"I'm expecting my first child very soon and am feeling very calm about nearly everything birthing and parenting related. My anxiety is completely centered around picking the right nursing bra. Sizes, styles, stores... I'm stymied! Please opine at length."
"At length"? Ah, you know me too well.
Now, lingerie is such a personal thing. So what I'm going to recommend (with the exception of buying one or two Bravados ahead of time, which seems to be universally recommended) is just my opinion, based on the limited number of different nursing bras I've tried. My advice is coming from a woman who started out a C-cup before pregnancy, went up to a DD (and up one band size) by the end of pregnancy, was an E for a few days when my milk came in, and then was a DD for the first 9 months of nursing. I went down to a D (and back to my original band size) by 9 months post-partum and then back down to my original C by 18 months or so of nursing. I sincerely hope that others comment with their opinions so we can get some more data points from women with different sized breasts.
I would buy one or two Bravado bras right now to have when you deliver. Bravados are kind of a stretchy sports-bra style that fits a range of sizes, so you can order the size you are in your 8th month and know it'll fit you when you deliver. I liked my Bravados because they were extremely comfy and gave me enough support for everyday activities. However, I did not find that I could open and close them with one hand--the band was too stretchy for that. What that meant was that I wore them a lot at home, but not out when I'd need to open and close smoothly in public or in front of my FIL. I wore them so much I ended up throwing one of them away last month after 40 or so months of use (with two different kids), when it finally gave up the ghost. Bravado's not the perfect bra, but it's a good one to have on hand to carry you through the first few weeks until your size settles down and you can think about ordering or buying another few.
An aside: I never could have managed with 2 bras. They tell you you should have one on and one in the wash, but come on. Who's washing bras when you've got garments full of spit-up to wash first? I think 4 is probably a reasonable minimum number of bras for someone who nurses for more than 6 weeks.
I also have a few Playtex Expectant Moments bras, which win hands-down in the dumbest name category. They are very easy to open and close with one hand. I have the older style with woven cotton cups so they don't stretch much. I got them on sale, so I'm fine with them, but they're not the first bras I reach for. Maybe the stretch cup style is better, but this style was just kind of eh. I'd wear them when I knew I'd need to open and close smoothly with one hand, though.
My favorite nursing bras for every day are actually the cheap bras I bought at Target (I'm positive I used to be able to find them on the website, but I can find them now). They range in price from $12 to $17, and I've liked most of the styles I've tried. They don't last forever, and if you wash them in the machine you risk losing an underwire, but I don't think you can beat them for the intersection of price, comfort, and style.
I have two nursing tanks from Target, which are OK, but they're way too short and run extremely small. I'll probably buy a nursing tank or two from Motherwear to see if they run a little longer (the ones from Target ride up like crazy). Wearing a tank under another shirt turns that shrt into a nursing shirt, because you've got the tank layer covering your tummy. This is key for those of us who live in cold climates.
That's all I've got. Anyone else? Smaller-breasted women? Other larger-breasted women? I'm due for some new bras myself and could use recommendations. Sign in with your size, favorites, and least favorites.
(Oh, and has anyone tried the new uber-sexy nursing bra?)