How to use a nursing bra — and the best ones you can buy

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Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

When you’ve never nursed a baby before, the nursing bra section in the store can be intimidating territory. If you’re anything like me, you turn to online resources to help figure it all out rather than stand confused and overwhelmed in the aisles.

Maybe you’re preparing for your baby’s arrival, or maybe your sweet little one is already here and you’ve realized just how important nursing bras are. It’s easy to forget about yourself and what you’ll need after your baby’s arrival when you’re preparing for that bundle of joy.

There’s good news – nursing bras are actually pretty user-friendly, and there are a lot of comfortable and cute options out there. All nursing bras are designed to give you easy and convenient access to nurse your baby. The most important part about using a nursing bra is finding the right style and fit that works for you.

Here are the nursing bras we recommend:

Keep scrolling to learn how to use a nursing bra.


How to get the right fit

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ThirdLove

If you’re shopping while you’re still pregnant, you’ll likely want to go up at least one cup size from your current size. If your ribs have expanded a lot during pregnancy, you might need to go up a band size as well, at least for the first month or two.

As your milk regulates and your body continues to change postpartum, your size will likely change. You might even notice that your size changes throughout the day as your breasts fill with milk and then get emptied by your baby. A lot of nursing bras, especially the ones designed for sleep and comfort, stretch and adjust so you won’t need to keep buying a new bra. We like the Wrap Maternity and Nursing Sleep Bra from Motherhood Maternity because it’s stretchy and has thick straps for maximum comfort.

Because size is so important for a good comfortable fit, another option we recommend is ThirdLove Nursing Bras. ThirdLove has guidance on its site, access to fit experts, and a 60-day fit guarantee. You get all that without ever leaving your home. Let’s face it, going to a store to get measured or even trying to measure yourself at home with a newborn isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Once you have your size figured out, you’ll need to decide what type (or types) of nursing bras you’ll want to buy. It’s a good idea to have at least three, and likely more on hand. Even if you don’t typically wash your bras very often, that will quickly change as your nursing bras get covered in milk, spit up, and other baby substances. Understanding how each type of nursing bra works can help you decide which type you should buy.

Buy the Wrap Maternity and Nursing Sleep Bra from $11.98 at Amazon (price varies by color)

Buy the ThirdLove Nursing Bras from $58 at ThirdLove


How to use a traditional drop-cup nursing bra

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ThirdLove

The traditional drop cup nursing bra is my favorite type because I find them the most comfortable and the most supportive. They fit a lot like a regular bra and may or may not have a clasp in the back. When you’re ready to nurse your baby, simply unhook the clasp at the top of the cup on the side you want to nurse.

To unhook the clasp (right side):

  1. Place your right thumb under the clasp.
  2. Optional: Grab the right bra strap right above the clasp with your left hand. Depending on how easily your clasp unhooks, you may not need both hands.
  3. Lift the clasp up from underneath with your right thumb.
  4. Pull the clasp up and away from your body.
  5. Pull the cup down.
  6. When you’re done nursing, simply re-fasten the clasp.

While the cup is dropped to nurse, you will notice a piece of fabric that extends to the bottom of the cup so the strap stays in place. This type of nursing bra keeps your other breast covered and supported while only nursing one side.

Here are some traditional nursing bras we recommend:

Note that many traditional nursing bras do not have underwire, as there is a belief that underwire can cause clogged ducts and mastitis. While this hasn’t been proven, you might find that underwire bras aren’t very comfortable when you’re nursing, especially when your milk is still coming in and regulating.

Even so, some women don’t feel supported unless they have underwire. Of the options above, the ThirdLove bra is the only one with underwire.


How to use a front- or middle-clasp nursing bra

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Amazon

Imagine your regular bra, but take the back clasps and put them in the front between your breasts, and you have a front or middle clasp nursing bra. To use this bra, simply undo the front clasp and both breasts are ready to nurse.

This type of nursing bra is great for when you need access to both breasts at the same time.

Here are a few examples:

  • Nursing twins
  • Tandem nursing an infant and a toddler
  • Nursing and pumping at the same time
  • Having a bare chest for skin to skin with a newborn

Here are some middle clasp nursing bras we recommend:


How to use a no-clasp or sleep bra

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A Pea in the Pod

No clasp or sleep nursing bras are typically made of soft fabric and offer just enough support to keep your breasts in place through the night or while you’re just lounging around the house. They’re very helpful in the early days of nursing when you’re more prone to leakage – they can help keep nursing pads in place.

To use, simply pull the fabric to the side of the breast you are going to nurse on.

Here are some sleep bras we recommend:


How to use a specialty or pumping bra

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Target

These might be the most confusing, but are the most convenient, especially if you need to pump. These bras allow you to have your hands free to take care of your kids, work, or do anything else a busy mom needs to get done, all while pumping that liquid gold. You can even use pumping bras to pump and nurse at the same time.

Each pumping bra operates a little differently, but in general, here are the steps for using a pumping bra:

  1. Slide or unzip fabric to gain access to your breast.
  2. Put a breast shield in place.
  3. Reposition the fabric to keep the shield in place.
  4. Attach the pump to the shield.
  5. Pump hands free!

Here are some pumping bras we recommend:

If you need to pump when you return to work, a pumping bustier like the Lansinoh Bustier can be really helpful. You can wear a regular bra while you’re working, and then just slip on the bustier when you need to pump so you can pump hands free.


What to wear with your nursing bra

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Amazon

You can wear whatever you want, but a few options make nursing your baby much easier.

  • A nursing tank: These have the same snap closure as a traditional nursing bra, so just undo both snaps to feed your baby. Many nursing tanks have built-in support and/or pads, but I never found them to be supportive enough on their own. The SUIEK Women’s Nursing Tank Top Cami can double as a maternity shirt, and it won’t be too restricting on your belly in those first few weeks postpartum.
  • Don’t forget nursing pads: In the first few weeks as your milk regulates, it will likely leak. (TMI, I know, but if you haven’t been there before, you’ll be glad I warned you). I like using the BabyBliss Natural Bamboo Reusable Nursing Pads, but you can also use disposable ones, like the Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads. Having a few of these ready to go in your diaper bag is always a good idea.
  • Nursing or loose-fitting tops: If you want to discreetly nurse your baby in public, you can do so with a loose-fitting or a nursing top. The Bearsland Women’s Breastfeeding Sporty Hoodie is a really comfortable option, and it comes in a lot of different colors.

Of course, don’t let me dictate what you can wear! Nobody will be able to tell it’s a nursing bra you have on under your clothes, so wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. These options can just make your life a little easier, especially with a newborn.

Nursing your baby can be such an incredible bonding experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It can be painful, frustrating, and exhausting, so having the right gear and knowing how to use it can make life with your baby a little easier.