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Experts share their tips for choosing the right maternity bra — plus 13 styles to shop

Give your chest a comfortable, supportive refuge.
Kanawa_Studio / Getty Images

Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, expensive and emotionally draining — especially for your breasts. The right bra during any trimester can make a difference in your overall well-being, and maternity and nursing bras are some of the best options to support your chest when they're sagging, feeling heavy and swollen.

Maternity bras can be an alleviating solution to various pregnancy woes, but finding a smooth bra that can support heavy breasts while you're pregnant or breastfeeding can be a daunting search. That's why we reached out to bra experts to share their tips and product recommendations when it comes to switching your daily bra for a maternity one.

Best bras to wear during pregnancy | When should I switch to a maternity bra? | How do you determine maternity bra sizes? | Maternity bras vs. nursing bras | Maternity bras to shop | Nursing bras to shop | Meet the experts

What are the best bras to wear during pregnancy?

It's all about comfort when it comes to choosing the right maternity bra. For Colleen Leung, director of design and fit at Adore Me, the best bra will depend "on a number of factors, including what stage of pregnancy you are in, your level of comfort and how much your body is changing."

Maternity bras are designed to grow with you during your pregnancy. Therefore, you should focus on finding one that provides comfort, gentle support and adjustability around your body.

According to Journelle CEO Sapna Palep, bras with skin-friendly fabrics like cotton are necessary for your pregnancy. While you don't really need to change your size during the first trimester, Palep recommends switching to a bralette during the second and third trimesters. "This is the period when women's breasts start changing and start retaining water, so you need a comfortable fabric to allow lymphatic drainage in that area," she notes.

"As a dermatologist, we're trying to move toward more skin-friendly lace and fabrics," says Palep. "A lot of the maternity bras are bralettes, so when you're growing and expanding, you need to avoid underwires during the period of growth and wear bras that protect your nipples since that area is preparing for breastfeeding."

When should I switch to a maternity bra?

You can wear your regular bras during the first trimester, but Leung suggests choosing the most comfortable bra styles that have additional stretch in the cup area.

In the second trimester, the body starts to change more visibly. "You may need to go up a band size. Your breasts may also feel tender and sensitive and start to grow in size. You'll want to go towards softer fabrics and smooth cup styles for any nipple sensitivity," adds Leung.

Once you get to the third trimester, Leung suggests opting for stretchy, wire-free styles that offer adjustability in the back in case you need to loosen your band during the day. "Bralettes with wider straps made of softer materials, like cotton or modal, are great options," she recommends.

Jennifer Zuccarini, founder and CEO of Fleur du Mal, also advises getting bras with soft cups. "You can really wear any bra style while you’re pregnant, but cups that have some stretch might be more comfortable and accommodating with fluctuating cup sizes."

How do you determine maternity bra sizes?

Most bras have standard sizes and can become difficult for women to find the proper fit. Leung recommends going up either one band size and one cup size if you like to wear your bra loose around the chest. (For example, if you're a 36C, go to a 38C.)

As for Zuccarini, she suggests "[going] up one band size and two cup sizes, but this can really vary from person to person. The best [method] is to measure yourself and see what your new size is."

What is the difference between a maternity bra and a nursing bra?

Most regular bras can double as maternity bras, but a nursing bra comes with different features. According to Leung, a good maternity bra "should hit the above points and be comfortable and supportive without being too constricting."

"A maternity bra is generally designed to give you more size flexibility throughout your pregnancy," mentions Zuccarini. Technically, the comfort level and materials used in maternity bras are meant to provide functionality, comfort and support.

On the other hand, nursing bras have cups that open from the top of the strap and provide an easier breastfeeding experience for you and the baby. "A nursing bra also needs to account for the weight and volume of the breast changing throughout the day and night," says Leung.

Best maternity bras

Natori Bliss Perfection Racerback Day Bra

You won't have to deal with hooks when you wear this racerback bra. It's extremely soft and "supremely supportive" for those days you need comfort. The bra has lace details on the bottom and a pull-aside design that adds functionality throughout your pregnancy, but what makes it more comfortable are the flat elastics that won't dig into your skin.

True & Co. Women's True Body Triangle Convertible Strap Bra

This smooth True & Co. bra is perfect if you will be wearing it for hours. The design does not feature hooks and has adjustable straps that you can wear crisscross. It's made from soft microfiber and has removable pads so your breasts can take a breather. Also, the wire-free construction will make your life easier when you need light support and coverage.

"I’m pregnant and changing sizes... often. So this bra being flexible enough to handle me at a range is saving me from buying 5 other bras," said one buyer.

The So Easy Bra 2.0: Shell

You'll be hooked to this bra the moment you put it on. The design is made from a buttery-soft fabric that provides enough stretch and a non-compressive shape that looks good under any shirt. This bra is perfect for your pregnancy, especially starting the second trimester. According to the brand, the design feels like a bralette thanks to the subtle support and pull-down design for easy nursing access.

"Comfortable bra for both pregnancy and postpartum. Soft material, and great that it has no latch/snap, so convenient!!" shared one buyer.

Spacedye Criss Crossover Maternity Nursing Bra

A lightweight, breathable and functional bra is a must when it comes to nursing and carrying extra weight on your breasts. This one is made with an ultra-soft Spacedye fabric that guarantees protection and comfort. It's designed to easily pull down the cup for nursing, but it also covers your chest without the extra compression.

"I love the quality and the fit of this bra. Especially with my hormones being crazy, it's hard to find stuff that fits my full chest and my petite frame," shared one customer.

Proof Stay Dry Comfort Bra

Sweaty bras will be a thing of the past when you wear this wireless design. The bra wicks away sweat, offers smooth support and features a removable insert for customizable coverage. With seamless construction and buttery-soft fabric, this bra will keep you dry on warm days. The combination of nylon and spandex will keep you cool and dry while fighting boob sweat.

Customers rave about how comfortable this bra is to wear at night. "I love this everyday bra so much! I even forget that I'm wearing it sometimes. It's very comfortable and the fabric is buttery soft."

Talco Maternity Nursing Bralette

For a more feminine fit, this maternity bralette will make you feel comfortable and confident all day long. The bra is beautifully constructed with a soft fabric and features clip-on/clip-off nursing straps for accessible nursing. The design is versatile and will give future moms the added support they need.

"While I admit it's on the pricier side, this is the only bra I can stand wearing the whole day while pregnant," said one verified buyer.

Best nursing bras

Quince Seamless Maternity & Nursing Bra

This Quince nursing bra includes knit-in support zones around the cup for easy lift and a wireless structure that provides full coverage. Also, the bra extenders will become essential when you need some leverage on days when your breasts are swollen.

"Absolutely love this nursing bra for something that's more structured yet doesn't have any wires! It's really smooth material, comfortable, and the clips are easy to manipulate one-handed," shared one buyer.

Reversible Sleep Lounge Nursing Bra

For the mom that needs extra space and easy nursing access, this lounge bra is a solid solution. The racerback design is made from a modal-spandex blend fabric to keep you cool and dry. You can wear it with your favorite shirt or around your home when you're breastfeeding. Also, this one will expand when your breast size is evolving.

Buyers said this one is spacious enough and comfy for sleeping and "a perfect sleep bra" that provides easy nursing access.

Sublime Adjustable Crossover Nursing & Lounge Bra

This pullover bra has strong ratings for its stretchy, soft and functional design. The bra comes with removable padding to maintain a smooth shape, and the crossover design is great for nursing access. The bra is made of a ribbed fabric and has a simple crossover design to pull the cups to the side with ease.

"I sized up one from my usual to account for postpartum rib flare and it has been so comfortable. Comfortable enough to sleep in and love the easy access to be able to nurse my daughter," said one customer.

Lively The Nursing Bralette Bundle

To support body fluctuations and changes, opt for a bralette that will feel soft against your skin. This bra features drop-down cups for easy feeding, a supportive inner sling, sturdy straps and a wide band for ultimate comfort. According to customers, this bra is extremely soft, breathable and functional even during labor.

Whether you're full of milk or not, this bra still fits perfectly according to buyers. One customer said her bra fits comfortably. "These fluctuations have made it a challenge to find a bra that fits around me and is large enough for my bust."

The Everyday Nursing Bra

This bra will accommodate any mom's busy life thanks to the design. The nursing bra features a one-handed clasp that is easy to unhook with one hand while you're holding your baby with the other hand. Additionally, it comes with a J-hook that attaches to the back for a racerback fit. You can also add extra shield with an Anti-Leakage Pad.

According to buyers, this bra stretches to accommodate any changing size and one said "the cotton is gentle for those breastfeeding mama nips and best of all great for folks with sensitive skin."

Negative Silky Nursing Bra

Whether you're pregnant or in the postpartum stage, this silky bra will give your nipples the comfort they need. While customers note that it's important to size up as the band of this bra can be a bit tight, its greatest feature is that the fabric is thin and soft enough for your nipples. You can also add 100 percent cotton inserts to absorb leakage, per the brand's recommendation. The style comes in three neutral tones that will match most of your wardrobe.

"Functionally, I love this bra because the silky material is like a second skin that doesn’t chafe your nipples and stays dry. On top of that, the sleek design makes you feel a little more like yourself before pregnancy which can make a real difference!" added one verified buyer.

Cosabella Ceylon Modal Curvy Nursing Bra

When your breasts have passed the first trimester, you'll most likely need something with more support. This nursing bra is created with a cozy modal fabric and slinged cups for accessible breastfeeding. This one features Ceylon chevron lace for a luxury feel and non-padded cups that are easy to clip on and off. One reviewer said this bra sent her "boobs into another atmosphere" and another buyer raved about how supportive this nursing bra is: "Finally a nursing bra that feels normal and looks nice."

Meet the experts

  • Colleen Leung is the director of technical design and fit at Adore Me, a brand offering fun intimates, lingerie, sleepwear, loungewear, swimwear and more.
  • Jennifer Zuccarini is the founder and CEO of Fleur du Mal, a luxury brand offering ready-to-wear pieces, lingerie and beyond.
  • Dr. Sapna Palep is a dermatologist and the CEO of Journelle, a multi-brand retailer and leading online destination of luxury lingerie with over 100 curated brands known for helping customers find the perfect fit.