By Ali Cudby

Women have a complicated relationship with their bras during the pregnancy cycle, for many reasons.  Coming to grips with changing bodies, shifting how they think about the role of their breasts, and then finding bras that fit their evolving figures are just a few challenges make bra shopping a dreaded activity during this amazing evolution in a woman’s life.

Understanding the keys to helping women find bras that fit can ease the strain — both literally and emotionally.  Having bras that fit pregnant and nursing women will help them physically, because a changing body will be better supported and more comfortable in a properly fitting bra.

Women often harbor uncertainty about their fluctuating breasts, and what the changes mean for their babies, significant others and themselves.  Helping women feel positive about their bras is often an important step toward boosting confidence throughout pregnancy and nursing.

Experts in the maternity cycle have the opportunity to offer beneficial education about the importance and keys to finding bras that fit.  Having just a few FabFit™ tips under your belt (or shirt, as the case may be) will get your clients into the right bra and feeling their best.

Bras that Fit: Maternity, Breast Feeding and Beyond

Maternity Bras:

Maternity bras are often confused with nursing bras, but they are, in fact, very different.  The goal of the maternity bra is to accommodate the body’s growth while pregnant, while nursing bras have special clips that offer a baby access to the breast while also retaining modesty and minimal fuss for a mother.

Some manufacturers do make bras specifically designed for maternity.  These have features like wider straps for increased support, which help reduce breast sensitivity that often comes with pregnancy.  Ultimately, the key to a maternity bra is comfort and fit for a woman’s changing body, rather than any particular features.

Manufacturers recommend that women switch to maternity bras in the third of fourth month of pregnancy.  That said, it’s personal choice dictated by comfort and the extent to which an individual body is changing.  Averages mean little when we’re talking about a unique body’s response to pregnancy, but it’s fair to say that pregnant women should expect that their bra size to increase in both band and cup size.

A good rule of thumb is to purchase a maternity bra when pre-pregnancy garments become uncomfortable.

Pro tip:  When it comes to the maternity cycle, some of the standard bra fit rules differ.  Unlike the fit procedure for most bras, aim to fit maternity bras with the band on the tightest hook.  This way, a woman has room to expand the bra band as the ribcage swells to accommodate a growing baby.

Nursing Bras

Nursing bras should be purchased in advance of a baby’s birth for a woman’s own convenience, since most women have little interest in bra shopping immediately following childbirth.

In the first 6-8 weeks of nursing, women should expect that their cup will increase an additional one to two sizes from the point reached by the end of the pregnancy.  After around 8 weeks of nursing, a woman’s band size will gradually decrease to its pre-pregnancy size, but cups will remain larger than they had been before pregnancy for at least as long as nursing continues.

Pro tips:  When trying on nursing bras, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • When assessing bra size, take a woman’s feeding schedule into consideration.  Women want to ensure that their nursing bra will not constrict the breast tissue when engorged.
  • Look for breathable fabrics, such as cotton, as lining fabric in a nursing bra to reduce the amount of moisture that can build up otherwise.  Too much moisture can lead to infection, which is bad for both Mom and baby.
  • There is an inherent balance when sizing nursing bras.  On the one hand, firm fit in the band is critical to comfortably supporting the larger breasts that come with nursing.  On the other hand, bras with some give or stretch in the cups will accommodate fluctuations in cup size that come with the nursing cycle.


After a woman stops nursing, she can expect further changes in her breast size and, often, shape.  Fortunately, you can assure clients that studies find breastfeeding does not cause sagging.  However, many women find that their breasts are different after nursing.  For some women, cup size increases, while other women end up wearing a smaller cup size after nursing.

Similarly, some women find that the overall shape of their breast is different after nursing, while others notice very little shift.  Breast size and shape is as unique as every woman’s body, and there are no rights, wrongs, goods or bads when it comes to breast – and bra – size.

What’s most important is that every woman is given the support she needs – both physically, through bras that fit, and emotionally, by being reassured that changes in her breasts are an expected part of the maternity cycle.

About Ali

Ali Cudby is the author of the bestselling bra fit guide Busted! and founder of the FabFit Academy, an international bra fit training and certification program designed specifically for professionals.  Ali’s bra fit advice has been read by millions of women worldwide and has been featured in TV, radio and print ranging from Cosmopolitan to Weight Watcher magazine.  You can find Ali online at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter at @alicudby.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  the International Maternity Institute.

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