What you need to know about maternity bras


We cut through the jargon and reveal what to look for when buying a maternity bra.

Brief encounters


It's impossible to say exactly how much your breasts will grow during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but chances are you'll go up at least one cup size, and maybe as many as three. Typically, most breast changes occur within the first three to four months, but you may experience a more gradual increase over the course of your pregnancy.

In this article:

When you should start wearing a maternity bra

When your cups runneth over – or you start to feel uncomfortable – it's time to go shopping. Most breast changes will have occurred by your fourth month, so if you haven't already been fitted for a maternity bra, this is a good time to do so.

Tip: Don't be tempted to buy a bra that's too big – and lacks support – to allow for room to grow. Instead, organise a follow-up fitting at around seven months to ensure you're still wearing the correct size, which should see you through the remainder of your pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Finding a good fit

The best way to ensure you're wearing a correctly-sized bra that will give you adequate support is to be professionally fitted.

If you're wearing the right bra:

  • your breasts should sit fully inside the cups. Nothing should be spilling out of the top or sides.
  • wide underbust elastic should fit firmly around your ribcage.
  • the back band should be fastened on one of the tighter hooks if purchased earlier on in your pregnancy to allow for your ribcage to expand.
  • the back band should be fastened on the loosest hooks if purchased closer to your due date so it can be tightened when your ribcage begins to contract after birth.
  • straps should feel comfortable on your shoulders – not too tight or loose.
  • nursing clips should be easy to fasten and unfasten with one hand. (Don't forget you'll be holding a hungry baby in the other!)

Choosing the right style

Like regular bras, maternity bras come in different styles to suit your needs, at a range of price points.

Seamless

Soft and stretchy to adapt to your changing shape.

Soft-cup/contour

Wireless, comfortable, and a good everyday option.

Flexiwire

Extra supportive to lift breasts and reduce stretch and sag.

Sports

Supportive without compression.

Sleep

Lightly supportive with easy access for night-time feeding.

Pumping

Specifically designed for hands-free breast pumping.

For easy breastfeeding access, there are a couple of options available.

A-frame

The cup drops down, leaving a triangle of fabric around the top of the breast. This is ideal for larger busts and full-cup styles as it provides greater coverage and support.

Side sling

Supports your breast with a sling of fabric on the outer side. This style offers less coverage and allows more skin-to-skin contact between mum and baby.

Try on both when you're shopping to see which style you prefer.

Tip: Plan to buy two to three maternity bras so you're covered in case of leaks – one to wear, one in the wash, and one in the drawer.

Are underwire bras safe?

Wearing inflexible underwire bras during pregnancy is not recommended by the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Extra pressure from rigid wires may restrict breast movement and increase the risk of blocked ducts and mastitis, an inflammation in the breast tissue that's often caused by a blocked milk duct that hasn't cleared.

But as long as you're comfortable, there's no medical reason why you can't continue wearing underwire bras if you want to. Some maternity bras now include flexible low-gauge wire (or flexiwire) which provides similar support to regular underwire but is designed to flex with your changing shape.

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