Before we get into the nitty gritty details, let’s talk a little bit about my review criteria and my bra-buying best practices.
Stuff that’s important to me when shopping for nursing bras:
1) Size Inclusivity. This is critical for any kind of clothing, but especially for nursing bras. If a company is only selling nursing bras from A-D, that’s a big mark in the con column for me. Even if you were an A-D before you started breastfeeding, the likelihood that you need a larger size while nursing is extremely high. I was a 34DDD/E pre-pregnancy, and while nursing I clocked in at a 36G. There were a lot of bras that I couldn’t even try out because I knew they’d be too small, and even more that I ordered and loved but were too small to be comfortable.
2) Type of Padding. Sewn-in padding or no padding (if it’s thick enough to hide nipples) is the gold standard in my opinion. When you’re clipping your cup up and down eight times a day, most of the time one-handed and while wrestling a distracted baby, ain’t nobody got time to readjust your bra pads.
3) All-In-One Bras. God bless the Working Pumping Mamas for teaching me that all-in-one bras existed. Thanks to an oversupply and periods of exclusive pumping during my early breastfeeding days, I pumped every. single. day. from February 13, 2018, until January 1, 2019. By the time I went back to work in June, I had pumped enough for several lifetimes and I was so freaking over having to pull a hands-free pumping bra over my clothes. An all-in-one bra allows you to nurse and pump in the same bra, and I would recommend it for anyone who is EPing, triple feeding, or working and pumping. It sounds easy enough to put a pumping bra over your clothes, I know. It takes maybe 30 seconds. But multiply that by four-to-eight pumping sessions a day over months at a time….and you’ll start to see why I’m in love with all-in-one bras.
4) Softness. I want my boobs to feel like they are getting a pillowy, soft hug from my bra the second I put it on until I take it off at the end of the day (or week….maternity leave was rough).
Stuff that will help you find your ideal nursing bra:
- Know Your Must-Haves.
- All that stuff I listed about? Those were my must-haves – things that aren’t negotiable for me when I’m looking for a new bra. Everyone’s are going to be a bit different based on your life circumstances and your personal preferences, and you’re probably not going to know what yours are for sure until you’re actively breastfeeding your current baby (sorry pregnant mamas….I know you want to prepare. But buy one or two bras now and save your money for when you have your non-negotiable list).
- This list will also help you sort through the literally hundreds of recommendations you’re going to receive. Everyone has their own favorite bra, and they’re going to be really excited to tell you all about it. But just because a bra is popular with a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Make a list of your must-haves, and ask people what their criteria are before you buy what they’re selling.
- Know Your Measurements.
- Yes, knowing your bra size is all well and good. Going to Nordstrom or Bare Essentials and getting measured and waited on by the nice old ladies is lovely. But that stuff isn’t going to help you as much as knowing the actual measurements of your bust and rib cage.
- Get yourself a tape measure (this one is great) and stand in front of a mirror. You need to measure your band underneath your boobs, the size of your bust around your nipples, and the band above your boobs under your armpits. Write all these numbers down in your phone so you have them whenever you’re impulse shopping during that 3 AM nursing session.
- When you go to buy a bra, pull up the brand’s size-chart and compare your numbers to their specific size guide. Some brands have cup sizes, some traditional clothing sizes, some use the under-boob band size, some use the over-boob band size. If you have these numbers written down, you can quickly assess how your boobs are going to fit into that specific bra. This isn’t a flawless system (breast shape plays a roll, as does your activity level and fit preferences), but it’s as accurate an estimate as you’re going to get.
- Be Ready For Returns.
- Shoutout to my best friend Bethany for teaching me this one. Go to the dollar store and buy yourself a few bubble wrap mailing envelopes to keep in your house at all times.
- When you get a bra and try it on, decide right away what you like and dislike about it. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to “wear it for a bit to test it out” like I often do. If something is bothering you as soon as you try it on, it’s only going to get worse as you continue to wear it.
- Be ruthless in your assessment. If there’s more than one dislike, send it back immediately. Print out the return label on the spot and pack that bra up in your already-on-hand envelopes. Put it in the mailbox or in your car so you don’t forget it next time you’re out and passing the UPS store. Don’t throw money away on something that doesn’t meet your high expectations.
All right, now for the juicy stuff: My Best Of List. I’m using affiliate links for all the products listed below. If you like any of these recommendations, please consider purchasing them using these links. For every purchase made, I’ll get a small kickback to donate to Balanced Breastfeeding or (where I only get store credit) organize a bra giveaway.
Best All-In-One Nursing Bra
Hands down my favorite nursing bra, and the one that I recommend to everyone who will listen to me. Kindred Braverly is an awesome woman-owned company that makes great, affordable products, and I’ve never whipped out my credit card as fast as I did when they released this bra in August. I bought two, one black and one nude, in size XL.
This one runs blissfully large (which has not been my experience with any other bra company), so I would recommend sizing down. Because of the size, the fit is also little weird in the side boobs – the sides tend to gap and stick out at a weird angle. For me, this was fixed by tightening the straps and band to the smallest setting.
There is NO PADDING which is a godsend while pumping multiple times a day at work, and I don’t need to add additional padding to hid my diamond-sharp pumping nipples (another rarity in my experience).
The pumping feature is snug, and I love that you clip down to pump instead of having to awkwardly lift a layer of fabric like with other designs. It makes pumping as seamless as nursing. I use a Medela pump, and my 27mm flanges fit through the opens easily. However, I have heard from Spectra users that the openings are a bit tight for their flanges. It is possible to trim or stretch the opening slightly to accommodate the larger flange size.
One last note on this one: It is sold out in almost every size and color (rightfully so in my opinion because it is truly great). The company has talked about how they are working on a 2.0 design based on customer feedback, which will be available when they restock. I am watching like a hawk for any updates and will definitely keep you all posted in the Balanced Breastfeeding Mamas Facebook group.
Runner Up: Rumina Seamless Pump & Nurse Nursing Bra
This was my go-to bra before KB released their pumping bra, and it is more reliably in stock. I bought an XL and found it runs very, very small, especially when you go to pump. To get a comfortable fit in my current size, I need to loosen the straps every time I pump and tighten them every time I’m finished. I’d suggest sizing up one or two sizes if you pump frequently. The padding that comes with the bra is also terrible and cheap. Luckily, in this case, it’s removable. I swapped it out for the Bravado padding that I like way better (more on that in a minute).
Best Classic Nursing Bra
Bravado was the brand most recommended to me during pregnancy, and there is a good reason. Bravado’s products are the highest-quality of any of the bras I’ve purchased.
I’m still wearing the three Seamless Body Silk bras I bought during pregnancy, wore to death on maternity leave, and slept in every night until my oversupply chilled out. They are soft, flexible, and have excellent removable padding.
I hate that the padding shifts around because it’s not sewn in, but it is so comfortable that I take it out of my Bravado bras and add it to the cheaper bras to make them better!
The other downside is that Bravado does not currently sell an all-in-one bra…so it regulated my Bravado bras to nights and weekends only as soon as I went back to work.
Best Hands-Free Pumping Bra
I don’t have many nice things to say about hands free pumping bras, and I’m not sure it’s their fault. They are inconvenient and forever associated in my mind with the hell that was triple feeding. I hated putting one on to pump eight times a day, I hated having to remember to bring one to work, I hated struggling to zip one over my work clothes in the car and then sneakily unzip again in the daycare parking lot for drop-off.
But they are a necessary evil. Not everyone needs an all-in-one bra, and even if you do you don’t need to wear it all the time. I reach for my trusty, milk-stained Medela one most often. It doesn’t cover your nips like the Simple Wishes one, but it is bendy and stretchy and feels good on my big ass boobs. Simple Wishes I keep in the car for work or pumping emergencies, and the Bravado one is my backup that I never choose to wear if I can help it.
Also, don’t @ me with your pumping hacks where you “don’t need anything but a nursing bra/hair tie/whatever.” I am truly proud of all you creative geniuses out there trying to do anything to save, and so, so happy if you never need to pump with any regularity. Seriously, that is such a gift. And those hacks you all came up with are amazing to know for any mama who finds herself in a pinch without a hands-free bra or all-in-one. But when you’re pumping anywhere near the scale I was pumping at, let me be clear: Don’t mess around girl. You are a goddamn superhero, and you NEED a $30 bra. This is not negotiable. You can have one of mine.
Best Nursing Sleepwear
I wore this pregnant and it was the only thing that made me feel freaking beautiful. I wore it in the dark, early weeks of cesarean recovery, and it made me feel human. Once my supply dialed back, I wore it without a bra and even my sad, droopy pancake boobs look sexy AF.
I wear it out to get the mail, I wear it in front of my mother-in-law, I wear it after date night to drink wine and lay around the house. My son knows exactly how to scoop my boob out of this nightie when he wants a snack, and I don’t even need to take the straps off to pump before I go to bed.
Seriously, this nightie is a workhorse, and I’m going to buy one in every color eventually.
Best Date Night Pumping Bra
Oh, The Dairy Fairy. This is the only bra I could make work from this brand that I wanted to love so, so much. Their bras are gorgeous and sexy and they are what I want to be wearing in every nursing picture ever taken of me.
But…they are not comfy, and they are not good for big boobs. I kept this one because I feel fine as hell in it, and the underwire makes my boobs look crazy good. The lace is itchy, but good for date night or a big presentation at work where I want to feel like a boss.
Best Weaning Nursing Bra
I bought this underwire nursing bra when I went back to work and almost never wore it. But now that I’m weaning and not pumping, they make me feel amazing, lifted, and supported.
Best Bra for Smaller Boobs
These are SO cute and have high-quality, sewn-in padding, but I was at the tippy top of their size chart and just couldn’t make it work. They are pricey, and didn’t lay as flat as I’d like under my clothes (but I’m willing to say that’s because of bad fit). I think it’s got good support too – just not for my size boobs.
I still think about this bra all the time because it was so freaking soft. I wore it more than I should have because I was desperate to make it work, but it was just too small. My boobs would literally fall out the top when I bent over to pick up my baby.
Other Honorable Mentions
Kindred Braverly Postpartum Undies – Great for cesarean recovery and just feeling cute. I had to force myself to throw mine out on my son’s first birthday.
Commando Undies – What I replaced my postpartum undies with. Definitely a #treatyoself underwear, but still practical. Soft as hell and no panty lines or weggies.
HOFISH Ultra Soft Pregnant Seamless Maternity & Nursing Cami Tank Top with Pads – Long and stretchy, perfect for holding in a postpartum tummy and making your work clothes lay flat.
H&M MAMA 2-Pack Nursing Tank – Basic, not to tight fitting. These were how I eased out of sleeping in bras at night….provided enough support for my boobs without being too restricting.