A girl's breast friend
Tracey-Jane Hughes from Chorley tells us about her business - supplying specialist underwear for pregnant and breastfeeding mums, as well as post-breast surgery ladies...
When Tracey-Jane Hughes from Chorley found little “support” for her blossoming body during two pregnancies, she decided to do something about it, and set up her own business supplying specialist underwear and swimwear for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
After getting some training Tracey-Jane (T-J) launched bras4mums with the idea of visiting north west mums and mums-to-be in their homes or even hospital wards to help them find the right bra. She still offers this personal fitting service, and now also has a shop in Adlington for women to visit for advice and a chat.
We asked T-J to tell us more...
Tell us how you started the business...
"At a time when it is hard to get comfortable, and you sometimes feel you look your worst physically, it is amazing how many women ‘make do’ with ill-fitting underwear. In fact there are sound medical reasons why it is vital to get your bra fitted to your own particular – and probably changing – body shape.
"I was given bad advice when I was breastfeeding number two son. I got sold a bra that fitted one week and not the next - I dropped a full cup size when he was 12 weeks old. I wasn't best pleased with this, so looked into it and found that this was normal. When I looked a little further, I couldn't find anywhere that told me this information, so I started on a mission!"
Choosing the right bra is important
You say you had "extensive training" - what did this involve?
"I went on a two day Bra Fitting course at De Montfort University - a world renowned centre for Contour Design courses. I then did courses run by the suppliers, and the National Childbirth Trust. My own fitting experience over the last 4 1/2 years has probably taught me the most, and my experience of being a pregnant and breastfeeding mum!"
And now you offer training courses...
"The current course is a Bra Fitting Awareness Course - not to make people bra fitters, but to give those with direct contact with women (pregnancy, breastfeeding and after breast surgery), the opportunity to find out more about how bras fit, different styles, what suits what shape, and styles not suitable for a particular situation. The course for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding has been Professionally Accredited by The Royal College of Midwives."
What's the best way to measure your boobs?
"A measurement is only a guide, or starting point. All bras fit differently - even from the same manufacturer, depending on the style and fabrics used. However, place the tape right under your breasts (we calls this the root of your breast where it meets your rib cage), and take a firm measurement - make sure you can breathe though! Do this in inches - this is your underband measurement. Then, with your bra on, take a measurement around the fullest part of your breast. The difference, in inches, is the cup measurement 1 inch difference to each cup size, e.g. 4 inch difference is D cup."
What happens to your breasts during pregnancy?
"They grow! It is generally the first thing you notice when you conceive - often before you've done the pregnancy test! Your breasts are already getting ready to feed baby. They generally grow a cup size during the first trimester. After this your rib cage grows to allow baby the room to grow inside your tummy."
And after birth?
"Generally, the cup size will increase once during pregnancy, and again when the milk comes in. So, if you start pregnancy as a 36E, you're nursing bra size for the initial stages is likely to be a 36G. When baby is about 12 weeks old, your breasts will settle down again, usually dropping a cup size."
How important is it to have the correct support during this time? What could happen if you don't?
"You need to be comfortable, especially when feeling big and tired. Your breasts will often feel heavy, so good support will help alleviate this. You can cause your breasts damage, and even get blocked ducts or mastitis during pregnancy, which isn't pleasant, so a correctly fitting bra that gives good support is vital."
Would you recommend wearing some kind of support at night too?
"Some women prefer support, others don't. Those with very tender breasts will welcome light support at night, and those with bigger breasts may well find it more comfortable. Everyone is different. Some women just wear a sleep bra to hold breast pads in, rather than for support. Whatever makes you feel good is right for you."
Is there a good range of nursing/maternity bras nowadays?
"There are some lovely bras for maternity and nursing now (lots more than when I was feeding!) There are suppliers who specialise in comfort, others in attractive, others in sexy. The ranges are continually growing, including the sizes now available. We can now supply 30A-J bras, and up to 44J, 50G. Not in all styles, but at least there are more choices for women."
What's the difference between maternity bras, nursing bras and regular bras?
"A maternity is purely a soft cup bra that can be worn by anyone - it's a bra without wires. We have many older women who prefer not to wear wires that buy these bras, and even some mastectomy patients who like the softness of some of these.
"Nursing bras are only different in that they have a nursing clip, or release to give baby access to the breast when feeding. Again, some of these styles are great for women who don't like wired bras, but like fancy/sexy and attractive soft cup bras."
What advice would you give to people thinking of setting up their own business?
"You have to be passionate about what you do, and believe in the product or service you are selling. Especially if you have small children, and are working from home (which I did until last summer). Stick with the good and the bad, and remember that for every one of the customers who has a small complaint, remember the 100s of others who think you're fantastic. You always remember the bad, when you should be celebrating the good!"
last updated: 06/02/2009 at 12:24
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