I hate bras. They’re like office heels: both should be removed as soon as I get home from work, and neither belong in my weekend wardrobe. Over the years friends and family have suggested my boobs would look “more organised” under a little Lycra, but no undergarment is as comfortable as, well, no undergarment. Then I got pregnant. My boobs were suddenly huge and sore. I found a lightning bolt shaped stretch mark on my right breast (but no letter from Hogwarts). I figured without some kind of mammary magic my braless days were over, but a post-birth visit from a lactation expert gave me (false) hope for a free-boobing future.
“Go braless as much as possible,” she said. “It will help regulate your supply.”
With an enthusiastic fist pump and an exclamation of profanity, I went forth into motherhood unbothered by straps and clasps and itchy elastic — but I soon found going braless postpartum is actually less freeing than it sounds. I wish I’d learned the following five nursing bra lessons before becoming a breastfeeding mom.
- These Bras Are Absolutely Necessary
Despite what that lactation lady said, there is absolutely no way a newly breastfeeding mother can go braless unless she’s comfortable being covered in milk at all times. My first braless night I woke up shivering, my pyjamas saturated with milk so cold it could have come from the fridge. It was a real shame, because the baby was finally sleeping and by the time I changed into some dry clothes he was up again. I would have cried if every ounce of moisture in my body hadn’t already seeped out my nipples.
Braless nights were bad, but braless days were even worse. I was creating unnecessary laundry by drenching every one of my t-shirts (and some of my husband’s). I resumed wearing bras not because I wanted boob support, but because I needed something to absorb my milk before it got down to the couch.
- You Gotta Stuff ‘Em
Absorbent breast pads were not something I’d thought to purchase pre-birth. During pregnancy I’d worried the small breasts my teenage self had considered aesthetically deficient would also be lacking in the lactation department. If I couldn’t fill out a sweater, how would I fill a bottle? But when the kid came so did the milk — and it just didn’t stop. I ended up with an oversupply problem I’d never anticipated. When my sister brought me some absorbent breast pads I laughed my hormonal, postpartum ass off. I finally had the gigantic rack teen me had dreamed of, but I still needed to stuff my bra.
- Wash Them Like You Would a Baby
My husband does most of the laundry in our house, but that doesn’t mean he does it well. He’ll wash dog towels with a dry-clean only suit and toss it all in the dryer, care instructions be damned. Obviously, his results vary — and I probably should not have trusted him with the first nursing bra I bought. I don’t know what the store clerk thought of us when she exchanged my clearly used, shrunken, discoloured bra for a brand new one, but I do know my (embarrassed) husband and I were grateful for her kindness and her laundry tips.
- You Get What You Pay For
After the laundry incident I decided to get some less expensive nursing bras — just in case they ended up in the dryer again. But the BOGO bra deal I found at the same store where I buy cat litter turned out to be too good to be true. Inside a month the two low cost bras were literally coming apart at the seams. The cheap material was tearing faster than my labia did.
- Size Matters
To be fair, the bras weren’t just ripping because they were cheap — they were also way, way too small. Having spent most of my life in the A to small B cup zone, I underestimated my post-baby boobs as a C cup, and since I wasn’t shopping in the kind of places that do fittings, my best guess was all I had to go on. I realised I needed professional help after spending a few weeks trying to discreetly rearrange my bra whenever my leaky nipples popped up over the top of the cup. I usually started tucking and twisting too late — the a wet spot already blooming on my shirt, stealing the eye contact of those around me.
After a lot of tears (and even more laundry) I ended up in a fitting room at a fancy bra store with a cold fingered lady armed with a tape measure. I left the store wearing a very expensive nursing bra in a triple D cup, totally unable to comprehend how my breasts (and the price of proper nursing bras) could be so inflated.
Fast forward a few months and my son is now getting teeth and eating real food, so I’ve quit breastfeeding. I’ve given away my fancy nursing bra and my breasts are dry, but sometimes I still catch myself checking for leaks when I’m out in public. I may not be an expert, but I offer this advice to every pregnant person who plans to breastfeed: start saving up for a bra now, always wash it yourself, and never, ever let anyone tell you to go braless.
About the Author
Heather Marcoux lives in Canada with her new son, her husband, two cats, two dogs and an overworked Roomba. A former TV journalist turned freelance writer, she’s written extensively for pet publications and follows all the famous dogs. She’s got a Facebook page and an active Twitter addiction.