If you’re pregnant, I guarantee the world is trying to sell you stuff: maternity clothes, body pillows, stretch-mark prevention cream. While many products are truly useful (hey, body pillow), some will languish in your cabinet forever (hello, stretch-mark cream). Let’s tackle one oft-advertised item right now — bras. Do you really need a maternity bra? Or is this one pregnancy expense you can do without?
The short answer is — it depends on your boobs. As Parents magazine noted, women who find themselves adjusting the straps on a normal bra 30 times a day would probably benefit from a maternity bra. So would women who crave that extra support, or who feel uncomfortable in their regular brand. Basically, if your boobs are screaming for help during pregnancy or the postpartum period, it’s time to invest in a maternity bra or three. But if your boobs aren’t screaming, don’t be swayed by aggressive advertising. Instead, enjoy the peace and quiet (and savings).
“Moms don’t actually need any special type of bra. Any bra that provides support and makes mom feel comfortable is fine,” explains Renee Palting, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) with Mindful Lactation, in an interview with Romper. For Palting, a comfortable fit means your bra band shouldn’t ride up beneath your breasts, and straps shouldn’t slide down your shoulders, or worse, dig into them. In addition, cups should hold you without spill-over or gaps. If you’re not having any of those problems, there’s no need to spend extra money on a specialty product. In fact, Palting says some earthy mamas might choose to skip a bra entirely, opting for shelf camisoles or plain camisoles instead.
According to Baby Center, maternity bras differ from regular bras in having wider straps, a soft lining, and extra hooks and eyes for added support. Most of the time, these bras also skip the underwire, in a nod to added pregnancy sensitivity. Of course, you can find regular bras with all these features, noted Baby Center. And chances are, bras without the maternity label will be cheaper.
“If you buy a ‘maternity’ bra, you will spend more,” says Jené Luciani, bestselling author of The Bra Book, in an email interview with Romper. “You can get a great stretchy bra with foam cups for around $30 or less.” This is an especially good idea for first-time moms who aren’t sure how much their breasts will grow and change. Over the course of a pregnancy, says Luciani, you can expect a lot of fluctuation, and some women will go up as much as two cup sizes — another reason not to bet the farm on one super expensive maternity bra.
Is a maternity bra worth it if it doubles as a nursing bra? Maybe, maybe not. Some women love their nursing bras, but others (myself included) find them unnecessary. A blogger at Organic Baby Atlanta argued that you can nurse around a regular stretchy bra or sports bra just as well. Alternatively, breastfeeding mamas can absolutely skip the bra altogether. During both pregnancy and breastfeeding, chances are your breasts will be superhumanly self-supporting and perky. As Luciani explains, if you’re nursing, your main concern should be buying a bra that doesn’t chafe or fit too tightly, because that can lead to mastitis or a clogged milk duct.
Industry experts generally recommend buying three maternity bras, which cost about $45 each. All told, that means you’re spending $135 on boob support, or enough to take your partner and your pregnant self out for a fancy dinner. Only you can prevent forest fires, and only you know if you really need a maternity bra in your life. For women who feel uncomfortable in regular bras, it’s money well spent. But if you’re OK right now, or think you could get by in a soft foam number from Target, don’t let advertising convince you otherwise.