During pregnancy and when your milk first comes in, you may find your breasts are enlarged. The support of a well-fitting bra can be most welcome. Let comfort be your guide: it is important to avoid a bra that is too tight. A bra that puts too much pressure on your breasts may result in sore breasts due to plugged ducts.

You may chose to wear a specially designed nursing bra, or you could wear the styles they have used before pregnancy.

Bras with under-wiring, or other firm structure, can contribute to blocked ducts and even mastitis so are best avoided in the early months.

You might find that it’s comfortable to wear a bra fairly often during the first 2-6 weeks of breastfeeding. You may experience engorgement, and very heavy breasts as their milk is coming in and becoming established. Also, extra body fluid and blood collects in the breast area to help them get ready for breastfeeding. During that time, wearing a well-fitting bra more often during the day or night might be helpful to give extra support so your breasts don’t become sore in any way. After that time of engorgement, or if you’re more comfortable without a bra, there is no reason why you can’t take it off whenever you want to for sleeping, or during the day. It’s totally up to you and your comfort. If you usually go braless, you do not need to wear one during breastfeeding.

You may have concerns about leaking a lot at night, so this may be another reason why wearing a bra at night might be helpful. In the early weeks, until your milk supply levels out, you may leak quite a bit. Many individuals wear nursing pads during the night to limit the number of clothes that need to be washed due to milk leaking. Wearing a bra holds the pads. Make sure the bra is big enough or stretchy enough to allow for expansion if your breasts fill during the night hours; a bra that is too tight can cause soreness and potential problems such as blocked ducts. If you don’t want to wear a bra, but you’re worried about your breasts leaking overnight, an excellent option is to wear a maternity tank top with a built-in shelf bra to hold your nursing pads in place. Alternative ways to deal with leaking are to have a bath towel, or cloth diaper/spit up cloth in bed with you, so you can grab it whenever necessary. Or lay it under you on your bed to decrease the leaking on your sheets. Doing so may help reduce laundry while you adjust to motherhood – as a new parent, you’ve got plenty of other things to do besides extra laundry, though keeping up with the copious laundry having a newborn brings can be something a support person does for you.

After either a few weeks or a few months those who have experienced leaking often find it reduces greatly, and many stop leaking all together. This usually means that your milk supply is matching your baby’s needs, provided there are no other difficulties. Some people who have large breasts choose to wear a bra almost all the time, simply because it’s more comfortable -it can help with avoiding backache. If this is a concern for you, you might want to consider this.

Published January 2018, minor edits September 2023