A nursing and maternity bra is one of the most important purchases mothers and mums-to-be can buy, whether they're using a breast pump or not. Most women know how important the right bra can be, and that becomes even more important during pregnancy and then postpartum. The fit, support, and overall look all come into play when it comes to picking the right bra.
Your breasts will change size and shape during pregnancy and after birth, which is why purchasing a quality nursing or maternity bra is so necessary. These bras offer support, easy access for breastfeeding and are much softer than your lacy pre-pregnancy bras. They'll give you additional comfort while you get used to all the natural changes happening to your body too. They're great for daily wear before you change into your maternity sleep bra for bed.
A nursing and maternity bra should be one of your first purchases when you're pregnant, with most realising how much of a lifesaver they are. The back pain you may get during pregnancy can be made worse without a supportive bra - plus, any breastfeeding mumma will tell you how thankful they are for a nursing bra once their baby arrives. They are also brilliant if you're using a breast pump too, as you can quickly attach it as and when needed.
• Best for stretch: Bravado Restore bra
• Best for quality: Cake Maternity Rock Candy Luxury Seamless Nursing Bra
• Best for style: Seraphine Maternity and Nursing Bra
• Best low back design: Tutti Frutti Nursing Bra
Finding a bra that will last throughout your pregnancy and assist your breastfeeding journey is definitely crucial. However, it can be a minefield, especially if you are looking for something more niche, like a plus size maternity bra. But fear not, we've found the best nursing and maternity bra for pregnancy and beyond.
The best maternity and nursing bras - UK 2023
Best for stretch
Coined as the stretchiest bra yet, Bravado's Restore bra is super soft, ultra-comfortable nursing
- Not adjustable
Best for everyday
The pink leopard-print bra is both pretty and comfortable, meaning it's great for everyday wear.
- Soft fabric
- Must check sizing chart
Best for quality
You won't regret splashing out on high-quality maternity underwear when the time comes, and this
- High quality
- Sizing can be off
Best for breathability
Super smooth and seam-free, the Figleaves FREYA Pure Flexi-wire Moulded Nursing Bra has moulded
- Good adjustment for a flexible fit
- Fantastic shape under clothes
- Hand wash only
Best for style
Seraphine founder Cecile Reinaud created this Seraphine nursing and maternity bra while
- Easy nursing access
- Pretty design
- Matching briefs available
- Only two colour options
Best for support
It's important to stay fit and healthy while you're pregnant and breastfeeding, and this
- Great for active mums
- Flexible underwiring
- May not sit well under all outfits
Best for colour choices
Available in three subtle and wearable colours, this fantastic Bravado Body Silk Seamless Sheer
- Three colour options
- Padding is tricky to realign after washing
Best low-back design
This super-soft wire-free Tutti Frutti Nursing Bra support is made from bamboo viscose and memory
- Adjustable to support growing breasts
- Neutral colours
- Pretty design
- Sizing is off – order up
Are maternity bras a necessity?
Looking for the right bra can be time-consuming, but it's important to find one that's supportive, easy to undo when you're about to feed, and still gives you confidence and a good shape under your clothes. They're especially handy when thinking about what to wear in labour and beyond. We know how hard it is to feel like 'yourself' when you have a new baby, but getting the foundations right with a good bra is the first step. You can even find ones that double up as breast pump bras too.
The National Childbirth Trust advises that an ill-fitted bra can cause poor posture, back pain and neck pain, and blocked ducts which can lead to mastitis. So, it is really important to find the right bra for you.
What are the benefits of wearing a maternity bra?
Comfort – Arguably, the most important element of a maternity (or nursing) bra is making yourself comfortable. Wearing the correct bra reduces so many issues, including back pain or strain. Maternity bras are able to provide that little bit extra help when your breasts start to change.
Clips – These provide easy access for feeding time.
Breastfeeding – Nursing bras are essential for new parents who are going to try breastfeeding. Not only do they provide access when feeding or expressing, but they're big enough to fit breast pads – essential for when you're leaking excess milk. They also work well with an electric or manual breast pump.
When is best to start wearing a maternity bra?
As maternity or nursing bras are designed to handle the changing shapes of your breasts, there is no set time for starting to wear a maternity bra. When to buy a maternity bra is up to each individual. However, we recommend looking at purchasing within the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is because they begin to change shape between 8-10 weeks.
We've spent time doing some research on maternity bras so you don't have to - from pretty and feminine to seriously practical, here are the best nursing bras you can buy today. And if you are looking for something a little more racy, we have even included a pregnancy and nursing underwear that's actually sexy.
How do I pick a maternity bra?
We spoke to Felicity Savage, Associate Designer at Bravado Designs, for her tried-and-true shopping guide on maternity and nursing bras.
• There must be a stretch in the cups for your changing breast size during your pregnancy.
• Support in the band should be snug but not uncomfortable because this is where most of the support in your bra comes from. For a daytime bra, look for adjustability in the band, so it can accommodate your expanding rib cage as your tummy grows. If you're wearing a bra at night, go for a band that doesn't have hooks and eyes so that it's flat for comfortable sleep.
• Look for wider straps to help comfortably distribute the weight of your breasts.
For nursing bras specifically, stretch is important, top boxes to tick include:
• Full breast access through a drop-down or pull-away cups for essential skin-to-skin contact with your baby
• Nursing clips that you can unfasten and refasten one-handed are important for when you have a baby in your arms or if you're half asleep.
• Wide bottom band, which is where you will get most of your support.
• A non-underwire design during the first few weeks of breastfeeding, as underwires can lead to clogged milk ducts. You may also prefer a breast pump bra instead.
• Layers in the cup, such as a removable foam insert or a double layer of the fabric, provide a smooth silhouette and nipple discretion.
To determine how well your bra fits you, check for the following:
• This should sit parallel to the floor. If the band rides up in the back, it's too big.
• You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably underneath. If you can fit more than 2 fingers, it's too loose.
• The fabric in the cup should be smooth with adequate coverage. If there is puckering or extra room, it's too big. If the top edge cuts into the breast, it's too small.
• Breast tissue should not spill out of the sides of the bra.
• If the straps are slipping off, they should be tightened, or a smaller cup size may be needed.
• The shoulder straps should anchor the bra without providing support.
• If the straps are digging in, they should be loosened, or a larger cup size may be needed.
Charlotte Duck is an award-winning journalist who's interviewed six Oscar winners, a Greek princess and a Cbeebies presenter. She's written for GLAMOUR, Vogue, Stylist and The Independent during her career, and, though she writes about beautiful children's clothes, her own two children refuse to wear them.