Thank you so much for all your comments and questions following my last post on what makes a good bra! Both sports bras and maternity bras are used with a very specific purpose in mind. And both can lead to a lot of discomfort if you get them wrong. Because of this, I thought they deserved their own blog post. So here are some thoughts on Sports Bras and Maternity Bras:
I have met several women who start their bra fitting by telling me that they have to use 2 and even 3 bras at a time, to try and limit the impact of doing sports on their boobs. Apart from it being a little embarrassing to have your boobs bounce up and down when you are exercising, it can be downright painful! What I want to say is that there is an answer – and it does not involve having to wear a few bras at a time.
When it comes to choosing a sports bra, think about the sport you want to do. What you need from a sports bra is different according to which sport you are doing. If it is running, or a cardio class, it better hold your boobs in place while you are bouncing. If it is yoga or pilates, you want to be able to move in many different ways without discomfort, or friction. Therefore, a sports bra might need to be tighter around the band for extra support. It also needs to be made of very supportive material, especially if you have quite big boobs. Some people like sports bras to have wires, others don’t. I personally prefer non wired sports bras because I find them more comfortable when I am moving. As with any other bra, it is important to make sure that it fits you well and that it is big enough to encompass your boobs, while being tight enough in the band to support them. The best way to find your sports bra is to try it on, and do a little bounce test. If you are happy with the level of bouncing, go for it. If not… keep trying!
Before I give you the lowdown on all things maternity bra I have to clarify that the following is – as always – based on my personal experience. Every mama is different. I had a particularly difficult and painful experience when I was breastfeeding my first baby. It taught me a lot about what can go wrong with boobs, especially after delivery. As I have mentioned already, bras that are too tight can cause milk duct blockages and therefore mastitis, which can lead to a world of sickness and pain. And I have a lot of personal experience of this: experience that involves hospital visits, needles and incisions to relieve infection, as well as fever like I have never experienced before or since. It is safe to say that this experience had an impact on me. And it caused me to become super cautious when it comes to breastfeeding bras. Therefore, I would always choose (for myself) or recommend (to others) a maternity bra that is the least likely to put any kind of pressure on breast tissue.
I also wanted to say that in writing about maternity bras, I have found it really helpful to write a little bit about the mechanics of breastfeeding. So be warned, and prepared for some breastfeeding baby chat coming up.
Ready? Here we go: Let’s talk maternity bras:
For many women the first sign of pregnancy is sore and swollen boobs. If you’ve ever been pregnant you will know what I mean. Your boobs can be super sensitive and very sore, and often larger in size than normal. And for many women, though not all, boobs tend to progressively grow in size during pregnancy. After pregnancy, it is more often than not the case that boobs grow and change again, as they gear up for feeding a baby.
Bras for Pregnancy
While you are pregnant, I think comfort is the most important thing in a bra. It could be that your normal bras fit and support you just fine. If that is the case – great! But many ladies find that they have to go up a cup size or two, and even a back size. Our bodies tend to stretch and change to prepare for giving birth, so getting fitted during pregnancy is usually a good idea. Some ladies like to stop wearing bras with wires during pregnancy, others need them for the support. Wire or no wire, just make sure that the bra fits well and that it is super comfortable. While pregnancy is an amazing and awe inspiring experience that compares to nothing else in this world, it also comes with plenty of discomfort. The last thing you need is to add to that by wearing an uncomfortable bra. (See previous blog post for advice on fit, and comfort.)
Bras for nursing/ breastfeeding.
My most important piece of advice when it comes to feeding bras is: NEVER GET THEM TOO TIGHT. Even if a bra is only slightly tight, I would avoid it. It is better that your feeding bra is too big, than tight in any way. You will of course remember my reason why: blocked milk ducts … mastitis…. fever… pain. Now I know I run the risk of being tediously repetitive… but I am willing to bet that anyone who’s been through mastitis and boob trouble while feeding will agree with me – it is worth repeating. Avoid tight bras when you are feeding at all costs. Not wearing a bra is better than a tight bra when you are feeding your baby.
For some of us not wearing a bra is not an option. So let me continue.
During the first days and weeks of breast feeding, a mum’s milk supply is still adjusting and settling. This amazing process of baby and mum learning to exist in separate bodies, having co – existed in one body for the last 40 weeks, starts to take place. Mum’s body gradually learns from how much the baby is feeding, and gradually learns how much milk to produce. But this takes time to settle. In addition, baby will take different amounts of milk at different times of the day. As a result, boobs fluctuate in size, and can even be different sizes before and after every feed. This normally settles after the first couple of months. But for this beginning stage I always recommend staying away from wires, and going for a non wired, soft bra, with room for growth. Gentle support with no wires is good enough for me, for the first weeks/ months.
Once the milk supply settles, so does the boob size. Your boobs might be less full after a feed, and slightly bigger in the time leading up to one, but things are more predictable when it comes to their size. Some ladies prefer to continue to wear non wired bras at this stage too. But some (myself included) opt for a wired bra for increased support. Once the milk supply has somewhat settled (which usually happens a few months in), I am happy to recommend wired breastfeeding bras, especially when the wires are soft. I would still always err on the side of caution when it comes to the size – and I would always rather the feeding bra was slightly too big, than slightly too small.
Once you’ve sorted the size, and avoided mastitis inducing tightness, there are a couple of other things to think about with nursing bras are:
Most of them have a clip that lets the cup drop down to let the baby feed easily. My advice is practice using that clip before you buy the bra. Does it come off easily? Does it come back on easily? You don’t want to be faffing around trying to get it off while your baby is screaming on your lap – as more often than not – a screaming baby makes for a more difficult feeding session. Does it clip off too easily? If it clips off itself then you might risk an undesired expose while you are out and about.
I know it sounds vain but a lot of nursing bras are super frumpy and give you an awful shape. You might have to adjust the type of clothes you wear anyway, while you feed your baby. If your bra gives you an undesirable shape as well, then it does not do wonders for your self confidence. Have a think about the shape that the nursing bra you choose gives you, especially after the first few months when your milk supply has settled.
I really hope you’ve found this useful, and informative. As always, I welcome your comments, questions and your own stories. Keep talking about boobs, bras and fittings!