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Bra Fitting Tips for Pregnancy & Beyond

Nothing beats the expert advice that our bra fitters can give you at a Brava store during this precious time in your life. Our bra fitters are all trained in the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and can help you find the right size and style to suit your needs. However, if you’re unable to visit a Brava store the below tips may help you to find the right fit for your changing shape throughout pregnancy and after your baby is born. Brava is with you throughout your many life stages, especially the most important one – becoming a Mum. With the best maternity and nursing bra collection for bigger cups in Australia, you will find one thats perfect for you. 

Changing to a Maternity Bra

Maternity bra fittingsThe right time for you to be fitted into a maternity bra is when your breasts begin to noticeably swell to the point that your existing bras no longer fit or become uncomfortable. This is usually towards the end of the first trimester and usually about the same time you are busting out of your jeans. A well fitting supportive maternity bra will relieve breast strain, allow for breast growth, provide much needed support and help you to feel more comfortable.

Your maternity bra should have wider elastic under your bust for greater support around the diaphragm, and wide shoulder straps. This is especially important for larger cup sizes as you need extra support without putting strain on your back. If a maternity bra is purchased within a month of your due date, it should be fastened to the loosest eyes when purchased so that it can be tightened once the baby is born and the rib cage starts to return to normal. As a guide, you should be able to slide your hand into the upper section of the cup of your maternity bra to assess if there is enough room for expansion. However the lower cup should fit well for support. Although a maternity bra will have your changing needs incorporated into their design, it is important that the one you choose has enough flexibility to allow for fluctuations in your breast.

Wire-free Maternity Bras

Many women prefer underwire fashion bras, however they are not recommended during pregnancy or lactation. When breastfeeding, the breasts can fluctuate as milk is produced and removed. Retained fluid in late pregnancy can also cause the breast to swell. A rigid underwire may put pressure on the breast when it is fuller which can lead to blocked milk ducts or mastitis and it is for this reason inflexible underwire bras are not recommended. However, there are now nursing bras available that have a flexible plastic support, similar to an underwire, designed to flex and change position with your changing shape and these are less likely to cause problems. 

Maternity Bra VS Nursing Bra

In Australia there is no difference between a nursing and a maternity bra, however European women will wear a maternity bra during pregnancy, which is the same as a nursing bra but without the clips.

Fitter's Comments:

  • It’s normal for your breasts to increase between 1 and 3 cup sizes and your ribcage to expand during pregnancy, so this means that not only a bigger cup size but also a bigger back size may be needed.
  • It’s important that you can fasten and unfasten the drop down clip with one hand while holding baby in the other arm.
  • The cups and straps should not slip while breastfeeding.

Read The Bra Fitter blog article on bra fitting for pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond.

Why wear a maternity bra?

When to buy a maternity braHormonal change during pregnancy results in rapid fluctuations in your breasts. The skin and tissue is placed under considerable strain, which is followed later by loss in elasticity and volume. A structured and supportive maternity bra will protect your breasts against ligament damage and provide you with much desired relief and comfort.

Its recommended to wear a well-fitting maternity bra from 3 months gestation, as wearing a normal underwire bra during pregnancy can place pressure on your milk ducts resulting in blocked milk ducts or mastitis (both during and after pregnancy). It’s not uncommon for women's bust size to go up 1- 2 band sizes and 2-3 cup sizes in pregnancy. A maternity bra is designed to cope with this rapid change! Another good reason to invest early in a well-designed maternity bra is that it will prevent you from having to purchase multiple bras throughout your pregnancy and beyond (as you try to keep up with your growing breast size). Bras designed for pregnant women can also be worn when breastfeeding.

We recommend you have two or three maternity bras. As your breasts may leak milk, they can need changing more frequently than usual. Bras should be hand-washed in mild soap and do not require soaking in bleach or nappy treatment solutions - these will weaken the fabric and may cause skin irritation. Look after your bras and they should last throughout your pregnancy and for several months afterwards.

What type of maternity bra should I buy?

What type of maternity braThere are different types of maternity bras, designed to suit your every need, preference and stage of pregnancy any beyond. It’s really a matter of personal choice as to which one you buy, and we recommend that you try on at least a few different bras to find your preferred style.

When trying on maternity bras, remember to open and close the bra cup; most bras open for feeding and some are easier to manage than others. The A-frame design provides a triangle around the breast when the cup is dropped down for feeding. It provides more coverage and support, so is more suitable for larger bust sizes and full cup styles. The side sling design cradles your bust from the side of the cup during feeding. As there is less coverage, side sling bras can be found in ¾ cup styles. The side sling design allows more skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby during feeding. Seamless bras are ideal for the first trimester and immediately following birth, as they’re ultra-soft and comfortable. Soft cup non-wire bras offer structure and support without the underwire. This style is especially good to wear during 2nd and 3rd trimester. Flexible wire bras use a flexible plastic support, similar to an underwire, designed to flex and change position with your changing shape. Perfect for women who like to wear underwire bras and prefer to stick to them throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The below picture by Cake Lingerie helps you know what to look for in a good maternity bra.

What’s the difference between a maternity and a ‘normal’ bra?

Maternity and Nursing BrasMaternity bras have multiple rows of hooks and eyes (many more than a normal bra). This design allows room for you to extend the back band as your diaphragm expands during pregnancy, and then allows you to tighten the back band once your baby is born and your rib cage returns to normal. A normal bra usually only offers three hooks and eyes, meaning that one bra will not cater to your growing shape during pregnancy.

Seams and stitching across the nipple area or unlined bras can cause irritation on already sensitive and tender breasts. Most maternity bras have either concealed seams or seams designed carefully to avoid the nipple area and therefore avoid the risk of chafing.

Wires used in maternity bras are flexible (either a soft plastic or flexible metal underwire, known as flexiwire), and are designed to sit well behind your breast tissue. There is still some contention regarding the risks involved in wearing underwire bras during pregnancy, however the Australian Breastfeeding Association has maintained that a well-fitted, flexiwire bra is less likely to cause problems than a normal underwire bra.

Fabrics are carefully selected by maternity lingerie designers to avoid any potential irritation to your skin; most maternity styles feature soft cotton fabric lining.

Brava features many high-quality maternity lingerie designers who have considered the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and created beautiful, supportive and functional lingerie. Whether you're looking for a plain, pretty or sexy maternity bra, we've got the right maternity bra for you in cup size from A – J and back sizes 8 - 22. With the best maternity and nursing bra collection in Australia, you will find one that is perfect for you.  

During pregnancy

When to get fitted for a maternity bra0-3 months

Your bust is undergoing the most change during the first trimester, with milk ducts developing and the bust increasing by approximately 2-3 cup sizes. During this time, your breasts may be very sore and sensitive; so a non-wired, stretchy, seamless maternity bra that is designed to grow with you will provide some relief.

When trying on maternity bras during the first trimester, ensure the bra fits well on the tightest or second-tightest hook. This will allow for the back band to be loosened (on average), one set of eyes per month during pregnancy as your rib cage expands.

Any maternity bra you purchase at this stage will more than likely be useful again after your baby is born, when your breastfeeding has decreased and your breast size has reduced. If you follow the care instructions on the label of your maternity bra, it will still be in beautiful condition.

If you feel that a wire free bra would be unsuitable for you, you may prefer to wear a firmer style during the weekdays and then a softer, wire free bra in the evenings and on weekends.

How much will my breasts grow3-8 months

During the second and third trimesters, your breast growth slows but your rib cage will begin to expand. It’s usually during this time that a woman feels she needs to be fitted again for a new maternity bra, especially if the back band size fitted during her first trimester is now getting too tight!

Your bra cup size should stabilize at around 7 months, so flexiwire bras are ideal at this stage. Once you get to 7-8 months, your bra should be fastened on one of the looser hooks as there will be less need to allow room for your diaphragm to expand further.

Maternity bras are designed to stretch, so when you’re trying on a maternity bra make sure there is only enough room in the cup to slip a flat hand in (not a fist). If your maternity bra is fitted too large, it will be unsupportive and uncomfortable.

At 7-8 months, you may like to consider a soft wire free bra to wear to hospital during delivery and for the following four weeks.

Post pregnancy

First 4 weeks - Once your baby is born, your breasts will swell and become quite hard as your milk comes in. A really comfortable, well-fitted bra is particularly important now as mastitis becomes more common. 

4+ weeks - Your breasts will start to settle down a little now that your milk supply is regulated. Many women find that by this stage, they can wear the maternity bras they were fitted in during months 8-9 of pregnancy. At this stage, your bra should be fitted on the loosest hook as you would in an everyday bra. 

If you feel more comfortable sleeping in a maternity bra, the Cake Cotton Candy Seamless Bra and the Bravado Nursing Tank are great options – both are supportive, easy to drop down for feeding, and you can easily slip in nursing pads.

Our bra fitting tips:

  • At all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding, ensure you can comfortably run your fingers between your rib cage and your bra band. If the bra band feels too tight, it’s better to try a back size up as any firmness can quickly become tightness.
  • Be aware of your breast tissue under your arm. This should be comfortably encased within your bra cup (no wires should press on this delicate area).
  • When trying on maternity bras undo the clips and pull down the cup. This should be easy to do, and your nipple should sit outside of the A-frame or sling. This is particularly important for women who wear GG+ cup sizes.
  • Only purchase a maternity bra that provides good bust support and doesn’t flatten or squash your breasts. Your breasts should appear separated and fit comfortably into each cup.

Please feel free to call us on 1300 4 BRAVA or email us for all maternity bra fitting advice, it's important!

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