The 18 Best Nursing and Pumping Bras of 2022
If you’re considering breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to invest in a nursing bra or two. But there are so many options, and it’s hard to know which ones will be best for you. Here’s everything you need to know about nursing bras, including our picks for the best ones out there.
What is a nursing bra? How does it differ from a pumping bra?
Simply put, nursing bras allow for easy feeding or pumping access thanks to special features like cups that clip down or a V-shaped front that can easily be pulled away. Nursing bras look fairly similar to your everyday bras and come in just as many different styles and colors. Some have underwire, but more commonly, they look more like a yoga or sports bra (more on this later!).
Pumping bras, on the other hand, hold breast pump flanges in place while you’re pumping thanks to special openings in the fabric. If you want to multitask, these bras allow you to use your pump hands-free — a big win! If you have a wearable pump, though, you can just use a traditional nursing bra.
Benefits of using a nursing bra
For most people, nursing bras are the easiest way to breastfeed or pump — you just unclip and pull out a boob, which can be challenging to do if you’re wearing a regular bra. “For most moms, nursing bras provide great comfort,” says Amy Peterson, an international board certified lactation consultant. “When milk supply increases, your breasts become heavy. It can be uncomfortable to not harness them,” she explains. Nursing bras are specifically designed to do just that: provide extra support when you need it most.
The best nursing bras also prevent leaking. “Sometimes just walking around and having the weight of the breasts moving with gravity can cause a let-down,” explains Peterson. If you use nursing pads, a nursing bra also holds those in place, helping to absorb leaks even more effectively.
Types of nursing and pumping bras
There are a few types of nursing bras. Here are the main ones to know about:
- Clip-down bras: These nursing bras have cups that you can unclip when it’s time to feed, giving baby easy access and skin-to-skin contact. It’s a good idea to pick one that you can clip and unclip one-handed so you can hold your little one while doing it. Clip-down bras come in all styles and designs: with or without underwire, seamless, sports bras — you name it.
- Dedicated pumping bras: These bras are meant to make your pump hands-free by holding it in place against your body. This is done by inserting the flanges into slits in the fabric around your nipple. Dedicated pumping bras are usually not meant to be used for nursing.
- Nursing-and-pumping bras: These are all-in-one bras that combine the magic of nursing and pumping bras in one style. In addition to clip-down cups, these bras also have inserts to attach your pump flanges to your nipples. These are game-changers for moms who both nurse and pump, since you can wear one bra all day without needing to change.
- Sleep bras: Because your breasts are so heavy when you’re breastfeeding, you may want to sleep with a nursing bra on, too. “A lot of moms will choose to have a sleeping bra to provide support and to hold those nursing pads into place,” says Peterson. Nursing sleep bras usually have a V-neck, criss-cross style so you can easily slide a boob out at night. They’re not usually meant to provide enough support to wear all day.
How to choose the best nursing or pumping bra for you
The most important thing when it comes to picking a nursing or pumping bra is sizing. Of course, there’s one big problem: during pregnancy and immediately postpartum, your breast size changes. A lot.
“There’s two pretty accurate windows for buying nursing bras,” says Peterson. “The first is when you’re about 7½ to 8½ months pregnant. At that time, your body’s carrying a lot of excess fluids. … That’s a pretty good ballpark measurement of how big your breasts will be [when your milk comes in],” she says.
The second window is six to eight weeks after your baby is born and your milk supply starts regulating. “By six weeks or so, your milk supply starts regulating,” says Peterson. “Everything gets a little softer, more like pre-pregnancy. But they’re still larger than they were before you got pregnant.”
The best way to determine your size is to get fitted in person by someone at a maternity store who understands lactating breasts, but if you can’t get away (being at home with a newborn makes that hard!) or prefer to order online, Peterson recommends using the sizing chart provided by the brand you’re looking at, rather than a general size chart. “General instructions are good, but sometimes the brand will have suggestions that are gonna make their bras fit better for you.”
After you’ve figured out your size, consider your other needs. For example, if you’ll be pumping frequently, a nursing/pumping combo bra might be best. You’ll also want to look into comfort, as you’ll most likely be wearing these bras all day, every day. This might be a reason you choose a seamless, rather than underwire, style.
Once you’ve got your size and priorities down, you’ll probably want to invest in three or four bras, so you can keep up with laundry (also hard with a newborn).
How we chose the best nursing and pumping bras
To find the best nursing and pumping bras, we paid close attention to Peterson’s suggestions for what to look for in a bra, from support, to style, to specific features. We then compared her expert tips against the bras that moms in the What to Expect community rave about, as well as what we know from personal experience. (As a busty mom who nursed two kids for 12 and 10 months, respectively, and has a third on the way, I’ve tested a lot of nursing bras.)
The result: A list of great nursing and pumping bras designed to make the experience easier and more enjoyable. Here are our picks for the best nursing and pumping bras on the market now.