During all of my obsessive pre-delivery planning and prepping and packing, I became completely flustered and distressed while shopping for a nursing bra. I realized that I had no idea what size my boobs were going to be, what kind of bra was going to be comfortable post partum or how many bras I would need.
Pre-pregnancy I always wore foam cupped underwire bras & I usually owned only 3-4 bras at a time. During my pregnancies (2 miscarriages and T man) I couldn't stand to wear an underwire, so I went wireless but kept the foam cups and I had only 2 basic bras during my whole pregnancy (1 nude & 1 black) So ... what kind was I going to like post partum? How was I supposed to know what bras were going to be comfortable? How big were my breasts going to be after my milk comes in? And how many did I need to buy? Why is this so damn hard?!? Argh!!
Let me give you a few guidelines to help you pick the right kind of bra & I'll show you my personal favorites too.
1. Don't spend good money on bras until your milk regulates. Your breasts will be engorged, swollen and hard for several weeks in the beginning. Whatever size bra fits you in those early weeks, it most likely will not fit you after your milk regulates. Pre-pregnancy I was a nice looking D cup, I remained a D cup throughout my pregnancy, then went up to a DD when my milk came in. I remained a DD until approximately 10-12 weeks post partum when I went back down to a (less than nice looking) D cup again. The bras I purchased during those first 3 months just don't fit me any longer.
2. No Underwires! At least not during the early months. These can apply too much pressure causing clogged ducts. You do NOT want a clogged duct! Anything you can do to avoid a clogged duct will be well worth it.
3. Breathable fabrics are the most comfortable & will help you fight thrush. You don't want to trap moisture inside the bra (remember, you're leaking a lot!) so soft cotton cups are best.
4. Speaking of soft cotton cups. Skip the foam cups and lace. I found the lace to be extremely irritating during engorgement and the foam cups are clumsy and bulky to try & get out of baby's way. The soft (granny) style cotton bras will be the easiest to work with while trying to pull out your huge, hard, sore, swollen breast.
5. Make sure you can clip and unclip the nursing latch with one hand. It's very unlikely that you will have 2 hands available to relatch your bra after feeding.
6. Skip the "sleep" bras for now. This style is a wrap bra that requires you to pull the bra to one side & pull out your breast through the center of the bra. In the beginning, this style will apply too much pressure on your breast, increasing your "spray" and is very uncomfortable. Once your milk regulates (12weeks approx.) you should no longer be painfully engorged and can wear this style of bra comfortably.
7. Buy 2-3 bras before baby is born, but wait till your milk comes in to buy any more. Once your milk comes in and you've been wearing the 3 bras you have, you'll be able to make a decision on what style you like & can then buy additional bras for your stock. You're going to want a large stock so that you can always wear a clean bra (yesterdays bra = old milk = bacteria = thrush)
8. Wait to buy your bras until you are about 34-36 weeks prego. This way your breasts will be at their (pregnancy) largest and you will have a basic idea of what size to buy. Go ahead and plan on getting one cup size larger though. Like I mentioned earlier, I was a D cup the entire pregnancy, but was a DD when my milk came in.
I also highly recommend buying several (like 8 or more) nursing tank tops. I lived in these for the first 5 weeks of T mans life =) They are soooo much more comfortable than bras and much MUCH easier to nurse in. I loved how I could be in my nursing tank and yoga pants and feel both comfy & dressed at the same time. Since it was winter time, I just grabbed a hoodie or cardigan to wear with my nursing tank, threw on my jeans and walked out the door. I still wear my tanks to bed since they are so easy & comfortable.