The Best Maternity & Nursing Bras for Your Changing Breasts

The Best Maternity & Nursing Bras for Your Changing Breasts

First, congratulations! We’re so excited for your new journey and are here to help you every step of the way.

One of the first changes when you become pregnant: your breasts get bigger… and they feel different too. Tender, a little tingly, and maybe even a bit itchy (it’s normal, don’t worry!). Our bra guide takes you through each trimester and beyond so you know what to expect. We’ve got some tips to help you choose the best maternity and nursing bras for your changing breasts.

Do breasts change during pregnancy?

100% yes. Your body is getting ready to grow, give birth, and feed your new baby once they’re out in the world. So with your insides getting a little redecorating, your breasts are prepping to make milk. They’ll get larger, swell with pre-milk, possibly leak a little bit (all normal), and they might show a few stretch marks. To give your breasts room to do their thing, they need a little help.

These changes don’t happen overnight. They happen in stages, during your first, second, and third trimesters. During pregnancy, most women go up 1 to 2 cup sizes. Getting a bra fitting is important as soon as your breasts start to change. In between sizes? We’ve got you covered with half cups. Ready to get a head start on maternity and nursing bras? Let’s dive in.

What is a maternity Bra?

Maternity bras are specifically designed to support and accommodate your growing, changing body and its new needs. Maternity bras take into account bodily changes like skin sensitivity, milk production, blood flow, breast and nipple tenderness, and the weight of your breasts. Using soft microfiber materials and absorbent, breathable cotton cups will help keep you comfortable throughout your pregnancy.

First things first: you’ll need wider straps made with a soft material so they’re extra supportive and comfortable without digging in. You may also find that maternity bras offer a little more give in the back with extra hook & eye closures. Wired or wireless lover? You can find maternity bras in both styles.

When should you buy maternity bras?

Every pregnant woman and her breasts are different, so pay attention to your body and you’ll see the signs that it’s time. You can start buying maternity bras the moment you notice your breasts growing or your regular bras aren’t fitting right. So if your band or straps are digging in or you get red marks after you’ve taken off your bra, it’s time. Comfort is important.

How do you size maternity bras?

To get sized right now, you can take our online Fitting Room Quiz. You can also go into a store and ask one of our Fit Stylists to size you on the spot. Another option is to give yourself an at-home fitting and we’ve got a few tips from a Fit Stylist. Our advice is to try a lot of bras. See what fits and return what doesn’t. Remember, your breasts will grow over your pregnancy, so you might need to size up again at some point. If you’re going for a wireless option, these usually come in XS-3X.

What bra should I wear while pregnant?

When you’re in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, your regular bra or a new maternity bra is what you should wear. As your breasts grow in size, you should check in on your boobs and see how they’re feeling. If you feel cramped in your old bra, it’s time to size up.

When you’re closest to your due date, we recommend you start switching between maternity and nursing bras so you get a feel for both before your baby is born.

Woman wearing her ThirdLove Maternity Bra. Super comfortable with drop down cups for easy access.

What is a nursing Bra?

Nursing bras are different from maternity bras because at this point you’re likely breastfeeding and need to give your baby easy access to your breasts. They’re made with drop-down cups with easy to remove clasps. You’ll also find pullover and back closure styles. Feel free to try a few that feel the most comfortable and easy to wear.

When should you buy nursing bras?

The best time to buy your nursing bras is before your baby is born so that you’re not scrambling to find just any bra. We recommend shopping for a nursing bra close to your due date, so your boobs have reached their full size. Finding the right breastfeeding bra is important so you don’t have to stress about anything else. You can still look good in maternity and nursing bras. You don’t have to settle for a style you don’t love. There are plenty to choose from that come in colors for all of your fave mama fits.

What size nursing bras should I wear?

It’s always best to get sized whenever you’re buying a new bra. If you were sized recently while pregnant, here are a few things you should feel in your new bra: first, you should fill out the cups and the bra should feel snug but not dig in; second, your band should provide the most support and fit well. You might be able to put a finger or two under your band but any less or more room means you might need a larger or smaller band size. Here’s how the perfect fitting bra should feel.

First Trimester Maternity & Nursing Bras

During the first 6 weeks is when you’ll start noticing some small changes in your breasts. If you’ve only grown slightly but still fit into your favorite bras, stick with those until you’re ready to move up to something new. Your boobs will be tender and certain fabrics may irritate your skin, so opt for soft styles. Try a wireless to give you extra stretch and maybe only get one or two new bras since you’ll need to size up again.

Woman wearing ThirdLove's wireless nursing bra with dropdown cups.

Second Trimester Maternity & Nursing Bras

Your breasts will get heavy at about 13 to 27 weeks and you may feel more back strain. Go for extra support and try shifting to a maternity bra if you haven’t already. Alternatively, try a full coverage bra with wide, comfy straps that won’t dig in and smoothing fabrics that feel comfy. Tenderness peaks at this stage in your pregnancy so softer is always better.

Third Trimester Maternity & Nursing Bras

At 28 weeks you might see some leaking (the experts call this pre-milk colostrum). To keep any pre-milk from soaking through your shirts, try a maternity bra that has removable padding so you’ll get a little of that absorbed without worrying about stains. So to recap: you need more support with wider straps, probably super soft fabric so it doesn’t itch or scratch your nipples, and more coverage.

Fourth Trimester Maternity & Nursing Bras

You’re about ready to pop and we’re so excited for your new baby! With only 12 weeks left, your breasts are ready to go. At this point, you know what feels good on your body and what doesn’t. Just be comfortable and don’t stress. You’ve got this. If you’re planning on nursing, pumping, etc, this is the time to get ready with the right bra. Try them on and see what’s working for you.

What bra should I wear after giving birth?

If you’re nursing or pumping, here’s what can work for you: Stick with nursing bras while your baby is still breastfeeding, so you’re always ready to go. You’ll go through some more changes as your baby feeds and your nipples may become more tender.

If you’re not breastfeeding, your body will still change, so here’s our recommendation: You can ease back into your favorite bra styles like an everyday t-shirt bra or you can look into wireless styles that still give the support you need with a flexible back closure. Think about comfort and support always, then try to get back to your fave styles. Give yourself time to find what works for you.

Woman wearing a taupe wireless bra in Form Seamless by ThirdLove.

Are underwire bras safe for pregnant and nursing women?

Yes, underwire bras are safe to wear while you’re pregnant or nursing. There are specially designed bras for the pre-breastfeeding stages (maternity bras) and nursing bras (for when you’re breastfeeding). The question you’ll want to ask yourself is what feels the most comfortable to you with all the options available in wired and wireless styles.

I’m not breastfeeding. What bra should I wear?

If you’re not breastfeeding, maternity bras are a great option since they’re made with wider straps and softer materials for your changing boobs. Once your boobs begin to settle back into your normal size or closer to your pre-pregnancy size, you can try a new size in your usual bras. Again, you want to get a fitting just to be sure because you won’t be the exact same size you started with.

Shopping for a new bra is always fun. You’ll find the perfect fit here at ThirdLove. If you have any questions while your breasts go through these changes, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help.