These sizing tips were adopted from Bravado Designs, makers of famous Bravado bras.
Can you believe it - statistics say that 75% of us wear the wrong bra size! And when you’re nursing and your breasts can fluctuate cup sizes in a day (heck – in an hour!), Expressiva and Bravado are here to support you (with your questions and your breasts, that is!), and clear up any confusion about maternity and nursing bra fitting.
First, it's important to understand what breast changes you can expect during pregnancy and nursing. Then, we'll figure out what bra size you should buy. In that way, we'll use your pre-pregnancy bra size and/or your third trimester size to figure out what size you'll be down the line. If you don't have either of those sizes as a starting point, we'll help you find your current size by measuring. Make sure just to use measuring as a double check if you need to: it's as much an art as a science, and we find starting with the bra size that you know works well for you (that is, the size of the last bra you had that fit you well) is the best starting point.
As well, if you need help deciding which styles are best for your needs, we can help with that too! But let's start with the changes you can expect.
As you may already know, one of the earliest physical signs of pregnancy can be breast tenderness. At some point in your pregnancy (often but not always around the second month), breasts will start becoming larger as they prepare to nurse the new arrival. Some women experience this as a feeling of fullness rather than actual increase in size, and others are very aware of needing a larger cup size. Some women will continue to increase in cup size over the course of their pregnancy, and others find they have an increase during their first trimester, and not again until close to the end of their pregnancy. As well, as your belly increases in size, your rib cage (band) measurement will also likely increase. Women who are petite or carrying high will often experience more increase in rib band than women who are taller or carrying low. Overall, in our experience, most women increase one or two cup sizes and one or two rib band sizes over the course of their pregnancy.
Then, for the first few days after giving birth, when you breastfeed, your baby receives colostrum. At around the third day, your milk will ‘come in’. At that point, you can experience an increase of one or two more cup sizes from your third trimester.
Typically after about 6 weeks to a few months of nursing, these fluctuations settle down. You will have established your breastfeeding relationship and routine, and will usually decrease a few cup sizes. As well, around this point, your rib band size will begin to go back to your pre-pregnancy size. This is the size you will likely stay until you finish breastfeeding. That is, at about your pre-pregnancy rib band size, and up one cup size.
Here are some examples to illustrate how your bra size will likely change:
What Size to Buy
Now - let’s look at what size to buy if you are currently in your third trimester, and are purchasing a bra to nurse your baby in. Again, remember each of us is unique so there is a chance this recommendation won’t work for you, but on average, we find it to be a great guide.
Find Your Current Size
If you're not sure of your pre-pregnancy or third trimester bra size to use as a starting point, you can also measure yourself to determine your current size. Here's how:
If your top is thin you can leave it on (but take off any thick layers). Measure yourself with your (unpadded) bra on. Stand straight, relaxed, with your arms down, breathing normally. If you can, measure yourself in front of a mirror, so you can make sure the measuring tape isn’t twisted and that it’s parallel to the floor all the way around. Now, take 3 measurements:
1) Take Your Chest Measurement - Around your chest, right under your arms. This as a snug measurement.
2) Take Your Rib Cage Measurement – Just below your breasts. If you have someone helping measure you, and you are wearing a bra that your breasts are sagging in even a little bit, take your straps and pull up so that your breasts are lifted to where you would like them to be, and then have your friend measure your rib cage. This is also a snug measurement.
3) Take Your Bust Measurement - Across the fullest part of your breasts. As with the previous measurement, if you are wearing a bra that doesn’t position your breasts exactly where you’d like them to be, then hold your bra straps up so your breasts are lifted to their ideal spot, and measure across the fullest part (usually across the nipples). This is a loose measurement.
Now, we’re ready to determine your current size:
1) Take the larger of your chest measurement and rib cage measurements. If you get an odd number, round up. This is your rib band size.
2) Subtract that rib band size from your bust measurement. Every inch is one cup size, so you can count up (1=A, 2=B, 3=C and so on) or use the chart below to find that difference to determine your cup size.
Here are some other examples:
Now that we have a good idea about your current size, we'll need to look at what stage of pregnancy or nursing you are in right now, and what you are buying the bra for to make sure it will work for your current and future needs. Refer above to the breast changes you can expect during pregnancy and nursing, and adjust accordingly. For example, if you just measured yourself in your third trimester, you will want to keep that band size, and go up 1-2 cup sizes for a nursing bra to fit you well when your baby is born.