Monday, June 29, 2009

How to find a bra that fits [Part 3, for nursing]

On to our third and last installment! Please ask questions if there's something I'm not making clear, or you're still wondering about. Or give your own experiences with shopping for/wearing bras!

Bras for nursing

Changes in cup size: Most women can wear their end-of-pregnancy bras for the first few days. When the mature milk comes in, engorgement can make your cup size can go way, way up for a day or two, then goes down a bit, then stabilizes and begins its months- (or years-)long descent down the other side of the hill.

A lot of women try to buy a couple of bras at the end of pregnancy to use for nursing. One suggestion I've heard a lot of is "get a bra that you can fit your fist into". Maybe that works for some people, but you've already heard my thinking about buying sizes you're assuming you'll grow into - what if you never get that big? My suggestion is to buy one or two comfort/sleep bras (discussed below) that fit you a little generously and have room to stretch. Let out the straps for extra space. Where are you going, anyway? Aren't you enjoying a babymoon, sitting around in bed with people bringing you breakfast on trays?? (Okay, or at least sticking to home while you get to know your newborn.)

Once your size has stabilized, start investing in bras that are fit properly to your actual size - not to some guess in week 38.

Changes in band size: Your band size - even if it was uncomfortable during the last part of pregnancy - should be back to its mid-pregnancy size and, again depending on your body and weight loss, will also go back down as the months pass. It's really easy to not notice that the band of your faithful standby nursing bra has gotten waaaay too big (it's easy even with regular bras) so keep fastening the hooks tighter and watch to see if the back is creeping up.

How fast the changes happen: Again, dependent on the individual but apart from the initial engorgement, generally slow and steady. Your breast size in particular may stay the same for a long time at first if you're nursing exclusively. Remember - during that time, if you're getting smaller band sizes you want to go UP a cup size. For example: a 38D=36DD=34DDD/F.

What bras to buy

The great debate of our time: underwire vs. non-underwire. Everyone has different opinions on whether underwires cause plugged ducts. You can find people who swear up and down that they don't, and others that they do.

Here's my take: I met a woman one time who could get a plugged duct from a seat belt across her chest on a long car ride. And I've met women who never once had a plugged duct, even wearing too-small underwire bras. So I think you should play it by ear. If you hate underwires or you think you're plugged-duct-inclined, avoid the wires. If you can wear them with no problem, more power to you. (However, I will put in a pitch for the unbelievable comfort of non-underwired bras, even for those who are not nursing. Soooo nice.)
Bra rec: Anita brand bras are good for non-underwire support. The 5051 is not pretty, but super comfortable and goes up to an I cup.

Sleeping/comfort bra?
Do you need a sleeping bra? If your breasts are tender and/or very full, then one might be nice, but it's not at all necessary. On the other hand, it is nice to have a stretchy, comfy, wear-around-the-house bra, and these are great for the first week of nursing when your size may be fluctuating greatly. If you're buying one bra to get you through the first week of nursing, a comfort bra is a good choice because it can more easily accommodate changes in cup size and will just be nice for sitting around the house, resting and nursing. And if you need something to sleep in, you've got it.
Bra rec: Virtually everyone I've talked to has loved the Bravado original bra. Some people like it so much they just wear it all the time. And if you want you can buy it in leopard print!
Also Bravado, and recently given a rave review on Blacktating, there is a deep and strong passion for the Silk Seamless. The catch: they don't really work above a D (or max, DD) cup. These can actually work well as regular day, wear-under-clothes bras or as comfort bras (although one more warning: they are not super low cut).

Regular day bras
As with your bras for pregnancy, try not to buy too much at any one size - maybe 1-3 bras at a time. And don't buy more than one of a particular style bra at a time (unless you already know it works.) If you love it in the store, wear it for a few days and make sure it's wearing well and still feels good. Then buy more of the same. You don't want to try to return milky bras that are no longer comfortable!

You should be able to find pretty bras you like, but keep in mind that the nursing bra spectrum is limited, especially when you get up to larger cup sizes. Do I think there should be more beautiful 32Is? Yes. Does ugly mean you shouldn't wear the right size? In the grand scheme of things, you won't be nursing so long. You have the rest of your life to wear lacy little dainties.
Bra rec:
For smaller cup sizes (A-D): YOU can wear lacy little dainties. Elle MacPherson tends to make the prettier, sexier nursing bras, like the Mere (if you don't mind lace). If you mind lace or anything itchy, people also rave about the Bravado Silk Seamless.

For larger cup sizes (D+): Not quite as dainty, but still lacy and pretty: another Elle MacPherson, the Maternelle. It's high cut, but the lace makes it look like a camisole under lower-cut clothing, and it goes up to an F (her E is really an F. I know, confusing.) Also see the Anita bras (mentioned above) for cup sizes through an I.

-When trying on bras, think about how much you change size between feedings. If you change a lot, try on bras when you're relatively full so you can make sure the bra will fit comfortably even right before a feeding.
-It's easy to get distracted and not really notice that your bras aren't fitting right anymore. Don't forget to make sure that you're comfortable and happy - the right size bra will make a difference.

To sum up: If you want to get a "starter bra", get a stretchy sleep/comfort bra to wear through your milk coming in. Wait until the engorgement has settled down to get more bras, then get a couple at a time. Decide if underwire works for you on an individual basis. Don't sacrifice comfort for looks, and make sure you have the right size and that you're paying attention to fit as your size changes.

I hope this little series has been informative! Again, if there's something I've forgotten to talk about, let me know. (And tell me if you go out and get a bra fitting...did you find out your real size?)

I'll just leave you with a pitch for GOOD nursing bras. A lot of new moms don't take care of themselves, putting themselves and their needs after their families'. But you also have to take care of yourself. Maybe you wear crap bras the rest of the time, but during nursing when your breasts are doing so much work - when they are, in fact, feeding your baby - isn't that a good time to treat your body and yourself extra nicely? Especially at a time when your breasts especially need the support, being full of milk and all? And your shoulders and back and neck could really use the help, being also busy carrying around a baby?

I fit so many women who just heaved a sigh of relief, looked in the mirror, said "I can't believe I waited this long!", and asked me to throw their old bra in the trash and cut the tags off their new one so they could wear it out. Don't wait! Don't settle for crap bras during nursing - get the right fit and get good ones!


Anonymous said...

For larger cup sizes I recommend checking out bras from the UK. Certainly Anita is just one of a number of them, and actually comes in the most limited range of sizes in my experience.

Freya - up to an H cup (the Anita goes dd -e-f-g-h-i, the freya and others I discuss here are dd-e-f-ff-g-gg-h-hh-j-jj-k, etc)

Fayreform - expensive, gorgeous, up to a G

Royce - same sizing as Anita, up to a K or L

Emily or Emily B - up to a K, same sizing as Freya

Also, on the topic of cost, Anita is one of the more expensive ones. Royce is about $32 or so Emily B is more expensive but is available from multiple sellers on ebay for about $20 new. Also, Marks and Spencer offer many bras up to an H cup similar to anita sizing, at about the $20 - 25 range.

For those that really like the Bravado, a similar design is available through Yes Breastfeeding from canada for about $20. They will also do custom cup sizes.

publichealthdoula said...

Thanks for all those resources! Fabulous :-)

I love Freya and Fantasie myself, although I wasn't aware they made nursing bras. I know Fayreform does and they have a couple good ones!

Why do you think the UK is so far ahead of the US, bra-wise? It's amazing how many more brands and even clothing lines they have for larger cup sizes.