How to corral the boobs for style and ease of access?
April 15, 2012 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Magestically breasted nursing mums: help me dress my new body.

Baby brambory is now a month old and breastfeeding like a champ. We've both taken to feeding with no big problems and all seems to be going really well. However, my boobs have blossomed/ballooned to a very grand 34G and I'm at a bit of a loss on how to deal with them.

1. What style of tops should I be looking for that will be flattering for my postpartum body and still easy for feeding? Any specific brands that you found to be especially good?

2. Are night bras any good? Where can I find some in my size? Is there something else I could wear to keep breast pads in place? (I'm currently wearing my normal nursing bras to bed, but I'm getting tired of the straps and various hard bits digging in during the night. Going bra-less would be grand, but me, the bed, and the baby would wake up drenched in milk).

3. Are underwire bras really as evil as my health visitor would lead me to believe?

4. Will my boobs return to their usual large-but-manageable-size after we wean him?

Any other tips and tricks for dressing for breastfeeding would be greatly appreciated!

I'm in the UK, but any US specific advice would be fine too as I can pass it along to my also well-endowed pregnant friend there.
posted by brambory to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
3. Maybe. They can lead to plugged armpit ducts, which are pretty awful and uncomfortable. I avoid them but still wear an underwire by not feeding the baby with them on and not going too long without nursing/pumping with them on. It was much easier after month 3.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:13 AM on April 15, 2012

Wrap dresses and wrap shirts. I preferred to undress to the side, rather than expose my muffin/gateau top.
posted by taff at 5:18 AM on April 15, 2012

My friend swears by Egg breastfeeding gear.
posted by analog at 5:42 AM on April 15, 2012

I was told that as long as you are vigilant for the early signs of plugged ducts, underwire bras are fine. I've worn them the whole time I've been nursing (11 months now!) with no problems at all, as going underwire-less wasn't really feasible. I also live in wrap tops and dresses, with some cowl neck shirts thrown in. Extremly large cowl necks seem to be in fashion right now, so they are easy to find, as as I've always been a haul-the-boobs-up-and-out nurser, they work great. Also, if your US friend is interested, Target currently has wrap top t-shirts for $10 which are great for nursing and they look professional enough to wear under cardigans for work, which is a nice bonus.

Also, congrats on the baby and the awesome nursing relationship!
posted by girl scientist at 5:42 AM on April 15, 2012

I've worn underwire the entire 10 months so far without problem. Also, at night? I just wear a towel around my top. I do have to deal with a little bit of leakage, especially on the blessed nights young Master Tootsalot sleeps through the night, but I despise wearing a bra to bed. I do have some "around the house" bras that do little in terms of support, they just hold pads in place. If I had to, I'd wear those.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 5:59 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In terms of dressing to nurse, I do a thin stretchy tank under a buttoned cardigan or a sweater, but any two layers will do. Pull one up, pull the other one down, voila, a nipple. For bras I just leave one of my bra straps off my shoulder, on the side that I'll be nursing with. It gives me a great one-boob-high effect but it's much cheaper than buying nursing bras at my size (we are size twins, high five!)
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:02 AM on April 15, 2012

Best answer: Baby is one month? You may well have a...significant deflation in your near future. Leaking and engorgement are hassles of the early days -- there is a wide variation of normal for the duration of "early days" but

It is normal for a mother’s breasts to begin to feel less full, soft, even empty, after the first 6-12 weeks... The feeling of fullness (sometimes even engorgement) that nursing mothers notice during the early weeks of breastfeeding is really not the norm at all, but means that mom’s breasts haven’t yet adjusted to the amount of milk that baby needs. At some point, typically around 6-12 weeks (if a mom has oversupply it may take longer), your milk supply will begin to regulate and your breasts will begin to feel less full, soft, or even empty. via

...thus my advice is to NOT stock up on bras or tops at only 1mo postpartum. I've been through a terrific range of sizes, nursing, before settling on one for any good length of time, and have gone from D to A without weaning. It may take a bit but you are probably not going to wrestle with 'very grand' and the resulting clothing conundrums for more than a few months.

I liked button-down shirts; not very exciting, fashion-wise, but not hideous, and they're comfy and forgiving for lumpy tummies and big breasts. As for nighttime -- have you tried sleeping on a waterproof mat, the sort they sell for bedwetting tots? (I ran a heater for a bit to avoid the need for a blanket on the top half...)

Much reading of int'l parenting boards has given me the idea that a good number of the UK's 'health visitors' could not be giving out worse breastfeeding advice; though the cautions against underwire are widespread, the "I did and had no problems" (I did and ditto) anecdata is also widespread.

The two-layer dressing rope-rider describes works well. I did not at any point see a company selling nursing tops I wanted anything to do with -- there are some howlers out there, pullovers with zippers over the nips, and it seemed like every bit of nursingwear was made from the same dismally cheap, sweat-inducing, easy-pill rayon/viscose/"bamboo rayon" sorts of fibres, totally unacceptable given the higher prices of most of it.
posted by kmennie at 6:11 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

For sleep I took this bra and cut down the middle of the front but not through the band. I sewed on a large hook and eye to keep the two sides together and just unhooked it to nurse. Goddess bras were pretty good for me (40GG when NOT nursing).

Seconding wrap tops and dresses.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:42 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

This recent Metafilter thread contains a lot of recommendations for bras, including nursing bras, for the larger-chested.

In particular, Anita nursing bras were recommended a couple times.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:49 AM on April 15, 2012

I also like Layne Bryant bras for comfort at night.
The easiest nursing tops I used (for daytime) were a simple tank, cut off at midriff with a button-down shirt worn over it. It didn't look like a "nursing top" but it worked great for me.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 7:29 AM on April 15, 2012

I wore underwires while nursing both kids & had no problems. Nothing else provided enough support to be comfortable.

At night I slept in a tank top with a built-in shelf bra. It was tight enough to hold the nursing pads in place and low-cut enough that I would just pull it down when we needed to nurse. I also put a towel under me.
posted by belladonna at 8:33 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife swears by the Bravado nursing bras and tanks. She bought like 8 tanks and wears them under button up shirts and drapey cardigans (bonus, these can double as a nursing cover.)
posted by Jacob G at 9:07 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do a lot of nursing tanks + shirt + cardigan. Loose shirts over the tank or nursing bra work well -- they're easy to pull up. However, I do not need a lot of support, although my boobs are larger than they were. My friend with a generous bust tried the nursing tank thing for a year before deciding that, nope, her boobs are just too big. She now goes with the low-cut shirt + high octane nursing bra option, and just hauls the boob out over the top.
posted by linettasky at 9:21 AM on April 15, 2012

The Japanese Weekend Crossover nursing tops (sleeves, sleeveless) were the gold standard for me - easy access with a lot of privacy, pretty enough that I could wear a black one with a satin skirt as part of a formal outfit and not feel stupid (the pics I linked to really don't do them justice), and machine washable. Plus they have great stretch, so they can work as you lose the weight. They're a bit pricey, but really worth it.
posted by Mchelly at 10:10 AM on April 15, 2012

Best answer: Dressing for nursing:
I found what worked best for me was to wear a cheapy, stretchy-strapped tank top underneath a t-shirt. I could pull the tee up while leaving the tank to cover my stomach, and only expose as much boob as necessary for baby to eat. My tanks of choice were the $3 ones from the Forever21+ section. (I was right on the cusp of regular size vs plus size, and the 1x from F21+ worked really well for me.)

Some people will likely recommend button-ups as a good nursing shirt, and I will never, ever understand this as I wasn't able to wear them pre-baby due to gaps between the buttons and cannot FATHOM trying to find one to fit me now. Basic cotton or cotton-spandex t-shirts were the best for ease-of-nursing and ease-of-laundry. Because there is a lot of laundry at that age.

I also couldn't wear nursing tanks with a built-in bra because my boobs were too big, and they didn't have enough support as compared to an actual nursing bra. Your mileage may vary, but they weren't a good solution for me.

Regarding bras:
I had the best luck with the Panache Sophie bra, but take a look at the fitting recommendations as that style seems to run small in the cup. (I had to get a 36J!)

I really, really wanted an underwire nursing bra, but I had an absolutely wretched time trying to find a semi-stylish one that also came in my gargantuan size, and I finally gave up and got the Panache one and just lived with it.

Early on, I had three of the Bravado Original Nursing bras in Double-Plus on rotation 24/7, and they were comfortable to sleep in. They wear out pretty quickly and turn into shapeless boob sacks with no elastic in the cups, but I think if you replaced them frequently they could be a good sleep bra for you.

Regarding boob size:
The thing I was most terrified about pre-pregnancy was my boobs (34DDD at the time) getting even more outrageous. It happened (see above re: 36J), and after nursing for two years and then weaning they are down to about a 34H. So, yes, they are still bigger, and they're a little more... deflated? shape-wise? But they did come down eventually. You might be one of the lucky ones that goes back to your pre-pregnancy size, but it's hard to predict either way.
posted by meggan at 12:15 PM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not gigantic-chested (prob a B/C pre-pregnancy, and now a C/D) but I love sleep bras. I have a couple of this bra and wear them at night, during the day, all the time. So far I am getting by on the maternity shirts I already had which have criss-cross/wrap-style tops, and I am on the lookout for more. I don't know anything about the rest of your questions, my little one is only 2.5 weeks old.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:48 PM on April 15, 2012

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