed your baby easily, without having to fully remove your bra. One breast at a time.

Do I Really Need a Maternity Bra?

One of the biggest changes to your body you’ll experience during pregnancy, besides your growing belly, is the size and shape of your breasts. It’s biology; your body is preparing for you to be able to feed your baby, regardless of whether or not you plan to breastfeed.

Whether you plan to breastfeed or not, your breasts will grow during your pregnancy, and as they grow, your old bras will no longer fit. That’s why we recommend buying at least one good, supportive maternity bra whenever you feel your current bra no longer fits. Most women will need to do this a couple of times during pregnancy.

A Maternity Bra will support your growing breasts while you’re pregnant, but remember: it’s not the same as a Nursing Bra. A Nursing bra is specially made with flaps that open up to allow your baby to nurse, while allowing the bra to remain on.

According to award-winning maternity and nursing bra brand Kindred Bravely, (affiliate link) while it may be tempting to make do with the bras you already have, you’ll be sacrificing comfort. A new Maternity Bra “can make you feel amazing.”

When to Buy a Maternity Bra

First Trimester

Many women start to feel changes in their breasts early in the first Trimester, and although you may not feel you’ve grown enough to buy a new bra at that point, it may not be a bad idea to buy a more comfortable bra, like one of the new seamless bras, or a bra that doesn’t have an underwire.

Of course, your current bras may be perfectly comfortable and you may not need to buy anything new at this point.

Second Trimester

During months 3-6 of your pregnancy, and maybe even through the 8th month, not only will your breasts continue to grow in size, but your ribcage will actually expand as your baby starts to take up more space. This is the time to buy a larger bra size, not just a larger cup size, to accommodate you more comfortably. 

Or if you already have a comfortable maternity bra, you could choose to buy a Bra Extender instead. Check out these in our Amazon affiliate shop.

This handy little piece of fabric has a set of hooks and eyes that allow you to add an inch or two to your bra, and be able to keep using it for a little bit longer, and hopefully into and through the third Trimester.

What Size Maternity Bra Should I Buy?

Generally, most women will need to buy Maternity Bras that are 1-2 sizes larger than their normal, or pre-pregnancy bra size. Some women will need to buy Maternity Bras that are 2-3 cup sizes larger. Everyone’s body is different, so it’s a great idea to schedule a Bra Fitting with an expert.

Getting a Bra fitting during pregnancy is a very smart idea. The professionals who deal with bras and intimate apparel all day long are very knowledgeable and can help you find the right fit, as well as the most comfortable bras.

Check out our affiliate link to Kindred Bravely’s blog post that talks about Finding the Right Fit. They’ve got great tips on how to tell if your bra is too big or too small, and why you may need to try on several before you find the size and cup size that work best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Maternity Bras

Do I wear a maternity bra all the time?

Some women do because they find it to be more comfortable that way.

Do I wear a maternity bra to sleep?

Yes, some women do. For some women, their breasts will become so large during pregnancy that it throws off their equilibrium, the balance they once had with their body. If that’s you, finding a bra that’s comfortable enough to sleep in may be a lifesaver!

What are the most Supportive bras during pregnancy?

Most women find that underwire bras are very uncomfortable during pregnancy, so we suggest you find a bra with medium or full support in the lower cup area.

Got a Bundle of Joy at home? This is the perfect time to redeem your FREE Newborn Sample Box, filled with sample-size products we think you’ll love - for your Little One and for your 4th Trimester!

When to buy a Nursing Bra

The best time to buy a Nursing Bra is as close to your due date as possible. That’s when your breasts will be at their largest, as they start to fill with milk. If you like to plan ahead and don’t want to run out of time, you can always buy Nursing bras in your Second Trimester, just to be safe. 

If you are buying nursing bras earlier in your pregnancy, the best thing to do is to buy them in a range of sizes, from your current size to 2-3 sizes and cup-sizes larger.

That way you know you’ll have at least one that fits you right when you have your baby, and as long as the return policy covers you, you’ll be able to send back the ones that don’t fit. 

Is a nursing bra worth it?

Yes! Nursing bras are 100% worth it. The idea of having to shrug your bra off one shoulder, or take it off altogether while you nurse your baby is inconvenient, and can be a little ridiculous, depending on the situation.

So even though it seems like it might be a waste of money to buy a bra you’re only going to wear for a short period of time, trust us: it’s going to be worth it.

Breastmilk Leaks

A note about breastmilk: When you nurse your baby, there are going to be leaks; it can’t be avoided. And not only is wearing a damp bra uncomfortable, that wetness can lead to chafing and cracked nipples.

That’s why we think it’s worth it to buy at least three Nursing Bras. That way, if one is in the wash, you can be wearing one and still have one on standby.

Avyn Bras co-founder Chandler Lettin points out that even if you only breastfeed for a short period of time, it’s worth buying a stylish and functional Nursing Bra. “Wearing a great bra will give you a confidence boost and nothing beats that feeling. Besides, no one wants to feel frumpy.”

See all the non-frumpy Maternity and Nursing bras by Avyn via our affiliate link.

Check out Avyn Bras with a special $20 Gift Card you’ll receive when you redeem your Free Newborn Sample Box! And learn more about the company and their approach to Maternity and Nursing Bras when you click through using our affiliate link.

Nursing Pads 

Speaking of leaks, you’ll also need to invest in a supply of nursing pads (see the ones we've picked in our Amazon shop) to wear in your bra, because they can absorb a small amount of breastmilk, potentially keeping your bra nice and dry. Some Nursing Pads are removable and washable, while some are disposable.

You can also choose to buy a Nursing Bra with a built-in absorbent layer. These use moisture-wicking fabric to keep any wetness away from your breasts. The benefit of using a nursing bra that absorbs is you will have a smoother look - no pads that can look bulky.

The downside is you’ll need to wash the bra more often, as opposed to washing just the removable pads.

Are there Nursing bra alternatives?

In our opinion, there really is no alternative to using a nursing bra, if you’ve chosen to breastfeed. For the convenience alone, nothing beats a nursing bra.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nursing Bras:

How to know what size nursing bra to buy?

If you buy a Nursing bra near your due date, you should buy the same size you’re currently wearing - at that point in time. If you buy your nursing bra in the Second Trimester of your pregnancy, you should plan to buy it 1-2 sizes larger than what you currently wear.

According to Chandler Lettin, co-founder of Avyn bras (affiliate link), you can set yourself up for success by taking your measurements often, because your body will change size multiple times during pregnancy. If you find you’re “in-between bra sizes,” she says, always buy the larger size, because comfort is the goal.

three women wearing Avyn bras seen from behind
These women are wearing bras from Avyn, photo used with permission

Do I wear a nursing bra all the time?

Yes. When you have a newborn, breastfeeding is a 24-hour-a-day process, and you will be called upon to feed your little one at all hours of the day and night. Therefore, you’ll want to have a stash of comfortable Nursing Bras and lots of extra Nursing pads on hand.

Even if you’ve never worn a bra at night before, you’ll want to sleep with a nursing bra on. 100%. The nursing bra offers support and comfort, not to mention leak control when your milk comes in.

Things to Consider When Looking for Good Quality Maternity and Nursing Bras are:

  • Reinforced lower cup for better support
  • Top Cup Stretch to avoid restriction or cutting
  • Wider wire “smile” not to constrict and damage breast tissue - wire should sit below and completely around the breast tissue, if you choose an underwire bra at all - some women don’t
  • Nickel free hooks and sliders to prevent skin allergies and irritation
  • Easy drop down cups for breastfeeding
  • Cotton A-Frame or Inner Sling - provides added support, security and coverage for modesty

Do Breasts Return to Their Normal Size After Breastfeeding?

Within a few months of your baby’s birth, whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your breast cup size will shrink back down somewhat. But most women’s rib size remains expanded until about 4 months postpartum. 

The truth is that your breasts will be forever changed by pregnancy, especially if you do choose to nurse your baby. You may be able to fit back into your old bras, but you may not. Every woman’s body is different. And you may find that you’ll want bras that offer more support than you had before. 

So you will very likely need to shop for some new bras at several points during your parenthood journey.

Bra Size is just one of the ways your body (and your life) will change when you become a parent. We hope this Guide to Maternity and Nursing Bras will help give you some insight into what you can expect!

Thanks for reading! If you are ready to redeem your Free Pregnancy Sample Box - click here!

This post contains affiliate links to some of our favorite partners. We earn a small commission when purchases are made via our links.

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