Here are our top choices for new parents, including seamless, underwire, bralette, full coverage and pumping bras.
Editor's note, March 7, 2023: The recommendations provided in this article are out of date and will not be updated going forward. These were the best nursing bras at the time, but you may find some of these options have either changed or are no longer available.
Shopping for a bra that fits right is tricky enough. Now try finding a nursing bra that works with your changing postpartum body -- one that makes it easy to reach your breasts while holding a crying newborn. Like almost everything in your life as a parent, it could take some trial and error before you find the right nursing bra for you. But once you've found the best one, it has the potential to make your days (and long nights) nursing much easier.
Here are the best nursing bras I tested this year. I also include tips on how to choose the right nursing bra for you and when to shop for a nursing bra.
If you're curious, you can check out our picks for the best breast pumps, best baby monitors and best diapers.
This Auden bra offers a great combination of comfort and support -- not as much as a full coverage option but certainly more than a bralette. I'd describe it as a cross between a sports bra and a traditional bra, with a stretchier fabric and removable padding. This was my go-to bra in the later months of pregnancy when I wanted to be comfortable, but still have something with enough support to wear out in public. It was also easy to access for nursing once the baby arrived. Because it's one of Target's lines, it's also a more affordable option.
If you want an underwire option (see more about this below), particularly as you move on from the first months of breastfeeding, the ThirdLove 24/7 Classic Nursing Bra is the closest I found to a traditional bra. This is a good choice for larger-chested people, offering full coverage. I found the gold clasps were slightly more difficult to undo than some of the others on this list, but not terrible. I also don't know the purposes of the pleated straps, but they made it easy to recognize which bra I was grabbing out of my drawer in a sleep-deprived haze.
Larger-busted people looking for more coverage will want to check out this bra from Motherhood Maternity. Similar to the Thirdlove bra above, this is an underwire option that closely resembles a traditional bra, and provides full coverage and more support. making it a good option to wear under tighter clothes. Again, just be aware that some experts advise against wearing underwire bras while nursing, but we know that sometimes you need that support during your nursing journey.
This bralette from Target's Auden collection is simple, comfy and affordable. It's great for everyday wear toward the end of pregnancy and also in the early days when you're mostly at home nursing. There are no clasps or snaps, and you can easily access your breast and stick it back in as needed. It also works as a regular bra under clothes. It's slightly more supportive than other bralettes I've tried, but as some have noted in the online reviews, this isn't the best choice for larger-chested people who need a more structured option. It would also make a good option for a bra to wear while sleeping. Added bonus: It comes in a two pack.
Kindred Bravely maternity products aren't cheap, but in my experience they're worth the investment. This combo nursing and pumping bra was my go-to during an intense time of triple-feeding in order to increase my supply (for the uninitiated, that's a grueling process of nursing/pumping/hand-expressing all day and night). It's easy to throw on over your head without any clasps, and the hooks to access the layer for pumping and then nursing were easy to use -- a major benefit for nighttime feeding and nursing sessions. The pumping portion holds the flanges in place so you can pump hands-free. Despite the extra layer of fabric for pumping, this bra was more comfortable and less lumpy under my clothes than other pumping bras I tried. Kindred Bravely also offers a similar, non-sports bra option, the Sublime Hands-free Pumping & Nursing Bra.
Choosing the best nursing bra for you depends on a few factors: your bust size, your style preferences (like sport, bralette, and hooks versus no hooks) and when you plan to wear it (daytime, nighttime, for exercising or just around the house). You're also going to want something comfortable with a good fit, and that you can maneuver easily. Trust me, you don't want to be fussing with snaps for long when you have a hungry baby on your hands.
So when should you actually buy a nursing bra? Your breasts will often grow larger during pregnancy, but they'll change again once your milk comes in during the days after birth. That means the best time to buy nursing bras is when your baby is at least two weeks old, according to Chrisie Rosenthal, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with the Lactation Network, a company connecting families with free lactation consultations.
If you want to buy a nursing bra while you're pregnant, it's best to wait until you're at least eight months along, Rosenthal said. Most parents tend to prefer a less structured nursing bra for the first few months as your breasts change in size, she added. If you're looking for a more structured option, it's best to wait until your baby is three to four months old, when your supply has been regulated.
The best way to figure out your size is to go to a maternity store and have an employee size you in person, Rosenthal said. If you can't do that, you can take your own measurements with a measuring tape at home. Most sellers provide a size chart to help you out. But a general rule of thumb is to take your pregnancy bra size, then add one cup size and subtract one back size, Rosenthal said.
"The nursing bra should be comfortable, feel supportive, cover your entire breast, and you should be able to undo the clasp easily with one hand," Rosenthal said. "Choose a soft fabric that will stretch with you, as breast size can change throughout the day as well. It shouldn't feel too tight, itchy or irritating."
Some experts, including La Leche League, recommend breastfeeding people avoid underwire bras, as they may put pressure on one area of the breast throughout the day, potentially leading to blocked ducts and mastitis. However, other experts say that this is only a risk if the bra is too tight. I tested some underwire options due to their popularity and availability, but you should proceed with caution there.
Rosenthal recommends buying two to three high-quality nursing bras that you really like. You may need to replace them after a few months if the fabric stops feeling supportive or if your breast size significantly changes.
I had a baby in October 2021, and cycled through these bras for three months as I nursed, pumped and eventually combination-fed. I was a size 36C before pregnancy, and a 36D toward the end and after.
When evaluating each bra, I considered the following:
The above bras (and others that I tested but didn't make the list) were chosen for testing based on top reviews from popular vendors like Amazon and Target, as well as maternity brands like Kindred Bravely and Motherhood Maternity. But there are certainly many other brands that I haven't tested. With clothing, everyone's body is different, and my experience doesn't represent all shapes and sizes. But I hope that it can help lead you to an option that will work for you. Drop a note in the comments about your favorite nursing bra that didn't make the list.