A Good Nursing Bra
Choosing Bras for Your Store
Even though it’s something most women wear everyday, the majority of them dread shopping for a bra. When they have to shop for a nursing bra, the dread doubles because they’re literally thrown out of their comfort zones. I have found most retailers wanting to sell nursing bras feel this same way. As a designer, I have always followed “the law of three,” and as a retailer who sells nursing bras, I’ve applied that law to what I stock. The “law of three” basically means that three of anything brings balance to a group. So stocking three different types of nursing bras that have three fundamental qualities is the best way to ensure you have what your customers need and want: great versatility, great fit, and easy, accessible nursing access.
First, start with what I like to call a “transitional” bra. When customers come into my store telling me their new nursing bras don’t fit, I curse the retailer who told them it was a good idea to buy these fitted bras BEFORE they had their babies. A woman’s body changes drastically in the last six weeks of her pregnancy. Her rib cage can grow by 6 inches or more and her cup size may not change at all. AFTER she delivers, it takes at least 10 to 14 days for her rib cage to return to normal and in the process, her cup size can increase at least two sizes up from her pre-pregnancy size. This is when it’s important to offer a good “transitional” bra rather than one that’s more fitted.
A “transitional” bra allows for growth in the cups and can still fit under her bust after her rib cage shrinks back to “normal”. These bras can function as a light support bra during the last month of pregnancy and as a sleep bra for nursing after she delivers. Look for one that has wide under-bust elastic because this is where bras give most of their support. Covered elastic at least 1 to 1 ¼” thick that is securely sewn into the bra will not only give the best support, but will also be the most comfortable. Another detail that can’t go unnoticed is the stitching around the neckline. Make sure it stretches over the cup so it doesn’t break while nursing. The “law of three” also applies to how many of these transitional bras your customer should purchase. She will always be washing one and since they can come in different fabrics, stock an organic cotton version for your “natural” mama and a silkier version for her to wear under clothes during the day. Both should have at least 8% spandex or stretch to them so the bras keep their shape and last through months of proper laundering.
Once she has her baby, Mom needs to return to your store for a more supportive and fitted bra. First, be sure you ask the manufacturers to teach you how to fit their bras since proper fit for nursing moms is so important. Improper fit can lead to mastitis and other issues, but the manufacturers of nursing bras know this and they are happy to teach you how to properly fit their bras. Look for fitted bras that offer easy nursing access like quick-release clips that easily open and close so your customer can access her breast with one hand. Avoid snaps and hooks that make access difficult. There are many varieties of fabric to choose from, but on the fitted bras most women prefer the silkier fabrics that look great under clothes. Some of the more supportive fitted bras have lace around the cup line that adds support and makes them prettier. Just be sure the lace is soft and relatively minimal so it can be worn under a t-shirt without looking bunchy. I believe many women turn into “Barbie” after having their babies so be sure the smaller band sizes have a larger range in the cups. We tend to sell a lot of 32F, 34H and sometimes up to I cups. Most fitted bras don’t go past ‘I’ so stock one brand with that wide range and another line that offers the larger cup sizes. Again, the “law of three” can apply here too. I recommend stocking fitted bras from three different manufacturers because women come in many different shapes and sizes, and no one brand fits them all. So buy a basic, good fitting line that has a big cup range. Look for another line that offers a more versatile fit and as well as a line that specializes in fitting that large cup customer needing excellent support and a more extreme cup size. Again, I recommend at least three fitted bras per customer.
The third style of nursing bra is one of the strongest categories, the nursing tank. Nursing moms tend to wear their bras 24/7, which can be extremely uncomfortable. A good supportive nursing tank gives your customer a break from bras and allows her to use it not only as a bra alternative, but also as a layering piece that can turn any top into a nursing top. Look for one made from beefy cotton/spandex and, just like the bras, be sure the nursing access is easily accessible. Tanks that don’t have any snaps or hooks are best and they tend to give much more support and much easier nursing access.
Apply my “law of three” and your customers will trust you and rely on you to offer them a variety of versatile nursing bra options, and you won’t be loaded down with too much inventory. Be sure to stock some lingerie bags and upon each purchase, give her one as a bonus in return for her patronage. You will be sending a subtle message that she must wash these bras with care, and she’ll be thrilled with the bonus gift.