Inspired by a series we featured last year called Baby Essentials That Aren’t, I decided to share my thoughts on the necessity of nursing bras and tops. When it came time to buying breastfeeding and baby paraphernalia, I was quite prudent with my purchases. I didn’t want to acquire things I wouldn’t really use or would have a short life of usage, hence I forewent the nursing bras and tops.
This advice may not apply to you if you are a large chested woman, but I found that a normal organic cotton bra was the best thing for nursing. It is important not to wear underwire bras when nursing, as they can cut off milk ducts and cause plugs. Cotton is the best material, as it is breathable and will maintain proper breast health when nursing. I looked at nursing bras in stores and even tried them all, but I really didn’t see the convenience of the drop down flap versus simply lifting my bra up. In fact, the best thing to do when lounging at home is to go braless and give those girls a chance to breath when lactating.
After labor, your body changes. First comes nine months of growing, then it’s time for nine months of shrinking! This ever changing body size is another reason I found nursing bras and tops unnecessary. I continued to wear the dreaded maternity clothes until my other clothes (or my partner’s wardrobe) fit. Lifting up my shirt to nurse provided enough privacy, as I never wore anything tight fitting during this time. Over the course of two and half years of nursing, I still never felt the need to buy a nursing wardrobe. Even though I spent five years total nursing, it still seemed like an extra, unneeded expense to buy special attire. Besides, nursing tops just aren’t that fashionable.
Save your money and forego the nursing tops and bras. Instead, buy yourself a good organic cotton bra that you will continue to wear when your nursing days are over. Nursing tops don’t really offer the discretion you might think, and if you feel uncomfortable with public displays of breastfeeding, then you can always use a baby blanket without extra expense.
For me, not having nursing bras, tanks, and pads is not an option. I am a 40-H, and 12 months postpartum, I will still leak from one breast as my daughter nurses the other. If I dont wear a nursing bra to hold the pads on, I will have wet marks on my shirts, and will smell like an abandoned dairy. Im simply too big to go braless, ever. I even wear one to bed, and I still end up with milk stained sheets.
Ditto on that- I’m a 34G and…they just don’t make that size of normal bras. I have to wear underwire (VERY carefully fitted so it doesn’t clog anything) or I look like I have fried ostrich eggs on nails. 🙂
I’m not that big either. I’m kind of with you on not buying nursing bras or tops…with one caveat. I love the nursing tanks (or camis). I can wear them under any of my normal tops. I just pull the top up, unlatch the nursing cami and I’m completely covered. This is also helpful since I too having leaking issues.
I adore nursing tanks!! Like Susan, I layer them under my regular shirts & then I can nurse while keeping my stomach covered. I also use regular tanks but they do get stretched out after awhile. The Target ones are a really good deal so you don’t have to go for the fancy expensive ones.
Oh, and they’re great for nursing at night! I always liked keeping the unused side covered to discourage twiddling.
Another occasion where nursing clothes are pretty much essential is when you have to be in formalwear. My mom is a seamstress and once was doing dresses for a bridal party, and one of the bridesmaids was a nursing mom. She was going to be stuck for hours in her bridesmaids dress. Pulling that up to nurse is NOT an option!
My mom created a very clever nursing opening that was invisible when not being used, the bridesmaid was ecstatic — and so was the baby!
I also like the nursing camisoles idea, great for when it’s just a little chilly and you don’t want any bare midriff exposed to the air. Belly bands are another great option that fulfill the same function.
I didn’t buy a LOT of nursing clothes but I did get great use out of the few that I did — mainly things that were a little more dressy. When casual or just at home, I’d just hike up (or unbutton) my shirt, but with a dressy blouse and blazer that’s not always possible.
The bra is very much a YMMV issue. I LOVE my Yes! nursing bra so much I continue to wear it. More comfy than most ‘regular’ bras I’ve worn. And while I’m “only” a 38B or C, it was still awhile before I found a good soft cotton (or bamboo) bra that I could actually pull away from the boob well enough for baby to get at it — and yet that was also still supportive enough for my getting-saggy girls. I also preferred pulling it DOWN over the boob, rather than pulling it UP as the article describes.
Anyway, I notice in the link to my Baby Essentials That Aren’t series, that the author problem still exists and I’m still not properly credited. Is there someplace on this new site where the problem is explained so that all the original authors do get our credit somewhere, even if not on the actual posts?
Jennifer lance says
Heather I put a request into Derek to have your posts fixed. So sorry
I had to wear nursing pads because I leaked like crazy! I loved my nursing bras. They were comfortable and user friendly. Later I used my regular bras with nursing pads. I am a 34C.
I’m currently nursing and I love my Bravado nursing tanks so much! They are fitted and v neck so yes, they are functional AND sexy. Layering them with a normal shirt gives me extra privacy because I can pull one up and the other down, leaving only my nipple exposed. I dont subscribe to any sentiment expressed in this blog post at all. I was comfortable with my post partum body an hour after I delivered, so not everyone will hide behind baggy clothing or their husbands t shirts. I don’t regret investing in these tank tops, in fact, I can’t really imagine living without them.
I agree wholeheartedly!! To me, nursing bras were a total pain. I felt much more discreet wearing a cotton, wireless bra (I am a 38DD, and I have found the wireless comfort bras – not fashion bras, which don’t fit at all – to be the epitome of comfort). I could just lift up the bra from the bottom to nurse, and not have to worry about unhooking and rehooking parts. The comfort bras are more structured than nursing bras, so I would think they would be even better at holding a nursing pad in place…?
I wear my bra all the time as well, and worry about info I have read online about underwire and compression on lymph nodes, etc. I would recommend everybody consider wireless – even full-figured women. I think sometimes women don’t realize there are two different types of bras. Yeah, you won’t get all the fun lace and prints, but you can find bras that are comfortable, not totally granny (I don’t like the straps to be too thick either), and supportive.
I totally disagree! I LOVED my Bravado tanks and bras – they were comfy and super convenient. I could only imagine going braless if I was an A or B cup – but as it is, I’m a 36C without milk – I was more like a 38D with milk! I liked having the support; after nursing two kids, I’m pretty much rolling the girls up to tuck them into my bras now anyway – I would be contemplating a lift if I hadn’t kept them supported WHILE nursing. I made myself a nursing blouse with my first as I needed a shirt for a wedding; otherwise regular shirts and nursing bras were fine.
I have the combination of larger breasts, and more than one nursling. When I had my first, it wasn’t too big a deal to just lift up my t-shirt, although I had to wear a nursing bra to have access and I did get some nursing tops. When my first set of twins were born, and the toddler was still nursing, nursing 2 in public required nursing tops (with 2 slits! The middle slit ones were as useless as t-shirts!) because otherwise it would be full frontal nudity. (Nursing both on the side of the soccer field in my nursing sports bra and uniform hiked up to my armpits, was interesting… but I did it regularly hunched over with my back to the field… ugh) With everyone already staring at the 2 babies, the nursing shirt was what made it possible for me to nurse in public relatively comfortably. (I’m not a cape person… never have been, never will be…and how the hell would that work with 2? It would be a giant tent!) I also found it crucial for nursing when double babywearing, as the bottom of the t-shirt would be stuck underneath my slings/wraps and I wouldn’t be able to pull it up. I also live in a fairly northern climate where the tummy covering of a nursing shirt keeps me a lot warmer in winter. With 2nd set of twins, out came the double slit nursing top uniform yet again… definitely not fashionable or particularly attractive, and now finally after over 10 years of nursing, my 3 1/2 year olds are nursing infrequently enough that I’m finally wearing normal shirts again. I think the challenge is that some of these tools can be quite useful, but only if the circumstances require it… we are so “gadget” focused that it seems like “everyone NEEDS” to buy “every gadget” and that’s just bogus… I barely ever pumped, even with nursing so many kids and no cribs ever crossed the threshold of my house… but nursing bras and shirts definitely made nursing (in a non-nursing friendly culture and in the cold!) a lot easier for me.
Rosie Girl says
I’m glad you noted that this might not work for larger chested women. I am normally a 34C, but when pregnant, I grow to the 34F-H category. I’ve tried soooo many bras, and normal bras absolutely don’t work for me. I ended up falling out of the criss-cross tops cuts…even if they were soft organic cotton (darn). And, with babe #3, my back was inflamed due to the fact that I tried to use my older nursing bras again (I’d already used them for 2 years with the previous child, but they looked perfectly fine). I ended up finding out after multiple chiropractor visits that I’d inflamed an existing Schmorl’s Node I didn’t even know I had. It took a month of not lifting babe during his first month of life to get it to calm back down. You might want to make it really clear that your advice is not for everyone. Great website though. I’m really enjoying it.
Elita @ Blacktating says
I totally disagree as well. When you are going to be out and about with your baby (and who isn’t?) you need a bra that opens widely and easily so you can nurse. Also, in the first 6 weeks when my milk supply was still overly abundant and my nipples were still sore, it was very uncomfortable to wear clothing without a bra on. I literally wore a nursing bra 24/7. Once I returned to work and pumped, I used rubber bands to rig on to my nursing bra so that I could pump hands-free. A lot of products aimed at nursing moms are completely optional and not necessities at all. But a good nursing bra is not one of those things! Invest in at least 2 good nursing bras (I second the vote for Bravado) and get some cheapies at Target for at night.
Jennifer Lance says
Thank you to everyone for their comments and discussion. I love that people are speaking up with their experiences and disagreeing (or agreeing).
@Sarah…just to clarify… I wasn’t hiding in my baggy maternity clothes and manly t-shirts because I didn’t like my postpartum body, but I was saving money and not buying a special wardrobe during a time when my body was changing. It’s part of going green for me is to reduce consumption when possible.
I feel that this is a personal comfort issue. I know many small chested women who never go braless so the whole bra free approach would not be for them. I have very large breasts and would love nothing more then to never have to wear a bra again. However, I am not confident enough to go around in public, full time, with my breasts so floppy, therefore I wear a nice comfie wire free nursing bra.
@Jennifer Lance… not to be rude, but I’m not buying it. There are plenty of thrift stores with plenty of sizes where one could recycle some clothing for little cost to accommodate a transitioning body. My wardrobe standbys of (2) nursing tanks and an organic moby wrap suit me just fine though.
Jennifer Lance says
@sarah…buy it or don’t buy it, I don’t care. Just sharing my experiences and thank you for sharing yours. I am glad you found a nursing wardrobe that works for you; that’s what counts. As I nursed each child for 2.5 years, I found my regular clothes were just fine. That’s what worked for me.
Multi-Tasking Mommy says
I agree with you on the nursing tops for sure! The bras, I liked and found them handier because I had to wear pads for so long due to leakage!
I love the nursing bra tanks/cami’s yes, you don’t need them, but honestly if you are saving money from breastfeeding why not invest in a good tank or bra to prolong your breastfeeding experience.
I hated exposing my stomach, completely unflattering. If you ask me nursing bra tanks from Glamourmom are an excellent investment.
This is an interesting post. I’ve been nursing for 17 months now, and I still live in my nursing tank. Its so convenient and I love that it hides my belly when I’m out in public or when I’m around a crowd of people. I do agree, though, that nursing tops are often not very discreet. I love the tops I have, but they certainly show more than my normal clothes do. I bought my nursing tops from the Gap and they are really cute.
I think this advice is only true if you are very small chested- or dont mind a very saggy look. My chest is medium sized- but i couldn’t live without my nursing bras and tanks. They are convenient and hold everything up. I guess it would be possible to just use regular bras pulled up- my chest doubles when breastfeeding so I had to go bra shopping anyway. Also is a bra is snug enough to hold the girls up- it is really uncomfortable pressing down on my breast as I nurse- and also the restriction could cause blocked ducts.
I hear you (and I think I’m in the minority here). I nursed for 15 months, and have been nursing my second for 14 months now. I made the mistake of buying a few nursing bras and a nursing tank with the first. I found them awkward and pointless, and my opinion is that they are yet another marketable item to mamas. What worked for me is to wear regular bras and regular camis under my shirts. I simply lift my shirt, pull my cami and bra down over my breast, and nurse away. It’s great because no one sees skin! My stomach is hidden and my shirt is on top of my breast. All anyone sees is baby! As far as breast pads, yes I wore those for quite awhile in those bras. I agree with many about not going bra free though, that didn’t happen until at least 6 months and only at night.
I love my nursing tanks. I don’t think I could have survived breastfeeding without them. I am a busty woman so that may explain why. I enjoyed the article though. Follow me on twitter: Cleverlychangin, and visit my site cleverlychanging.com.
I had one nursing bra, it was a nursing sports bra. It was good for the beginning. My biggest problem with nursing bras is they latch on the top which I had to lift my shirt all the way up flop the boob out and then latch. There was no way to be discrete when feeding in public.
I’m a large chested tiny girl so I was a G-H and while I needed nursing pads in the beginning, after about 3 mos I no longer needed them. And I discovered that regular sports bras were the best “nursing” bras ever! I was able to lift the bra and my shirt and drop feed while being discrete that rarely did I need to use a cover up because I had my shirt draped over her.
I wore “wife beater” (lack of better word to call the mens tank tops) shirts over the summer.
And if I needed to go out, I found an awesome strapless bra for 5 dollars at ross that gave me great support and if I needed to feed, yup I just took it off! Honestly I found nursing in public to be very easy with my own method, and I never felt ackward about it, and neither did anyone around me!
Its all a natter of what you want and what’s convenient for you!
I was previously a B cup and now a C cup and I love my nursing bras. I use t-shirt style nursing bras. They’re so comfy that I know I’ll keep wearing them even after I finish nursing, and they will still fit even when my breasts shrink. I’ll just need to tighten the shoulder straps to make it a snug fit.
I’m interested in buying a nursing tank now that it’s Winter here in Australia. I don’t like pulling my top up in public and getting my tummy cold!
I’ve worn normal bras and find that if I pull them up it digs into the top of my breast preventing my milk from flowing properly. It also means that my other breast (still in the cup) will get squished at a weird angle. Just isn’t very comfy.
I always pull my shirt DOWN to nurse, not up. so access from the top was worth it for me. I used my nursing bras through nursing all three of my kids though…so that’s my contribution. 🙂
Jill in CA says
Well, I disagree with this one, for myself personally (but agree with most of your other “not really essential” topics!). I have a moderately large chest (40E) post-partum, and I work outside of the home. My hands-free pump uses the clip attachment so I can still work while I pump, reducing the amount of time I have to be away from my little guy. I also use an underwire nursing bra that fits properly, and have never had any issue with milk supply (actually, I end up with too much and have been donating excess milk) nor have I ever had a clogged duct.
For women who are fortunate enough to be smaller chested or stay at home and not have to pump, perhaps you’re right. For me, nursing bras are essential!
I just found your site, however, and I love it! Off to read other topics here…
I agree that you can do completely without nursing TOPS. In my experience they aren’t all that comfortable even if they are “cute”, but usually they aren’t very functional either, you end up fussing with them more than anything trying to get “your” boobs out of the oddly placed openings (usually oddly placed on the side?!?!), as well as constantly making sure the flaps don’t lift up or get moved and flash your boob or bra through the openings. And they are obscenely/absurdly expensive.
I found that when I wore a bra with a simple stretchable camisole and then any normal comfortable top over that I could just pull the cami and bra down to expose my breast and then just gently lift my top, then my tummy/back is covered and I don’t expose ANYTHING at all. Not that it is a huge concern for all moms but for most I think it is. So for me, this is the BEST combo.
Now about the bra, Yes for some you could just lift a simple bra or pop you boob over the top of the bra, but that causes pressure on your breast on the top, or if you pull you breast out over the bra cup, it props your breast up a bit too high sometimes for baby so you have to lift baby up more. At least for me anyway. Now what you CAN do is purchase a MUS LESS EXPENSIVE and likely MUCH more comfortable, regular bra and simply purchase bra clips and sew those on and then a strip of ribbon from the body of the bra to the strap to keep it from falling off your shoulder when you unclasp just like nursing bras. You can easily find a nice Bali brand bra for under $10 and it fit you better than a $50 bravado (which I have 2 of and cannot say anything good about, They are already falling apart after less than a year of use…the one popped the back seam the first use, booo.)
nursing cami’s can work in place of a bra/cami too…My boobs already are smooshed together so any of those bras give me a uniboob, but they are great if that isn’t an issue for you. Also you can use the cami shelf type bra with a cami over it.
I’d agree – at a 38EE, there’s no way to not wear a bra, and well, have you considered those of us who do breastfeed long-term? I’m on month 32 straight… sorry but quality nursing bras are extremely necessary when you do more than just 3 months. Even then, a nursing bra or tank allows you to nurse freely without having a bra pushing your boob down (and also potentially clogging a duct).
Organic AP Mom says
I am nursing my 22 month old son as I type this on my phone & will say that I plan to have my son self wean. My son went to work with me from 3 months to 8 months of age ( until I got laid off) & I have relied on my favorite organic cotton nursing MILKER tops from MILK MOMMY MILK which I have in every color & style. They can go casual or business professional & in between which I loved. They are comfortable, stylish & discreet & allow me not to expose my stomach or breast (which I hate & I’m at least a D cup). I still wear them everyday although I just tore my favorite ice blue one on a hang nail the other day. That one is now my new night top… Lol. Bra wise, when at home, I tend to be bra-less (even in my top) but I find that a nice comfy stretchy organic cotton bra does just fine (& I have many nursing bras I have tried). Now just to figure out how to reverse gravity!
alka singh says
my baby is 20 months old but she can’t stand alone without any support?she can”t talk any thing till now what should i do? r
plz reply me via email.
Jennifer Lance says
Take your child to the pediatrician.
I’m a 38 D. I wore my nursing bra since I was 12 weeks pregnant. But I like to spend mist of the day braless if I don’t have to go anywhere. I was just wondering if a nursing bra could even hamper supply some? I feel letdown more when not wearing one.
Jennifer Lance says
I think they do.