Nursing bras are a must if you are nursing. Yes. But they are, for the most part, ugly. So ugly, in fact, that prior to having a kid, I almost decided not to nurse given the ugliness of the bras. (My priorities were slightly different then. In my defense, my childless, unmarried friends supported this line of thinking.) I did get over the nursing bra ugliness after the little man was born -- I must have been distracted by, OH I DON'T KNOW, the pain meds, constipation meds, hormonal skin, dark circles, the hospital's granny panties, ginormous maxi pads, a still-huge but now jelly-like belly, the total lack of sleep, and oh yeah - the BABY. To say the least. But at some point, I started to care. And that time was last summer.
Summer, usually a time of tank tops and halters, was the first time I realized how ugly the ugly nursing bra dilemma truly was. While winter clothes safely hid my ugly nursing bras, summer clothes did not. I was faced with 3 choices:
1. Who cares! Show off the ugly nursing bra with pride! You are giving sustenance to a new life! You are Earth Mother! (Hint: I did not pick this option)
2. Buy all new summer wardrobe that safely hides nursing bra (Hint: My husband was opposed to this option)
3. Find a nursing bra that works with existing summer clothes.
Yes, Number 3 was the winner. But easier said than done. In order to wear your existing summer clothes of camis, strapless dresses and deep v-necks, you need to find a nursing bra that is either hidden (aka strapless) or has straps and cups that can show without looking matronly or too bra-like. Obviously, white or nude nursing bras will not work (both are too bra-like). Here are my picks for the best nursing bras for summer:
The Best of the Best
I can't say enough about the French Lace Nursing Bra from Bella Materna, $120 (UPDATED Dec, 2010 - this bra, for some reason, is now being sold for $66! Yay!!) This bra has a lactation-consultant-approved underwire, is quick drying and durable, is very comfortable and just plain beautiful. The color is perfect, and the lace on the straps go far enough down the back to allow the straps to peek out under a tank or cami (see picture above right). It's the priciest option, but one that you can wear with virtually anything. This is my nursing bra MVP. I just bought another for this summer with their coupon code MOM2009. It'll give you 20% off.
Sizing note: The smallest cup size they sell is a C, but I found that the cup size will fluctuate a bit depending on the rib size you choose. So my 32C (recently purchased) has a smaller cup size than my 34C (originally purchased a year ago).
Another Beautiful Option....
Above is the Condessa Lace Bra, $55. The key with the Condessa Lace bra is color. In addition to my three favorites shown above (Rapturous Grape, Seductive Sunset and Enticing Turquoise), this bra also comes in really great red, black, blush pink and a soft mocha color. The straps are a little bit bra-like, but the fact that the color is so unexpected makes it OK. The bra opens in the front for nursing, the snaps hidden by Pearl buttons. My only complaint is that the cup itself hits higher on the chest than the Bella Materna bra, so when wearing low cut tanks or camis more of the cup will show. But it's a beautiful bra. This site offers free shipping and 10% off if you order $60 or more (use code D2008).
If a Little Less Support is OK....
I love the Essential Basic Bra from the Gap, $20. It's cheap, and while it's not a nursing bra, you can slip a strap down pretty easily - they are both stretchy enough and cheap enough to replace when they wear out. The key with this option is the fact that they will give you the layered look under a tank or cami. Because they look more like tank tops and less like a bras, even a white color would be OK. Be warned - they don't give great support. If you are still rockin' the super heavy new-mom-porn-star-boobs, you might want to skip this option. Flaunt those babies in something lacy while you can. I'm told it gets pretty ugly post-nursing. I think the descriptor was "tube socks". (shudder)
Too Good To Be True? A Strapless Nursing Bra?
Yes. Too good to be true. Kudos to our friends at LLLI for trying, and I'm glad my little test only set me back $21, but in the future, on the rare occasions that I need to both nurse and wear something strapless, I'll just wear a regular strapless bra. You get much more support, and it's actually easier to lift your boob out of a regular strapless bra then wrench the top of this bra over your milk-filled boobs, where it will then squeeze the top of them, causing milk to squirt everywhere, and then to replace the top of the bra without whipping your entire dress down. Talk about looking like an amateur.