Nursing bras look like regular bras, but the cups open or lower from the front when you pull them aside, or unsnap, unwrap, unzip, or unhook the closure. It's convenient but not essential that you be able to open the cup for nursing quickly and simply with one hand. (You'll be holding your hungry baby with the other. If you can close it one-handed, too, even better.) Whichever style you choose, proper fit is the key to breastfeeding success. A poorly fitting bra not only will be uncomfortable but also may increase the risk of plugged ducts and/or mastitis, a breast infection. An ill-fitting bra can put pressure on milk ducts, which can make them vulnerable to infection-causing bacteria.
An estimated 80 percent of women buy the wrong-size nursing bra. Where do they go wrong? They increase the bra band size and stay with the same cup size. Most women can stay with their original band size--the rib cage expands a bit during pregnancy, but usually not enough to require a larger band size. Some women may want to go up a band size for comfort, which is fine as long as you have a bra with plenty of adjustment hooks in the back. Meanwhile, most women need a larger cup size during pregnancy. If you were a C cup pre-pregnancy, you may go up to an F, or higher. Depending on the manufacturer, cup sizes can range from A through D, then DD, DDD, E, F, G, H, and I.
The best nursing bras are comfortable, absorbent, and don't bind the breasts in any way that could interfere with milk flow. For optimum support, the band and the straps should be made of non-stretchy fabric. But cups should have some stretch to accommodate changing breast size at different phases of nursing and throughout the day. The band should offer multiple hook positions. Look for bras that are 100 percent cotton or a blend of cotton and Lycra or other stretchy synthetic. Since the right size bra is so important to getting breastfeeding off to a good start and reducing the risk of complications, such as clogged milk ducts, shop at a maternity store or visit a lactation consultant/certified bra fitter for at least your first bra. To find a lactation consultant in your area, contact the hospital or birth center where you'll deliver, or visit the International Lactation Consultant Association at www.ilca.org. A professional fitting will ensure a comfortable fit and the correct size. Try on bras for size and feel, and practice with nursing pads in place. After you've bought one properly fitting bra, you can order more of the same style and size online or from a catalog. Many Web sites offer competitive deals. But stick with the manufacturer and style you were fitted with, or be fitted again, if you'd like to try a different style or brand.
Best for breasts
Tempted to use your regular bra for nursing instead of a nursing bra? That's one cost-saving measure you won't want to take. Regular bras aren't designed for nursing and may not give you the extra support you need to be comfortable. Lifting your regular bra up over your breast to nurse can put a lot of pressure on breast tissue, increasing the risk of infection.
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