Since it’s world breastfeeding week, we wanted to bring in another important voice on the topic of breastfeeding – and that is perspective of a nursing bra fit specialist. Angela Toner is a lovely mama of two who owns the London Breastfeeding Boutique and has a passion for helping moms get the breastfeeding support they need (both literally and figuratively). We caught up with her to ask a few questions about getting nursing bras right.
Hi Angela! Briefly, what’s your story? How did you get into the world of breastfeeding and develop a passion for this area?
It all started when I returned to my corporate job after having my first baby and found I no longer enjoyed it. I kept thinking: if I’m going to be away from my baby more than I’m with her, when I’m away I want to feel like the work I’m doing is making a difference in people’s lives.
At the time I had felt inspired to become an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) after I felt so indebted to the ones who helped me when I was learning to breastfeed. Without their expertise I surely would have given up and lost out on months of incredible bonding time with my daughter that I cherish to this day. When I was struggling to breastfeed in Ottawa I had sought out help from a local breastfeeding boutique that, in addition to the retail, offered a daily breastfeeding clinic run by IBCLCs.
I knew there was nowhere like it in London, and I felt really inspired to start it. Long story short though, with my business background, although I was more passionate about helping moms learn to breastfeed, I knew getting the retail side up and running would be the fastest way to take action on this dream. And, as it turns out, I really LOVE helping moms find their ideal nursing bras!
What are some of the most common (yet perhaps unknown) mistakes women make when trying to choose a good nursing bra?
I would say a mistake I often see is that a lot of moms just don’t consider it to be an important investment, so they don’t spend the money to buy good quality bras; and they don’t get fitted by a specialist who has experience with breastfeeding moms.
Oftentimes I hear moms just “make do” with whatever they have – a lot of us get hand-me-downs from sisters or good friends. And while that’s an awesome money saving strategy for things like toys and baby bathtubs, it’s not a great idea when it comes to your nursing bras. It’s very unlikely that that mama was exactly the same size as you.
And I imagine after already being used and washed for many months, the support wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it used to be. As a breastfeeding mom, your nursing bra is your number one tool that you use all day everyday to be able to meet your baby’s needs. You definitely deserve to be comfortable in it and for it to make you feel your best.
What physical problems do you see in moms when a bra is not fit correctly? What are some of the signs and symptoms?
Mastitis/clogged ducts –
If your bra is too small or is not very stretchy and flexible so it’s digging into you someplace. If you’re experiencing that painful, tender, red patch on your breast and it typically happens in the same spot(s) after you wear a particular bra, then you need a new bra.
Lack of support-
Too much weight on your shoulder, band riding up in the back, cups sagging or feeling heavy…these are all signs your band is likely too big. It’s quite common for women to be wearing bands that are too big and then their corresponding cup letter is smaller than would be ideal for them.
When is the best time to get fit for a nursing bra?
There are so many things to consider, but really any time that you are feeling restricted in your bras (ie. you’re outgrowing it), or you’re not properly supported.
Two times that are most common though:
The last month of pregnancy – your cup size at that point is typically your best indicator for what it will be after your milk supply has regulated. Plus, at that time, you can get yourself ready for the first month or two of postpartum when your breasts will be bigger and more tender than they will be for the rest of your nursing journey. Tanks with clips and built in shelf bras and sleep style (very stretchy!) nursing bras are ideal for that time.
Once your milk supply and breast size has regulated – which typically happens 6-8 weeks postpartum. After that milestone you might even feel comfortable getting into nursing bras that may remind you more of what you wore before getting pregnant. This would include the types with moulded cups or perhaps (flexible) underwires.
Boobs change a lot over the course of breastfeeding. What things should moms consider when trying to choose the ideal bra?
There can be a shocking amount of variables to consider. (Who knew?!) But this article really lays a lot of it out in a succinct and helpful way – https://www.todaysparent.com/baby/breastfeeding/tips-on-how-to-find-the-right-nursing-bra-for-you/
Seamless bras are my absolute favourite. They are very stretchy and don’t have underwires in them. They get their support from the weave of the material – so they are quite accommodating to all the changes you will experience. I recommend every mama buys at least one of these (there are options for fuller cup support in this style too!). Then, if you want something more structured, wait until you’re past that 6-8 week postpartum mark.
Do your customers appreciate the link between their boobs, bra, and postpartum body pains – like neck, upper back, or lower back pain, or muscle tension and tenderness?
I would say generally no, or, at least, it’s not something that comes up often during a fitting. Some of my customers come to me because they have been to a massage therapist or chiropractor for back pain and their health practitioner has recommended they get properly fitted for their nursing bra, but it’s not usually a conversation that I have with my customers. Truthfully, I could probably use more education on that for myself.
Wearing a bra at night to bed – yes or no? Explain.
For sure! Especially if you’re feeling like you need a little support at night, and many moms need a nursing bra at night to be able to hold in their breast pads as nighttime leaking is common, especially in the first couple of weeks.
Wearing a bra at all? Yes or no?
If you are comfortable not wearing a bra while breastfeeding, more power to you mama!
What are your favourite breastfeeding accessories or must-haves for all breastfeeding moms?
The Haakaa silicone breast pump is my all time favourite. It can be helpful in so many ways – catching your letdown to be saved for a bottle later (you’ll likely have lots of extra let down in the first few weeks, if not longer), helping to clear out clogged ducts (using warm water and epson salts with its gentle suction), encouraging your milk supply (all milk removed from your breasts means more milk will be produced), and it’s even handy as a ‘travel’ pump since you don’t need to plug it in.
Nipple cream is also a must have item in my opinion. These days you need to bring your own to the hospital, so it’s a must-have on your hospital bag list. It can make a world of difference to prevent damage on your nipples when you’re new to breastfeeding and you and baby haven’t perfected the latch yet.
If you had one minute to talk to a brand new mom about this area you’re so passionate in, what is the biggest piece of advice you’d share?
Get help. Of all the times in your life, you’re going to want to feel the most supported in the postpartum period. Types of practitioners who will really make you feel more comfortable and supported in your new role as a mom could be: a lactation consultant, a postpartum doula, a nursing bra fitting specialist, a pelvic floor physiotherapist, and maybe even a chiropractor or a registered massage therapist who has experience treating new mamas. A happy, calm mama means a happy, calm baby – so make sure you prioritize things that make you feel like your best self.
How can people find you and check out or purchase all your beautiful products?
My website is an online store so mamas can buy online if they would like. Due to covid, my business operations have changed, but I’m currently offering virtual nursing bra fittings over zoom (with curbside pickup), or a limited amount of in-person fittings weekly. My retail store location is at 96 Wharncliffe Road South in London.
I’m quite active on social media and that is where most of my customers connect with me. If you’re interested in learning about the products that I sell and my perspective as a mama entrepreneur, come follow me on either Instagram or Facebook @londonbreastfeedingboutique!
Thanks for answering all these questions, Angela! You’re a great resource!
My name is Angela and I am the sole owner and operator of the London Breastfeeding Boutique. I grew up here in London but spent just under 10 years living in Ottawa where I met my husband, bought our first home, and had our first baby (we now have 2 young girls). When my family and I moved back home to London, I realized there was no local small shop focusing on breastfeeding moms like the one I had fallen in love with as a new mom in Ottawa – Milkface. I had a background in business and the desire to do something different for my job anyway, so I decided it would be a great opportunity to start it myself.