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TIPS-tested bras (nursing and maternity) and nursing tops - 2008

I am delighted to be able to bring you the final results of the first TIPS testing of bras (nursing and maternity) and nursing tops. In 2003 and 2005, I tested and published a detailed review of my favourite designs but this time the trial has been carried out by the dedicated team of TIPS parent testers. This trial has taken more than six months of intensive work to complete and I believe this is the largest independent trial of bras and feeding tops carried out by any organisation.

The following 44 awards have been allocated
(click on one of the links below to find out more):

 

Best of the best (4)

Maternity bras (2)

Nursing bras (23)

Nursing tops (10)

Best range (1)

Special awards (4)

Editor's choice (1)

TIPS to go- follow this link to download a summary of the awards

Listen to Sharon's interview about maternity and nursing bras on My Baby Radio here.

 

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You can also find out more about the testing process in the following sections:


Best of the best awards


 

1. Anna Cecilia Original nursing bra
RRP: £30
Supplied by www.cheekyrascals.co.uk
Award: Best of the best nursing bra


Not only do I think this bra deserves to win the TIPS Best of the best award (it was my Best of the best choice in 2005) but so do the TIPS testers. From the carefully thoughtful design, the amazingly soft breathable fabric (that washes and dries quickly, even in hard water areas), the one-handed zippers, to the excellent information supplied on pack and online, the Anna Cecilia bra really does tick all the boxes. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff at Cheeky Rascals, even sourcing a difficult size direct from Sweden. Testers were unanimous in their praise for the support provided by this bra, especially during feeding. One mum went further by saying the design ‘made me giggle and it would not look out of place in a kinky lingerie shop’!
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2. & 3. Carriwell Nursing shirts (Jenna and Kaj)
RRP: £21.99
Supplied by: www.carriwell.com
Award: Best of the best nursing tops


There are various designs of tops on the market to help make breastfeeding on the move easier and more discreet. The ‘Jenna’ had the full flap and the ‘Kaj’ has a cross-over design but both are discreet for feeding and easy t2008

o use, even with a hungry baby to contend with. The quality of the fabric is great. The tops come in a variety of lovely colours and wash well. All testers agreed they are excellent value for money and could also be used after weaning. The Carriwell range has been developed in close cooperation with mothers, midwives and obstetricians so that each design works effortlessly. I especially like the innovative video clips (only 30 seconds long) which are perfect for those who like a ‘virtual-try’ before they buy.

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4. Carriwell seamless maternity bra
RRP: £9.99
Supplied by: www.carriwell.com
Award: Best of the best maternity bra


This soft stretchy fabric is easy to wear and provides excellent support from the beginning of pregnancy through to the early weeks of feeding when it can be used as a sleep bra. Though this bra is not designed for feeding, some testers managed to breastfeed thanks to the stretchy fabric. The cut of the bra is fairly high so it is better worn below t-shirts rather than low cut clothing. But when comfort and support are paramount, this non-wired design is perfect for pregnancy and beyond.

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Maternity bras: 2 awards


 

1. JoJo multistyle maternity bra(A1775)
RRP: £13.00
Supplied by www.jojomamanbebe.com
Award: Highly commended

This style is definitely geared to the smaller bust. Testers also used it as a sleep bra because of its soft stretchy fabric which is comfortable and unrestrictive. The option of different straps makes it more adaptable for use under various styles of clothing. And at such a reasonable price it offers great value for money.
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2. JoJo maternity t-shirt bra (A1989)
RRP: £15
Supplied by www.jojomamanbebe.com
Award: Highly commended

Once again this bra is ideal for the smaller bust sizes and testers particularly commented on the softness of the fabric. A perfect choice during pregnancy, this maternity bra gives a nice shape under clothing with gentle support and no risk of restricting the breast area.
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Nursing bras: 23 awards


 

1. Anita (5075) – medium control
RRP: £26.00
Supplied by www.bras4mums.co.uk
Award: Best looking

This lovely bra is well designed and comes in a wide variety of sizes and colours with matching briefs and thong in most colours. This medium support style provides a great shape with a smooth line that looks perfect under clothes. Testers loved the feminine design and found the material comfortable to wear. Feeding was simple and all agreed it offered great value for money.
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2. Anita (5062) – firm control
RRP: £34.00
Supplied by www.bras4mums.co.uk
Award: Best looking

Although this seamless lace design was one of the more expensive on test, it was praised for its feminine looks. It is particularly suitable for the bigger busted woman. The bra is easy to use with excellent support and wide straps to gently distribute the weight of heavy breasts. It is available in a wide range of sizes. The fabric is breathable and quick to dry after laundering. The shape is wonderful, even after washing, making this bra a firm favourite with testers.
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3. Royce Sophie (729) – 2 awards
RRP: £24.00
Supplied by www.bras4mums.co.uk
Awards: Best looking and Best innovative

We have decided to give the Sophie bra launched in September 2007 two awards because of its innovative use of X-STATIC, 99.9% pure silver fibres. With its anti-odour and anti-bacterial properties this design may well mark the start of a revolution in new materials which have the potential to aid healing of sore nipples. Testers also enjoyed the gorgeous design in soft pink and matching short panties. The fabric with added stretch gives a perfect fit and the bra is easy to use during breastfeeding. Available in an amazing 54 sizes, from 30B up to a 40J, this bra would suit most women. It also washes and dries well, retains its shape and is excellent value for money.
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4. EmilyB Daisy cream nursing bra
RRP: £32.99
Supplied by www.emily-b.co.uk
Award: Best looking

Voted one of TIPS 2005 ‘Best looking’ bras, this simple but effective design has once again come out a winner. This nursing bra is also available as a maternity bra. It comes in two colours (black mini-floral and cream broderie anglaise) with matching pants or thong. Sizes start at a 30B and go up to a 44J which is excellent and should satisfy all needs. With its six back adjuster clips to adjust to the changing breast size, this bra can be worn from pregnancy right through to weaning. Not only does it give the necessary support and comfort (with 100% cotton lined cups) but it also looks feminine (one tester said it actually made her feel quite sexy)
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5. Freya nursing bra
RRP: £25.99
Supplied by www.bloomingmarvellous.co.uk
Award: Best looking

The choice of pretty nursing bras is thankfully increasing all the time and this gorgeous example of a breastfeeding bra must be applauded. Testers loved the fabric which can hide breast pads discreetly. The straps are wide enough to provide excellent support. The fit is great with an extensive range of sizes to meet most needs although maybe not ideal for the fullest of breasts.
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6. Maternelle by Elle Macpherson
RRP: £29.99
Supplied by www.bloomingmarvellous.co.uk
Award: Best looking

Another one of my favourites in the 2005 review, this design remains a popular choice with TIPS testers for its looks, incredibly soft fabric and comfort. Available in sizes 32 – 38 (C, D & DD cup) it is ideal for the smaller bust. The Maternelle is manufactured with stretchy lace which adapts to the breast changing shape and creates a lovely contour under clothing. It comes with briefs for a matching set in black, white, lilac or pink. Breastfeeding is easy with this bra and the stretchy inner lining maximises discretion. Not only does this bra look incredibly pretty but it washes well and is also great value for money.
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7. Anita (5051) Firm control cotton nursing bra
RRP: £32.50
Supplied by www.amplebosom.com
Award: Best all-rounder

This is an excellent choice for the larger bust with sizes from 32-48 (D – I cup). While it may not be the prettiest design, it certainly does give the wearer the support and comfort that is so vital for a perfect fit. The material is 90% cotton with wide straps and Kwik Klip openers for easy access while feeding. Testers commented on how well the bra washed and the excellent service provided by Ample Bosom which is geared to providing individualised solutions for anyone lucky enough to be blessed with more than their fair share of cleavage.
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8. Carriwell seamless drop cup nursing bra
RRP: £17.95
Supplied by www.carriwell.com
Award: Best all-rounder

Although this bra is only available in four sizes, the Carriwell innovative stretch design means that this covers a size spread from 32-44 (A-I cup sizes). Each size can accommodate the variations in shape which occur naturally throughout the day whilst breastfeeding. The distinctive design uses material that is incredibly soft and breathable. It gives a great shape under clothing and also allows plenty of space for breast pads. Testers particularly liked the easy clip system which can be unfastened with one hand. Matching pants and a full range of maternity bras and nursing tops are also available. Developed with the help of mothers, midwives and obstetricians this design is refreshing different. By bringing this innovative range to the market Carriwell have set a new standard in nursing bra designs for other manufacturers to follow.
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9. Emma Jane (411)
RRP: £15.00
Supplied by www.emma-jane.com
Award: Best all-rounder

Made from breathable microfiber, this bra comes in four colours and a choice of two styles of panties. The moulded cups provide a smooth line under clothing and allow plenty of room for breast pads. Testers loved the softness of the material. They commented on its flexibility during feeding which provided excellent support. This is a great all-rounder which does exactly what it says on the box.
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10. Emma Jane (413)
RRP: £15.00
Supplied by www.emma-jane.com
Award: Best all-rounder

The Emma Jane range offers all women need from maternity through to weaning. The 413 is another example of a beautifully soft microfiber bra that gives a perfect shape and great support while feeding. This style has added lace and matching thong (a brief would be nice too) in two colours which make up a beautiful set. Comfort while feeding is obviously a top priority and all testers agreed this is one of the most comfortable bras available and definitely one they would buy.
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11. Emma Jane (428)
RRP: £20.00
Supplied by www.emma-jane.com
Award: Best all-rounder

This design has already won many accolades. Manufactured using 95% cotton, the Emma Jane 428 provides excellent support, is easy to use and represents great value for money. Testers agreed this bra to be worthy of the TIPS Best all-rounder award.
The use of lace adds a touch of femininity to the bra and the quick release clips provide easy access for breastfeeding. Available in black and white, and covering cup sizes B-G, it is ideal for most mothers, though maybe not the larger sizes.
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12. Emma Jane (430)
RRP: £21.00
Supplied by www.emma-jane.com
Award: Best all-rounder

While the Emma Jane 428 is aimed at a mid range of sizes, the 430 is specifically tailored for the larger breasted woman. Available from 32-40 in cup sizes from B up to a K, this really does provide a great solution for almost everyone’s needs. The outer layer manufactured with pretty lace (with added stretch for flexibility) hides a soft 100% cotton inner lining. Testers not only complimented this style on its good looks but for the fact that it provides supreme comfort to the wearer making this a great all-rounder.
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13. NCT Comfort nursing bra
RRP: £24.50
Supplied by www.nctsales.co.uk
Award: Best all-rounder

This best selling bra is available in 55 sizes from 32DD right up to a 44K making it ideal for women looking for extra support. Testers, especially those with larger breasts, loved this bra. They said it held them securely and gave a great shape under clothing. There was plenty of room for adjustment and the straps did not loosen or slide during wear, as is often the case with less supportive designs. Breast pads could be used discreetly and although plain in design the overall look was unanimously praised. The NCT website contains excellent information, the breastfeeding support line is prominent on all bra packaging and a free fitting service is offered by over 150 NCT bra fitting volunteer agents throughout the UK (telephone 0870 112 1120). Postage and packing is free and you can return unworn bras again and again until you are satisfied you have the correct size and fit. The only gripe from testers was the absence of funky colours.
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14. JoJo seamless nursing bra (A1866)
RRP: £13.00
Supplied by www.jojomamanbebe.com
Award: Best budget

This 95% cotton rich seamless nursing bra works well as a sleep bra too. Parent testers agree this style is better suited to the smaller bust, though maybe not supportive enough for the larger bust due to the sporty style back. It comes in black or white and with a price tag of only £13 this is definitely the Best budget buy on the market today
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15. Bravado body silk seamless nursing bra
RRP: £33.00
Supplied by www.bravadodesigns.com
Award: Best newcomer

This bra has only just been launched and already it is flying off the shelves. Manufactured from 88% polyester and 12% spandex, this silky soft fabric really does feel luxurious. Although only available in four sizes, it nonetheless covers sizes 32B to 46 F. The design claims to ‘gently grow and contract to constantly support your changing shape’ making it ideal during pregnancy, feeding and beyond. The moulded foam removable pads (remember to use a zipped wash bag to avoid losing them in the wash) which fit neatly inside the bra cups make it easy to hide nipples or breast pads. Alternatively it is possible to leave them out for a smooth line under even the sheerest of clothes. The back fastening is a welcome addition to this design, in contrast to the ‘pull-on’ style of the Bravado Original Nursing Bra and Tank. Here at TIPS we give it a definite thumbs up as ‘one to watch’.
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16. Bravado original Nursing bra (ONB)
– includes Basic, Plus, Double plus and Custom
RRP: £25- £35
Supplied by www.bravadodesigns.com
Award: Highly commended

This sporty pull-on style bra is available in 12 sizes (Basic, Plus and Double plus) to fit from 32B up to 46G plus the ‘Custom’ option for specific or more challenging sizes. The fabric is cotton rich spandex which is softer and lighter than when I last tested this range in 2005. The selection of bright and funky colours includes the signature leopard print which is also available in a maternity brief, bikini and thong. Testers found the press studs could be fiddly and getting the bra on and off sometimes awkward, especially if you have tender engorged breasts (try stepping into the bra!) but overall this is another great choice particularly for the smaller bust.
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17. Emma Jane (381)
RRP: £13.50
Supplied by www.emma-jane.com
Award: Highly commended

Manufactured from 95% ‘Supima®’ finest cotton, for extra comfort and softness, this simple design also contains 5% elastane for added stretch and flexibility. Available in black and white, it fits 34 to 40 (B-DD cup sizes). Testers especially liked the choice of three hook and eye positions for fastening each drop cup after feeding. This not only helped to accommodate changing breast shape, but also allowed a quick (but secure) fix while in public. This could be readjusted in privacy later, if necessary. All testers agreed this was excellent value for money.
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18. Emma Jane (385)
RRP: £15.00
Supplied by www.emma-jane.com
Award: Highly commended

Manufactured from 95% ‘Supima®’ finest cotton, for extra comfort and softness. This simple design also contains 5% elastane for added stretch and flexibility. Testers found the hook and eye fasteners especially handy when out and about. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ is more suited to the smaller bust. The seamless design gives a smooth line under clothes making it perfect for clingy t-shirts or casual wear. The bra is available in a variety of colours, and at £15 this is a very affordable product.
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19. JoJo maternity and nursing bra (Rose - A1505)
RRP: Rose - £13.00
Supplied by www.jojomamanbebe.com
Award: Highly commended

This bra will take mums from maternity through nursing to weaning. Made from 95% cotton with stretchy lace cups (triple eyelet adjustment at the back), it is designed to accommodate to your changing breast shape giving the support you need. It is easy to wear, comes in four lovely colour ways and testers agreed it washed well and is excellent value for money.
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20. JoJo maternity and nursing bra (Bordeaux A9275)
RRP: £15.00
Supplied by www.jojomamanbebe.com
Award: Highly commended

This bra is suitable from maternity through nursing to weaning. It is cotton lined and has stretchy lace designed to expand as the breasts grow (there are also six rows of eyelets for extra adjustment). This bra is easy to wear and has with quick release clips for feeding. This design comes in sizes 34B to 38DD so it is ideal for smaller bust sizes. Available in black white and Bordeaux red this bra was praised by testers as a ‘very sexy design’ that not only looks great but washes well and provides excellent value for money.
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21. NCT Energy nursing bra
RRP: £12.00
Supplied by www.nctsales.co.uk
Award: Highly commended

Manufactured using 87% cotton with added stretch, this bra is ideal for mums looking for a sporty bra that also provides great support while breastfeeding. This is a pull-on design with quick release drop cup. It has a racing back and padded straps for comfort. Available in white for sizes 34 to 38 (B/C, D/DD) testers agreed that, at £12, this was a bargain.
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22. NCT Vitality nursing bra
RRP: £12.00
Supplied by www.nctsales.co.uk
Award: Highly commended

Manufactured using 91% cotton with added stretch this is ideal for the fuller figure mum looking for a sporty bra that also provides great support while breastfeeding. This is a pull-on design with quick release drop cups, racing back, wide padded straps and jersey lining for comfort. Available in white for sizes 34-40 (B/C, D/DD, E/F) testers agreed that, at £12, this was a bargain.
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23. NCT Night-time plus
RRP: £13.00
Supplied by www.nctsales.co.uk
Award: Highly commended

This was a firm favourite with testers who loved the gentle support it provided for them overnight. Some loved it so much they wanted to wear it during the daytime too. The 92% cotton rich fabric washed and dried really quickly. This bra is available in a great range of sizes from 34 to 42 (A-F). Wide straps guarantee supreme comfort and front opening makes access for feeding easy when sleepy. With a price tag of £13 this a must-have for the first few weeks of breastfeeding when mums need extra support overnight but do not wish to wear a daytime bra.
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Nursing tops: 10 awards


 

1. Anna Cecilia short sleeve t-shirt nursing top
RRP: £30
Supplied by www.cheekyrascals.co.uk
Award: Best all-rounder

This lovely breastfeeding top is designed to be used with the Anna Cecilia zipper bra making discreet access for feeding a reality. Testers particularly complimented on its access just below bust level, which allows for easy feeding on the move without the usual acrobatics involved with other designs, this top is particularly useful for sling users. The clever styling ensures that no tummy flesh is exposed so mums stay nice and warm while feeding baby out and about. Available in four bright colours this can be worn casually or dressed up for more formal occasions.
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2. Emma Jane (821) nursing top
RRP: £ 16.00
Supplied by www.emma-jane.co.uk
Award: Best all-rounder

The choice of breastfeeding tops has greatly improved, and this lovely design works perfectly for women on the move. It is available in six colours to match any outfit and makes feeding while out and about totally discreet. This particular top is manufactured with the highly innovative moisture-wicking cotton called topcool®. The shoulder straps are adjustable like a bra, with release clips to provide easy access for feeding and at only £16, testers agreed this top is great value for money.
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3. Mamaway nursing top
RRP: £20.00
Supplied by www.mamaway.co.uk
Award: Best all-rounder

This independent company was started by a busy mum looking for clever solutions to breastfeeding on the move. Since then it has grown into a wonderful resource for new mums. The website has a wide range of nursing tops, dresses, nightwear and baby slings. All are designed to make feeding discreet and comfortable for mum and baby. Testers loved the bright designs that made them feel stylish and trendy - something that can be hard to achieve when trying to juggle motherhood and feeding in today’s busy world. Mamaway have tried to find a solution for everyone and word is spreading about this exciting new brand.
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4. Emma Jane (826) nursing top
RRP: £16.00
Supplied by: www.emma-jane.co.uk
Award: Best budget

This silky soft top is made from 95% bamboo fabric with elastane/lycra® for added support. Its moisture wicking properties help to keep mums cool - a positive advantage when breastfeeding. Not as supportive as some other nursing tops, this is ideal for smaller breasted women to wear casually or maybe even for night time. The design incorporates a shelf bra which gives gentle support while holding breast pads in place. One tester found it to be ‘ soft and sexy, especially in black’ saying ‘it was great to wear something that felt so pretty’.
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5. Anna Cecilia Tunica nursing top
RRP: £35.00
Supplied by: www.cheekyrascals.co.uk
Award: Highly commended

This elegant tunic-style nursing top comes in four colours to complement any outfit. Its clever design allows the mums to breastfeed discreetly, with minimal exposure of breast or tummy. With its added stretch, the top remains shapely even after constant use. The high quality fabric washes and dries beautifully. This is one of the more expensive tops on the market, but testers agreed it was well worth the extra expense, and there is no reason why mums cannot continue to use it long after weaning baby.
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6. Bravado Original Nursing Tank (ONT)
RRP: £33
Supplied by: www.bravadodesigns.com
Award: Highly commended

Part of the Bravado range of casual and contemporary designs, this nursing tank was a firm favourite with testers. It is easy to wear, comes in three colours, washes well and is incredibly comfortable due to the level of support it provided. Manufactured from the Bravado CottonFlex™, this is a double-sided fabric which provides 100% breathable cotton next to the skin. The flexibility of spandex creates a wonderful shape. Some testers commented that getting the top on and off could be hard, especially with tender or engorged breasts (a good tip is to step into the top). This said, once on, the top gives a great shape (the tank has a full seamless bra not just a shelf bra under the t-shirt top) either alone or under other clothing. One tester went further saying: ‘I cannot praise this product highly enough – it’s brilliant!’
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7. Mamaflage Nursing Poncho
RRP: £22.99 (V-neck) & £28.99 (flap opening) -
Available in one size, two designs and six colours
Supplied by: www.liefde.co.uk
Tested November 2008 (RT)
Award: Highly commended

This is not strictly a nursing top but a poncho with a difference. Designed by Katy Buckley, founder of Liefde (meaning ‘loving’ in Dutch), Mamaflage is the launch product of this new and innovative company.
The idea came about when Katy was trying to discreetly breastfeed her daughter while out and about. Mamaflage is simply a poncho (manufactured using 100% breathable cotton) that can be slipped over everyday clothes allowing you to breastfeed in privacy.
Two designs are available: a V-neck which can be arranged to suit your comfort and privacy; plus a poncho with an adjustable flap that allows you to see your baby while they attach and feed at the breast (excellent pictures of this are on www.liefde.co.uk). Mamaflage comes in a pouch which all found handy commenting that it fitted neatly in handbag or baby change bag.
Testers felt that Mamaflage did make breastfeeding in public easier, especially in the early weeks of feeding. Admittedly, most Testers also said they were just as happy to feed using conventional nursing tops.
When used to feed older babies who were becoming more inquisitive, the poncho helped to calm or stimulate the baby depending on their mood. Some babies feeding under darker ponchos seemed to fall asleep quicker than without the Mamaflage. However the poncho could equally prove too much of a temptation for other babies and a game of ‘peek-a-boo’ would ensue!
The unanimous reaction from Testers was that the Mamaflage would greatly enhance the confidence of a new mum with her first baby and for this reason alone it deserves a TIPS Highly commended award.
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8. Emma Jane (832) nursing top
RRP: £16.00
Supplied by: www.emma-jane.co.uk
Award: Highly commended

This basic t-shirt is made from 95% cotton with added elastane for stretch. Available in four colous, costing a very reasonable £16, it is great value for money. The simple lift up panel access for feeding couldn’t be easier to use. The only concern from testers was the clingyness of the fabric which meant that darker colours worked better. However, all testers agreed it was ideal casual wear when comfort during breasatfeeding is paramount.
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9. JoJo tie-front feeding top
RRP: £24.00
Supplied by www.jojomamanbebe.com
Award: Highly commended

This tie-front top allows mums to breastfeed discreetly when out and about. It was praised by testers for its ease of use and soft fabric. The clever design means this top can be tied at the front or the back making it ideal during pregnancy, while feeding and beyond. This top is excellent value for money.
Available in a choice of colours and sizes (8 to 18) this feeding top is both attractive and a great value buy.
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10. NCT pale blue nursing top
RRP: £22.50
Supplied by www.nctsales.co.uk
Award: Highly commended

The high quality cotton rich fabric of this bra provides excellent support while allowing discreet breastfeeding. Designed exclusively for the NCT, this short sleeve v-neck top incorporates a top layer that lifts to allow mums to breastfeed, while the bottom layer keeps them covered up and warm. Testers found this easy to use. They said it gave them the confidence to feed anywhere.
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Best range: 1 award



1. Emma Jane
www.emma-jane.co.uk
Award: Best range

Based in the UK, Emma Jane is an independent specialist company that produces a unique collection of maternity and nursing underwear including support wear, lingerie, tights, sleep wear, swimwear and more recently maternity and nursing tops. The designs are simple to use, affordable, easy to source (with 11 UK and nine international websites), easy to launder and most importantly they look great and come in a wide selection of sizes and colours (many as matching sets). Nine Emma-Jane products were tested and each of them won an award. Offering a combination of consitently efficient and courteous staff, user-friendly website with accurate information and advice, as well as quality products, this excellent range is really hard to beat.
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Special awards (4)



1. Ample Bosom
founded by Sally Robinson
www.amplebosom.com
Award: Best for larger sizes

I first met Sally at a Scottish business event in Glasgow and I found her story inspiring. I did not think I would have a reason to contact her again until I started to source bras for the TIPS nursing bras trial. I contacted Sally to explain how the TIPS Awards worked and without hesitation she agreed to supply each tester with two sizes of each bra (with a free returns service) so testers could achieve the perfect fit. This level of service has led to Sally’s success in the competitive world of online bra stores. It gives her the edge as it makes all the difference to her customers. Sally’s unique selling point is in providing a range of bras in over 170 sizes and the fact that she is more than happy to go that extra mile to find just what her customers want. While nursing bras are not Sally’s speciality (she caters for large sizes) but as demand for nursing bras grows, as I am sure it will, Sally and her staff at Ample Bosom will be more than willing to keep up with demand.
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2. JojoMamanBébé
www.jojomamanbebe.co.uk
Award: Best for smaller sizes

Started in 1993 by Laura Tennison, JoJo Maman Bébé has continued to grow into the thriving business it is today. JoJo Maman Bébé has 19 high street outlets (more planned) and a reputation for honest, affordable, ethical trading that is always customer led. JoJo Maman Bébé products are innovative, quirky and contemporary. They fulfil a niche in the maternity, baby and children’s clothing market. The range of own brand bras and tops (maternity and nursing) are excellent value for money and clearly suited to the smaller breasted woman. This is why I am delighted to award the JoJo Maman Bébé brand ‘Best for smaller sizes’.
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3. Secret support breastfeeding camisole & shorts
RRP: £19.99
Supplied by www.bloomingmarvellous.co.uk
Award: Best innovative design

This gorgeous camisole and shorts set in baby pink with black lace trim was a sure fire hit with testers, and testers’ husbands! Although not strictly a nursing bra or top I have decided to award this product ‘Best innovative design’ because of its overwhelming appeal. Not only is this outfit great value for money (at under £20) but all testers said it made them feel feminine whether worn during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. It is supportive, easy to use, washes beautifully but best of all it looks fantastic and is extremely flattering in all sizes.
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4. Royce Sophie (729)
RRP: £24.00
Supplied by www.bras4mums.co.uk
Awards: Best looking and Best innovative

We have decided to give the Sophie bra launched in September 2007 two awards because of its innovative use of X-STATIC, 99.9% pure silver fibres. With its anti-odour and anti-bacterial properties this design may well be the start of a revolution in innovative materials that have the potential to aid healing of sore nipples. However it was the gorgeous design in soft pink, with matching short panties that testers also enjoyed. The fabric with added stretch gave a perfect fit while the bra was easy to use during breastfeeding. Available in an amazing 54 sizes, from 30B up to a 40J, this bra would not only suit most women but it also washed and dried well, retained its shape and was excellent value for money.
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Editor's choice: 1 award



6. Anita – extensive range
Supplied by www.bras4mums.co.uk
Award: Editor’s choice
When testing nursing bras in 2003 and 2005 I was always impressed by the high standard of all Anita bras. It is because of this that I have decided to give an ‘Editors choice’ award to this brand. Although only three Anita styles featured in the current trials (five were included in previous testing) I am more than happy to recommend this brand of nursing bra which I believe sets high standards for quality, innovation and information. Sizes run from at 30 (65) to 48 (110) in B-H cups with some lovely fabrics (I especially like their breathable microfiber) and Anita’s unique Kwik Klip® function.

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Overview

The statistics, as always, are amazing with £5,000 worth of products sent out to 60 testers. 11 manufacturers kindly supplied 220 samples (41 different products). In all TIPS tested three maternity bras, 24 nursing bras, 13 nursing tops and one camisole set (in 2003 I tested 13 bras). Testers completed and returned over 200 score sheets which equates to an amazing return rate of more than 90%.


I would like to thank each and every supplier for providing the samples free of charge for the TIPS testers to keep. Without their co-operation and confidence in the TIPS testing programme, this in-depth study of the best available products on the market today would not have been possible. I would also like to thank the team of dedicated TIPS parent testers whose comments and detailed feedback allow the TIPS testing programme to achieve a level of independence and impartiality that is second to none. I hope this will provide visitors to the TIPS website with a comprehensive review of maternity and nursing bras and nursing tops. As well as being easy to wear and allowing discreet breastfeeding, these products also look great.

 

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Criteria


Each new category of products reviewed by the TIPS Award Scheme brings new challenges and bras and tops were no exception. Allocating the awards was done by taking into account the final scores, analysing testers’ comments and applying the following criteria:

Best of the best: this was allocated to a product that scores highly and received unanimous praise from testers. The design, fit, ease of use and care of the product was considered as well as the quality of customer service provided by the supplier and information (both on pack and online) given to customers.
  • Best awards: score 70% and over
  • Highly commended: score below 70%
  • Best budget: best value for money product within each category
  • Best innovative: products that shine out from the rest due to some innovative feature that testers universally praised
  • Best newcomer: reserved for the most promising new product within a category
  • Best choice for smaller and larger sizes – whether your bust is small or large the provision of a comprehensive choice of designs and sizes is crucial to finding the perfect fit. So here at TIPS we wanted to applaud those companies who had done just that.
  • Editor’s choice - in the editor’s opinion these are worthy of a special mention.

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Methodology

Testers received samples with: detailed guidelines explaining exactly what to look for in each product when carrying out the tests and score sheets with information about price, brand, distributor and any fitting instructions.
The following text was included in the testers’ guidelines:
We have listed below the main features to look for when testing your bra or top:

  • Attractive to look at - this matters, but looks alone are no guarantee of an effective nursing bra.
  • Supportive - the need for support will vary but there is little point in a bra looking lovely if it doesn’t provide suitable support or ease of use.
  • Size - does it come in a wide enough range of sizes to fulfil your needs? During pregnancy and breastfeeding it is advisable not to wear under wired bras as these could restrict the breast tissue, leading to blocked ducts. A good supporting bra in the correct size is vital. If possible, get measured for your feeding bra a few weeks before your baby is due. Your breasts have grown to their full size then. During the first few days after your baby’s birth your breasts will settle back to that size and your new bras will be the perfect fit. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of trying on a variety of sizes until you are comfortable. Remember to leave room for breast pads.
  • Availability - is the bra easy to get hold of? Is it sold in a high street store, by mail order catalogue or online?
  • Comfort - this is a must. It is important to try on the bra because you cannot tell how it is going to fit from a picture. This is where high street brands are useful: you can try before you buy. If you do buy mail order or online, make sure the supplier has a good returns policy. Does the supplier provide good advice regarding trained fitters?
  • Design - in the early days of breastfeeding, your breasts can be swollen and tender (engorgement). It is very important not to wear a restrictive bra at these times. Straps that are too tight or that cut in at awkward places could lead to a blocked duct. Bras with an inner lining have the potential to cause restriction, so unlined or open designs are especially useful. This allows the breasts to be free from obstruction during feeding (it is interesting to note, however, that the Anna Cecilia easy-zip bra got the highest score in the 2005 nursing bra tests even though it has an inner lining – but this is made out of incredibly stretchy and breathable fabric). Play around with the different features of the bras so that you are familiar with them when you are feeding. This may sound odd but will pay dividends when you find the right bra for you.
  • Ease of use - even if a nursing bra feels and looks great, you need to make sure that you will be able to open it easily for feeding. Once again, it is important to try it before you buy it. A one-handed opening device is ideal and allows you to be very discreet if necessary.
  • Fabric - is the fabric too thick or too thin? Will it be hot or will the straps dig in? Some sports type nursing bras have an elastic under-bust band. This should not be too tight and should be tried on and tested for comfort. The new breathable microfibre fabrics draw moisture away from the body and are excellent at keeping skin cool and dry.
  • New fibres – the fabric of the latest Royce, Sophie bra includes silver thread (called XStatic). This is both antibacterial and anti-odour. Another new addition is bamboo fibre which is used in the Emma-Jane’s new nursing tops. This is known to be softer and its moisture-wicking properties draw moisture away from the skin.
  • Allergies are becoming more common - NCT now offer latex free fabrics for women who are allergic to latex. These bras use Lycra, which has similar properties to latex and is less likely to cause allergic reactions.
  • Putting it on - when your breasts are tender, putting on a bra over your head can be a struggle. It is much easier to have a front or back opening bra. This said, someone recently informed me that they ‘step into’ their pull-on designed bras - this is a good tip.
  • Washing instructions - you will need to wash and dry your breastfeeding bras on an almost daily basis, so it is better if they are machine washable and even better if they go in the tumble dryer. Check the labels. Some manufacturers recommend hand washing even though the bras seem to tolerate machine washing and tumble drying well. It is up to you whether you want to take the risk.
  • Information - this does not need to be lengthy, but some accurate information on the bra and about breastfeeding is helpful. Check to see if information is available with the bras. This can be very useful.
  • Matching underwear - just because you are breastfeeding does not mean that you need to feel frumpy. There are lots of maternity bras that have lovely pants or thongs to match and come in a variety of colours.
  • Price - you will need at least four bras if you are going to breastfeed. With this in mind, choose the bra that best suits your budget. It is also worth remembering that two well-fitting bras will be of more use than four ill-fitting bras.
  • Nursing tops – as well as nursing bras over a dozen nursing tops are included in these tests. They can aid discreet breastfeeding when you are out and about.
  • Breast pads - when trying on the bras, remember to allow space for the breast pads. It is also helpful to check how visible breast pads are under the bra. Washable pads in 100% cotton or wool are the best and most absorbent. Avoid breast pads with plastic backing which can become hot and sticky. If you would rather use disposable pads, choose those that are biodegradable and breathable. A new design of breast pads (Lilypadz) is now available. These are breathable, transparent, silicone breast pads that fit discreetly under any clothing and work by applying a gentle pressure on the nipples. These pads stops any leakage (yes they really do work!) and can even be worn in the shower or swimming pool. You can find out about the breast pads tested by TIPS here.



As well as these testing guidelines, please read any information enclosed with the bras and tops before you start testing.

And you thought it was just a matter of buying the first maternity bra that you came across!

 

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References:

National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2006). Routine postnatal care of women and their babies. Quick reference guide. London: NICE.
Trotter S (2009). Baby care – back to basics™ leaflet. TIPS Limited, Scotland
Trotter S (2008a). Neonatal skin & cordcare - the way forward. Nursing in Practice (January/February) Number 40 - (Dermatology): 40-45.
Trotter S (2008b). Neonatal skincare and cordcare – implications for practice. In: Examination of the newborn and neonatal health – a multidimentional approach. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier Worldwide, Chapter 14.

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Please note that products tested by TIPS are not free or promotional products, but samples for the sole purpose of independent testing. All Testers must agree and sign a copy of the TIPS Award Scheme terms and conditions before taking part in a TIPS trial.

 

Disclaimer. TIPS Ltd is not responsible or liable for any failings of products that have been submitted for the testing programme. The responsibility remains with the individual manufacturer. Research is constantly changing and whilst every effort is made by TIPS Ltd to ensure the information contained in the guidelines is accurate and up-to-date, parent testers must still be encouraged to seek the advice of their midwife, health visitor, lactation consultant or GP if they have any concerns.

TIPS Ltd© 2008

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Anna Cecilia Original nursing bra


AW_best-of-the-best_bracheeky rascals logo
Annacecilia logo

Carriwell Nursing shirts (Jenna and Kaj)

 

AW_best-of-the-best_topcarriwell logo

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Carriwell seamless maternity bra

 

AW_best-of-the-best_maternitycarriwell logo

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maternity bras
JoJo multistyle maternity bra (A1775)
 

AW_highly-commended_maternityJojoMamanBebe logo

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JoJo maternity t-shirt bra (A1989)

 

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nursing bras
Anita (5075) – medium control
 

AW_best-looking_braAnita Maternity logo

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Anita (5062) – firm control

AW_best-looking_braAnita Maternity logo

 

AW_editors-choice_bra

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Royce Sophie (729)

AW_best-looking_braRoyce logo

AW_best-innovative_bra

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EmilyB Daisy cream nursing bra

AW_best-looking_braEmilyB logo

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Freya nursing bra

AW_best-looking_brafreya logoblooming Marvellous logo

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Maternelle by Elle Macpherson

AW_best-looking_braElle MacPherson logoblooming Marvellous logo

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Anita (5051)
AW_best-all-rounder_braAnita Maternity logo
AW_best-larger-sizes_braAmpleBosom logo
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Carriwell seamless drop cup
AW_best-all-rounder_bracarriwell logo
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Emma Jane (411)
AW_best-all-rounder_braElla Jane maternity logo
AW_best-range_bra
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Emma Jane (413)
AW_best-all-rounder_braElla Jane maternity logo
AW_best-range_bra
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Emma Jane (428)
AW_best-all-rounder_braElla Jane maternity logo
AW_best-range_bra
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Emma Jane (430)
award graphicElla Jane maternity logo
AW_best-range_bra
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NCT Comfort nursing bra
AW_best-all-rounder_braNCT logo
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JoJo seamless nursing bra (A1866)
AW_best-budget_braJojoMamanBebe logo
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Bravado body silk seamless nursing bra
AW_best-newcomer_brabravado logo
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Bravado original Nursing bra (ONB)
AW_highly-commended_brabravado logo
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Emma Jane (381)
award graphicElla Jane maternity logo
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Emma Jane (385)
award graphicElla Jane maternity logo
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JoJo maternity and nursing bra (Rose - A1505)
award graphicJojoMamanBebe logo
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JoJo maternity and nursing bra (Bordeaux A9275)
award graphicJojoMamanBebe logo
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NCT Vitality nursing bra
award graphicNCT logo
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NCT Night-time plus
award graphicNCT logo
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nursing tops

Anna Cecilia short sleeve t-shirt
AW_best-all-rounder_topcheeky rascals logo
Annacecilia logo
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Emma Jane (821)
award graphicElla Jane maternity logo
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Mamaway nursing top
award graphic
mamaway logo
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Emma Jane (826)
AW_best-budget_topElla Jane maternity logo
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Anna Cecilia Tunica
AW_highly-commended_topcheeky rascals logo
Annacecilia logo
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Bravado Original Nursing Tank (ONT)
award graphicbravado logo
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Mamaflage Nursing Poncho (RT)
award graphicmamaflage logo
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Emma Jane (832)
award graphicElla Jane maternity logo
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JoJo tie-front feeding top
award graphicJojoMamanBebe logo
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NCT pale blue nursing top
award graphicNCT logo
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best range
Emma Jane
AW_best-range_braElla Jane maternity logo
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special awards
Ample Bosom
AW_best-larger-sizes_braAmpleBosom logo
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JojoMamanBébé
AW_best-smaller-sizes_braJojoMamanBebe logo
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Secret support breastfeeding camisole & shorts
AW_best-innovative_brablooming Marvellous logo
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Royce Sophie (729)
AW_best-looking_braAW_best-innovative_bra
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editor's choice
Royce Sophie (729)
AW_editors-choice_bra-rangeRoyce logo
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Apply for a license to use the TIPS trademarks
Scoring system nursing bras and tops
  • Information: poor = 0; good = 1; very good = 2
  • Choice of sizes: poor = 0; good = 1; very good = 2
  • Design:poor = 0; good = 1; very good = 2
  • Appearance: poor = 0; good = 1; very good = 2
  • Feel and breathability: poor = 0; good =1 ; very good = 2
  • Matching lingerie available? no = 0; yes =1
  • Easy to put on? difficult = 0; ok = 1; easy = 2
  • Shape/ overall fit: poor = 0; good =1 ; very good = 2
  • Support: poor = 0;good =1 ; very good = 2
  • How easy is it to breastfeed with bra or top :fiddly = 0; ok = 1; easy = 2
  • How comfortable is the bra or top when feeding: poor design = 0;could be restrictive =1 ; ok = 2; effective design = 3
  • Durability: poor = 0;good =1 ; very good = 2
  • Value for money : poor = 0; good =1 ; very good = 2
  • Discreet while feeding: poor = 0; good =1 ; very good = 2
  • Overall score calculation: maternity bras: percentage based on a maximum score of 22
  • nursing bras: percentage based on a maximum score of 26
  • nursing tops: percentage based on a maximum score of 28

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Follow this link to listen to Sharon's interview about maternity and nursing bras on My Baby Radio