Nothing strikes horror in the heart of a pregnant woman than the maternity bra section of a clothing store.
Unless, of course, you happen to like unpadded, wire-free, floppy, wide-strapped, full-coverage beige-coloured granny bras that are usually on offer. I have bought so many bras for pregnancy and breastfeeding over the years and very few of them I liked. Still fewer actually do the job you expect them to. Most seem to just fold themselves around your sagging mammary glands and do nothing in the way of support. It took me a looong time to realise that forking out extra $$ for a good-quality bra was far more economical in the long run than buying cheap, nasty things from Target that wear out after two washes. I’ve also learned not to buy too many at the same time, since you continue to grow throughout the pregnancy.
* During the first trimester, you might notice some breast growth, and they’ll often become heavier and sore. A lot of women favour sleep bra styles or crop tops. Something like the Hotmilk My Necessity Bra is a good buy even at this stage, as it will grow up to 3 cup sizes.
* Underwired bras are safe during pregnancy, but you might find them uncomfortable, especially if you have a lot of rib pain.
* You can grow by several cup sizes and your rib cage will expand as well, especially in the third trimester as baby needs more space. Most maternity bras have extra rows of hooks and eyes to allow for rib expansion.
* Your milk will come in 3 to 5 days after you give birth (even if you’re not breastfeeding). Before then, they’ll produce colostrum, which is very rich in nutrients, and your breasts will be quite soft. Then they’ll turn into giant rock-hard enormaboobs that look like stretched-out balloons and can go up *another* cup size. They can stay quite hard and fluctuate wildly between size and shape over the next couple of weeks as they try to figure out how much milk to produce. They can also be really, really sore – even if your baby has perfect attachment, feeding can still hurt for 1 or 2 weeks. You’ll want to avoid underwired bras for a while, since wearing a too-small or incorrectly fitted bra with wires can interfere with milk flow and cause a blocked duct. You’ll want sleep bras and maternity singlets for a while.
* At some point, you’ll move out of the newborn haze, you’ll recover from the birth, and your milk supply will be established enough for you to know what size you’ll be while feeding. This is when you’ll want more supportive bras again and the soft sleep kind won’t cut it anymore. You can wear underwired bras after your supply has settled – you might want to wait 2 months after giving birth, or longer – and a lot of brands make bras with flexible underwires to ensure comfort.
* Remember to take care of your bras – don’t wear the same bra two days in a row, give it a day off and wear another one; handwash delicate bras with lace or ribbon detailing, and if you do machine wash them, use a lingerie bag to avoid snagging. (I tend to machine wash my t-shirt bras and handwash the pretty, delicate ones).
* It’s best to have 3 bras at any given time, at least for day wear; I also like having one or two nursing tanks and a sleep bra to wear overnight and when bumming around at home.
My favourite brands are Cake Maternity and Hotmilk. (Though I’m warning you, the Cake Lingerie bras are all named after some kind of dessert or candy – think Caramel Licorice Twist Bra, or Dark Chocolate, or Turkish Delight – so trawling through their website always makes me super hungry. You really need snacks before shopping there.)
Online retailer Zodee carries a range of international brands such as La Leche League and Panache, which are worth checking out; Isabella’s Passion, another online retailer, carries both Hotmilk and Cake maternity bras, including some that are selling out on the brand website. (They also have a range of really beautiful full-cup and plus-sized bras). Bras N Things has a limited range of nursing bras but their t-shirt bras contain removable underwire, which is quite clever.
And now, product recommendations….
(These are based on my experience as a third-time mother and the owner of a rather large collection of maternity bras that I hate and never wear).
Best for sleep and comfort:
Perfect at any stage of pregnancy, this promises to grow up to 3 cup sizes and has removable foam pads. It’s perfect during the first trimester, or any time at home when you want coverage and a bit of support but plenty of comfort. Ideal to pack in your hospital bag, too, since it can cope with size fluctuations as your milk comes in. I love the red, but it also comes in black, nude and blush.
Triumph is a great brand for supportive bras even without wire, and this one looks cute enough and comfortable. A wide underbust band usually makes for a more supportive bra.
I’ve been wearing the same Bonds maternity singlet for about 3 years now – bought at 28 weeks during my first pregnancy, then worn while breastfeeding, to sleep in, and during my next two pregnancies as well. While mine is looking a little worse for wear, naturally, it’s coped really well with constant washing and stretching to accommodate all different sized breasts and tummies. Nursing singlets also allow you to breastfeed easily without exposing your stomach when you lift your top, or you can wear this by itself with a scarf and cardigan. Also available in white.
This one is super comfy, a good length during pregnancy, and comes in loads of different colours (eight in total, including some striped options). Both this one and the Bonds tank above have in-built padding for bust support.
Best for everyday wear:
A great basic t-shirt bra, this is both padded and underwired, giving plenty of support and feels like a normal bra. It comes in black, nude, and emerald green.
This doesn’t give the same level of support as a bra with underwire, but it comes pretty close (even for me and my DD’s). It’s padded, which is rare enough for maternity bras, and the black lace makes it quite pretty to wear. It comes in nude, too.
This is not a pretty bra. I am aware. But it’s the most supportive thing I’ve ever worn and has such a slimming effect that it gives an instant confidence boost. Also available in black, it isn’t padded, but I found I could get away without padding while I had nursing pads in place.
Best for just-because-it’s-pretty:
I haven’t tried a Bellabumbum bra but other women swear by them. And they’re definitely feminine and oh-so-pretty.
Super cute, and so feminine. So normal! I’d pick up the matching brief for extra cute factor.
This looks thoroughly impractical and stunning and I want it. So purdy!
Probably my fave out of the bunch, and at the top of my wish-list. Also, I’m now very hungry.
What about you? See anything you like? I’m off to find some cake or chocolate or something…..