Becoming a mom is a fantastic experience, and meeting your new baby brings and an incredible amount of joy and wonderment into your life. It truly is a love that can’t be described until you experience it and changes your entire universe in the blink of an eye. However, along with all that happiness comes a whole host of other things you’ve never even thought about up to that point in your life. A postpartum body, huge hormone swings, dealing with breastfeeding and latch issues, and adjusting to the new family member all add an additional layer of stress on becoming a new mom. Nursing tops and easy access for breastfeeding may not have been on the priority list before the baby arrived.
To add to the mix, once you finally get that breastfeeding thing down (or commit to keep working on it) you may feel like you end up needing an entirely new wardrobe to accommodate your nursing lifestyle – which let’s face it, requires you to be able to access a boob at a moment’s notice. The good news is, nursing tops and clothes don’t all have to be purchased, and with a few simple strategies you can stock up on critical items, or repurpose things you already have in your closet. I hope this guide will help you plan your wardrobe and provide a little inspiration – because breastfeeding should be beautiful, and nursing clothes don’t have to suck!
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SAVE WHERE YOU CAN
First things first – in order to save money and avoid buying an entirely new wardrobe, look in your closet for things you already own that can become nursing friendly with a few slight modifications. A great option here is a big slouchy sweater or any of your big flowy maternity shirts. You can stick a nursing tank under any of your larger tops and simply pull it up to nurse. A bonus is that if you’re wearing one of these larger shirts paired with a tank, you won’t even need a nursing cover.
You can use this strategy and wear almost any of your older tops, but I prefer looser fitting clothing and stretchy cotton if you’re going to be using it as a nursing top. Pulling up a tight fitting t-shirt (or really anything) can end up with you wrestling your shirt, nursing tank and bra AND trying to get a good latch, which just wasn’t worth it in my opinion.
You can also continue to wear any of your pre-baby tops that button down or have a deeper v-neck. I ended up buying multiple v-neck t-shirts from the Banana Republic Factory Store as they were so stretchy and comfortable. Since I use coupons and waited for a sale, I got them for ~$7-8 each and wore them for months while I was breastfeeding. They are still some of the most comfortable shirts I own so I haven’t pulled them out of the rotation yet.
INVEST IN A FEW NECESSITIES
There are a few critical pieces you’ll definitely need if you want to breastfeed, as well as some other items that are nice to have, but if you’re on a strict budget you can forego. Here are a few of the must-haves that helped get us started on our nursing journey:
Good Nursing Bras –
You’ll need more than one or two nursing bras. In the early days you’ll be dealing with leaking, latch issues and a lot of spit up, so you’ll need to have more than one bra available. However, they don’t have to be expensive! I was able to get a three pack of nursing bras for less than $30 on Amazon, but I’d recommend getting a variety of styles including a sports bra in case you want to work out. They also make a variety of sexier bras that may make you feel a little more like your old self versus a dairy factory, but I didn’t end up investing in any of those.
MAJOR WARNING – If you get the nursing bras linked below, wash the black one separately immediately when you get them. I accidentally dyed my maternity pillow and comforter sitting in the black bra without washing it well first. I loved these bras and they held up really well for the price, but definitely want to put the warning out there.
Nursing Tank Tops –
You’ll also need at least two of these to wear under your regular shirts, or if you want any additional coverage when nursing in public. Get two that you like because you’ll be wearing these a lot. Nude or neutral colors are best so if they peek out beneath your shirt you don’t have to worry about the color not matching your outfit.
Nursing Nightgown –
At the beginning when you’re up all night it’s nice to sleep in a nursing nightgown. I usually sleep in pants and a shirt but I got so sweaty at night the first month or so after giving birth it was almost impossible to sleep in pants. I blame all the hormones because a few months postpartum that stopped happening. Either way, if you’re a nightgown person a nursing nightgown makes it so much easier to feed in the middle of the night. Bonus – they’re padded so if you happen to leak through your nursing pads you don’t have to worry.
SPLURGE ON A FEW NICE ITEMS
Nursing tops/dresses etc.
I loved my nursing dresses because I would leave work to feed my lady during lunch. It was nice to know I could still dress up for a presentation or meeting and easily feed my little in the same outfit. However, it was a bonus item and not a must-have. BUT if you want to treat yourself for being such an awesome mamma and breastfeeding I’d recommend splurging on a few dresses or tops. I did feel the most comfortable nursing in public without a cover if I was wearing actual nursing clothes. Many are designed to be more discreet so that your entire breast isn’t exposed, but no matter what you’re wearing you can always use a cover if you’re uncomfortable feeding in public.
*Helpful tip for all my pregnant mammas – if you plan to breastfeed, buy maternity shirts that are nursing friendly. Many of them are and I didn’t take this into consideration when I was shopping, so I had to buy both pregnancy and nursing clothes. One of my favorite nursing dresses was actually a maternity dress that was a little longer in the front to adjust for a bump.
No one ever noticed and it was super comfortable! This is a great way to make your maternity clothes work double duty, and I definitely wouldn’t have felt as guilty buying nice maternity things knowing I could wear them for two years versus only a few months. Check out a few of the options I found that are both chic and functional, and the dress double duties during pregnancy as well!
This is probably obvious, but anything that makes it really hard to access your breasts should probably be shelved while breastfeeding. This includes turtlenecks, tight t-shirts that are difficult to pull up or down, tight sweaters, dresses that zip up the back particularly, but pretty much any dress that isn’t spaghetti strap or v-neck will be a challenge if you need to nurse.
How to save
Also – unless you’re flush with cash, avoid the designer and/or pricey maternity stores in the malls. I have a Motherhood Maternity outlet store near my house and things in there even felt super expensive. I did buy some essentials, but I found the adorable items above with a quick Amazon search, and Zulily became one of my go-to spots to scout good deals. Since their shipping time is so lengthy, I’d recommend stocking up there if you see a deal while pregnant. I had good luck with Hello Miz dresses and Pink Blush items were always popping up there as well. When you see a good sale, stock up on pregnancy/nursing clothes at The Gap and Old Navy as they held up well for me. I did splurge on a Pea in the Pod top and jeans, but I could have done much better for the money elsewhere.
STYLING & OTHER TIPS
Here are some tips that will help you plan your wardrobe when you’re nursing:
- Creativity with accessories helps if you plan to nurse in public. In the winter you can simply wear a big scarf as part of your outfit that can double as a nursing cover. In the summer at the beach or pool, a sarong serves the same purpose!
- Wearing a nursing tank under a top gets really hot in the summer. During warm months it’s easier (and less sweaty) to just wear a nursing tank or other nursing friendly top instead of trying to double layer.
- If you can find a uniform that works for you, go ahead and stick with it. For me, this was my nursing tops or the stretchy v-neck t-shirts and jeans. This was super comfortable and I didn’t look totally homeless, so I went with it. This is a temporary phase and your new wardrobe restrictions aren’t forever.
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How to survive the first year breastfeeding
Embrace these changes and know that you can still have style while nursing, you may just have to get a little creative with your accessories and might need to shelve some of your current favorite tops until you’re done breastfeeding. If you start building your nursing wardrobe while pregnant and stock up during sales you should have a decent selection of necessities to mix in with your current wardrobe once the baby arrives. Don’t feel that this change relegates you to big boxy tops or to hiding in public because your wardrobe isn’t nursing friendly. With some searching and creative styling, you can still have a functional and chic wardrobe while breastfeeding.