Maternity & Nursing Bras Pt 1: Transitional Bras
Becoming a first-time mom can be daunting. It’s exciting, terrifying, hectic, nerve-racking, and the last thing you need to worry about it is what kind of bra you’re wearing. Luckily, your friends at BOB have you covered. It can be tempting to rush out and buy maternity clothes and nursing bras right away. Don’t. You should hold off on buying a transitional bra until at least the 6-month mark, when your regular bra doesn’t work for you anymore. If your breasts have grown noticeably during your first trimester, it’s better to get refitted in a regular bra. You’ll only need it for 4-6 months, but it will provide you with better shaping and support than a maternity bra, and you’ll be able to wear it to work without worry. Most people end up taking this extra step, but if you’re lucky, you’ll get to move right onto the transitional bra at 6-8 months. A transitional bra is designed to carry you from the end of your pregnancy through the first few weeks after delivery. These bras can have up to 6 rows of hooks in the back instead of the usual 3-4 (or, alternatively, may come with an extender), and most have soft cups to accommodate sensitive breast tissue. We recommend they be wire-free, since going wireless prevents your bra from compressing your breast tissue through pregnancy and milk engorgement. To best understand how to find the right transitional bra, you first need to know what happens to your body when you’re pregnant.
What’s Going On With Your Boobs: A Biology Lesson
Most women hit a growth spurt in the breasts during their first trimester. In fact, increased breast size is often the first indicator of pregnancy. This increase is all about your milk ducts, the elaborate network of straw-like conduits interwoven among the fatty tissues and glands that make up your breasts. Your body is producing extra estrogen and progesterone, pregnancy hormones that cause your milk ducts to increase in number and size.
Your breasts will continue to grow in size up to a pound and a half—that’s 1-3 cup sizes! Your ribcage will expand to make room for your baby. This is the stage wherein your normal bra will start to feel too tight. Again, this timeframe varies from woman to woman. “Women who are working through their pregnancy tend to want to stay in their normal bras for as long as possible, and that’s fine as long as you don’t push it too far,” says Stephanie, a BOB employee with over ten years of experience. “It’s really a matter of personal preference.” By the end of the second trimester, your milk duct system will be fully developed. You’ll end up with 15-20 ducts, some of which will converge at the nipple in order to supply milk to your baby. Towards the end of your pregnancy, you’ll probably feel pretty miserable. Your organs are squished around, you’re retaining water, and baby probably doesn’t have much regard for your preferred sleep schedule, but don’t worry—you’re almost to the finish line. Immediately after delivery, your ribcage will shrink back almost to its normal size and you’ll lose water retention and swelling. Milk production begins 48-96 hours after delivery. Your breasts will fill up with milk, and for the next few weeks, your body will learn to regulate how much the baby is taking in. This means major boob fluctuation. This period—from the widest point of your pregnancy to a few weeks after delivery—is when a transitional bra is so crucial.
The "Rock Candy" by Cake has 6 rows of hook-and-eye closures in the back to accommodate you during the latter stages of pregnancy.
What To Look For
Now that we’ve got some context, let’s break down the most important features of a good transitional bra.
Extended Back: A normal bra has 3-4 rows of eyes in the back for hook-and-eye closure. The transitional bra has up to 6 rows. When you’re pregnant, these extra closures will give your ribcage room to grow. Once you have the baby, you can wear it on a tighter setting for the correct fit.
Soft Cups: Because pregnant women’s breasts are especially tender, transitional bras are not particularly structured. Soft, stretchy fabric can be a lifesaver during this period of sensitivity. There should be a little bit of room in the top of the cup so you have room to fluctuate during the first few weeks after delivery.
Nursing Clasps: Easy-release clasps are important for women who plan to breastfeed. Most nursing clasps can be undone with just one hand.
Wireless: This is contentious, but very important. While there are flexi-wire options on the market, we highly recommended you go wireless for your transitional bra. During this stage, underwire can press into your breast tissue and irritate your milk ducts, especially if it’s not fitted properly. On a practical level, there’s no point in getting fitted for an underwire bra 6 months into your pregnancy, because it isn’t going to fit you later on.
The Bravado "Body Silk" is one of the best transitional bras on the market. It has all the essential features, and it's crazy comfy.
Ideally, you should purchase two transitional bras (“one on your body, one in the laundry” is the general rule), but owning at least one is vital. Pair these with a size-specific bra or two for a total of three or four bras. Think of your transitional bra as an investment. It offers much-needed comfort at 7, 8, or 9 months pregnant when comfort is really hard to come by, and you’ll wear it to the hospital where you’ll meet your baby for the first time. Even after you settle down and find a size-specific nursing bra, your transitional bra will make a great comfort bra to wear at home. It’ll keep you comfy around the house and keep your breasts supported while you sleep.
Why Get Fitted?
As you know, we’re all about bras that actually fit. That’s imperative for all women, but doubly important for new moms. Milk ducts are incredibly sensitive, and if you end up in a transitional bra (or a nursing bra later on) that compresses your ducts, they can become clogged and inflamed. In Part 2 of our maternity bra series, we’ll talk about a nasty, painful condition called mastitis, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
You shouldn’t try to buy a transitional bra on your own, even if you’ve been pregnant before. Because pregnancy changes your breasts so drastically, what worked for your first baby probably won’t work for your second or third. That’s why you should always consult an expert first. We see a lot of boobs, but one of the most rewarding parts our job is getting to share our experience with new moms.
A good fitter will help you attain the support and wiggle room you need in a transitional bra, and they’ll make sure there’s not too much pressure on those all-important milk ducts. When it comes to maternity bras, breast health should always come first.
Bravado's "Essential Embrace" is another awesome transitional bra.
If you have further questions about maternity or nursing bras, be sure to check the blog again next Friday. In Maternity & Nursing Bras Part 2, we’ll be discussing mastitis, the ugly side of breastfeeding, and why it’s so freaking hard to find a sexy maternity bra. In the meantime, check out the awesome transitional styles featured on our website, breakoutbras.com!