The Quest for the Perfect Nursing Bra

Picture it: Syracuse NY, 2008.  The snow is falling and I have a brand new infant in my home who is nursing non stop.  I also only own 1 nursing tank and no nursing bras.  So my husband and I venture out to Walmart in search of an emergency bra and other supplies while my sister watches my son.  It was my first time leaving him (for less than 1 hour, but still) and it was all for a bra.  The store was lacking in nursing bras, but what was I expecting?  I bought another nursing tank and one hideous grey nursing bra in a size that apparently was not mine.  I thought it was though.

Repeat this scenario another 9 times (minus the snow and Walmart) and you see what I am getting at.  I was constantly on the lookout for the perfect nursing bra.  I shopped at Target, A Pea in the Pod, and other department stores.  I tried buying one online.  The sizes varied.  I originally believed I was a 36 C.  I tried others on that “felt” right at the time.  I have other bras in various sizes, going up to 38 D.

While cleaning out my dresser I kept coming across nursing bras from days of yore.  I was shaking my head at the money I wasted and the torture I had put myself through.

My main problem with most of the bra’s I had purchased was cup spillage.  I have never considered myself to have a large chest.  In high school I was a 34 A.  In college I graduated to a 34 B, and by the time I graduated I was a 36 C.  This was probably due to weight gain.  While pregnant with my first son I did notice growth.  After my milk came in things were looking quite a bit larger!  I had no clue what I was, and my choice in bras showed it.

A nursing mother NEEDS a nursing bra.  I refuse to wrangle my breast out of a sports bra and stretch it out, or live in nursing tank tops.  Having graduated to larger boobs meant the nursing tanks left me mostly unsupported and looking like I had one boob, not two.

The retired bras

This is my nursing bra history:

First purchase: Hideous grey sports bra/underwire hybrid thing with removeable wires.  I removed them.  The band underneath was too wide.  While I had no cup spillage, this thing couldn’t turn on a man who had spent his last 20 years in jail.  The straps had padding…… hello?

Next: Pull over style bra from Target.  Clearanced for 5.00.  Probably one size too small, but it was on sale!  Not the worst bra in the world, but decent for sleeping.  Not enough support.  Also, somehow weird tiny balls wound up in between the fabric.  Made it unwearable since you could see those in tight shirts.

Then I went to Target again and found another underwire nursing bra in cotton.  There were tiny rhinestones where the underwire clipped in, and I removed those, leaving weird rhinestone things.  My cups runneth over in these.  I believe it was a 36 C also.  Because nursing gave me larger than average nipples, those were visible in whenever my boobs wanted to pop out.  I am sure I areola slipped some folks as I bent over.

Next came a weird one piece bra in white with lace at the top.  I have no clue where I got it.  No support whatsoever, and also hideous.

In Texas I went to a Maternity store.  My Mother in Law believed I was near the end of my nursing days at this time and questioned why I would want to look at nursing tops and bras.  Little did she know……  I found what I believed to be an awesome bra.  It was quite pricey, it seemed to fit great, and it was beige.  Not gorgeous…..  not ugly.  Just beige.  The fabric felt nice.  I also found a SEXY Elle Macphereson nursing bra in black lace.   This was the prettiest nursing bra I had ever seen.  They only had one, it was on clearance, and I wanted it.  It was SNUG but I was going to make it work.  In the end neither of these worked out for long.  I had cup spillage in the Pea in the Pod beige bra, same for the Elle Macphereson.  Lesson: fitting rooms lie and never buy something on clearance that you think you can make work.  No matter how awesome.  Boobs don’t shrink.

Finally, I bought 2 bras online.  What possesed me to do this?  I still had no clue what size I was.  But they were a great deal…..  The beige lace one I bought was a 38 D.  By now I assumed my cup spillage was due to the cup being too small.  And I figured 34/36/38, what is the big deal about those numbers?  So Wrong!  While D was correct, getting a 38 was a mistake.  This bra made my boobs push so far apart I could fit a basketball in between them!  I wore it once.  The other beige one also gave me cup spillage.

Then Twitter saved me.  I discovered a brand called Bravado. I worked with a Bravado rep who had me size myself, correctly.  She helped me determine that I was a 32 D.  I never would have guessed it.  I had lost a ton of weight after my son (almost 50 pounds).  Still, 32?  and D?  I had been stuffing myself into C’s or wearing 36’s that were too big for my back.  They sent a bra for me to review.  I fell in love.  I finally knew what proper support and coverage felt like.  We established a working relationship and since then I have reviewed several of their bras.  While I did end up growing back up to a 34 and had to retire my 32’s until I lose my baby weight, I have been living in the one 34 D Bravado bra that I own.  Even though I didn’t pay for these bras since they were sent for review, I would.  Over and over.  And I did actually buy more (in 32, so I can’t wear them right now!).  And, if I never lose enough weight to get back in my 32’s I will buy more 34 D’s by Bravado because these bras are amazing.

So why am I telling you this?

I spent about 125.00 on all of those bras, give or take. I could easily have purchased 3 great bras for the same amount.  3 bras is plenty, trust me.  I am wearing one bra every day of the week.  I am only not wearing it while it is being washed.  Then it goes right back on.  I am a deal seeker.  I love saving money.  It took me 10 bras to learn that discount and sale nursing bras suck.  From now on I will spend the money on a good bra when I need one, nursing or not.  The other lesson is that bra fittings are worth it.  Mine was done by my husband using online instructions, and interpreted by a Bravado rep.  You don’t need to go to a department store and have a questionable older lady measuring your boobs!

I was not asked to write this post nor was I paid to.  I just love Bravado!  Full disclosure: in the past I have received free bras for review.

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  • I feel your pain, Kim, in trying to find a nursing bra that works. I’m a 30G (I didn’t even know there was such a size!), but very few manufacturers make such a small band size with such a large cup. Not even Bravado. 🙁 I have a bra made by Prima Donna (cost: $120) that’s not a nursing bra, but I can’t get my boobs out of it to nurse easily, so I only wear that when I’m going out without my baby. My search for the perfect nursing bra continues…

  • Erin

    I love my bravados I’m so glad the lactation consultant in breastfeeding class talked about them. They are the only nursing bras I wear.

  • Stacy

    Oh, I so understand the pain.

    I wore (and still do wear around the house and to sleep) those terrible Target nursing tanks at first. They’re fine… if you’re not big busted. I am. They giv zero support. I made the mistake of getting fitted for a bra at 10 days postpartum. I was a 38F prepregnancy, but because I evidently don’t gain weight while pregnant, I was already below my prepregnancy weight, and down a band size, so they fitted me to a 36G, and I bought a softcup Bravado in the largest size it came in. Of course, I then promptly lost another 15 or so pounds, and my supply established itself better. I got fitted again — 34H or I. (34? Really? I wore a 36 last time I was this weight!) They don’t make very many bras for women who wear that size. I ended up buying an Elomi underwire. Ahhh. Not a gorgeous bra, but there are much worse. I tried on every single bra they had in my size (not many) and it was the only one I liked.

    I will, however, wear my Bravado nursing tank (expensive but worth it) out of the house because it actually does give support. Even if I do have to size up in the band because, surprise, it doesn’t come in my size!

    Not affiliated with them at all, but I really liked Breakout Bras online for their selection of nursing bras and good prices and fitting advice.

  • Anne

    Luckily there is a place near me where the owner measures you and also does alterations, so I have been lucky to get some really great nursing bras.

  • Leigh

    Sarah, I feel your pain. I buy Anita bras, since they go up to the high cup sizes in a 32, but now that is really too big, though I have found nothing to replace it yet. One place to try is http://www.decentexposures.com/. Custom made, no underwire, not really more expensive.

    I have my share of my nursing bra mistakes, a tank that has no support, and two bras that sort of fit and get passed over. I also have two sets of nursing bras, for early and once I shrink down and stop leaking.

    I buy online from places with free returns. I have never seen my size in a store.

  • I feel your pain. The one nursing bra that fits wonderfully and gives support and shape has less than optimal nursing access. But it was cheap! That’s the one I wear when I go out in the real world, lol. And on a law school budget, I don’t have much money for bras.

    However, there’s a great website called brasnyc.com and they can turn ANY bra into a nursing bra! For a fee, of course, but this is useful. Since I’m super cheap, I took the idea, bought some nursing clips, and converted some of my regular bras into nursing bras. They have the same problem of not the best nursing access – I chose to convert one with a stiffer cup and that doesn’t work the best. But being as über cheap as I am it’s nice to know that I can do that! But I have a feeling I’m going to need to buy another nursing bra soon.

    Oh and Kim, since your 32 bands don’t work, have you tried a bra extender? Those saved my life when I was pregnant since my baby was high up and expanded my ribcage. I went from a 32 band to 38. And really 38 since I know how bras should fit. Those bra extenders saved my life! Since my cup size didn’t change, I could just add an extender and loosen as I got more pregnant. They’re cheap and worth it. Give it a try!

  • kristin

    I too spent in the hundreds on CHEAP (and some not so cheap) ill fitting nursing bras until I stumbled upon Bravado. I love them so much I wish they made non nursing ones for when i am done BFing. I had 2 I used for the last 2 months of pregnancy with son 1 and the 8 months i bf him, (some of the bad fit ones i bought during pregnancy thinking i would use them after baby was born)I bought 2 more about 3 months into my pregnancy with son 2 and wore these the last 6 months and now that my son is 4 weeks old they work great! I have 2 bravado nursing tanks and 2 shrugs. i wore the shrugs non stop with cheap tanks when no shirts would fit. Bravado is worth every penny and so versatile!

  • Erin

    I just discovered Bravado last week and I am IN LOVE! I, too, have a drawer of nursing bras – everything from 32B to 38D. I have spent a fortune.

  • angie

    Glamourmom just launched their first bra Mbody Starter Nursing Bra (the engorgement bra). It’s been designed with nursing moms in mind – features heat molded cups, inner sling for support, easy one-handed clasp, allows 2 cup size adjustment and high cut for added discretion.

    It’s a soft cotton based nursing bra which ideal for someone who is looking for comfort & support. It’s worth checking them out!

  • Which Bravado bra do you like? I have a couple of the Original (didn’t love them because of the lack of lining/padding) and a couple of the Body Silk, which I love. I am tempted to try the Bliss one, but wondered if it’s worth the extra cashola.

    But, in general, I agree – Bravado ones are the best!

  • Emily

    Glad you found a good bra. Try Enell Bras too: http://www.onesweetone.com They work like none other for larger breasted women!

  • Abigail

    They are the BEST!!! I love all my Bravdo bras hands down.