After my sister Caitlyn gave birth to her first baby, she attended a friend’s wedding while wearing a dress that was both flattering and trendy. This was a feat for a newly postpartum mom. She felt like a million bucks.
Then her brand new daughter needed to nurse.
Cait’s dress had a high neckline, an empire waist, and a knee-length skirt. It zipped up the back.
“I realized in that moment that I had absolutely no way to breastfeed her,” Cait told me. “Feeding her would be impossible unless I literally got completely undressed.”
No one tells you about the wardrobe difficulties that come with nursing a baby. Everyone knows a pregnant woman needs maternity clothes, but what about after the baby is born? How do you nurse a baby without breaking the bank (or suddenly ending up totally undressed while hiding out in the bride’s room, nursing your baby, and praying to God that no one comes in, as Cait did those years ago?).
Midway through nursing my second babe, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks.
1. Invest in a few clip-down nursing bras
These are a must. They provide the base that help all of the following wardrobe hacks to work well and easily.
I recommend just straight up, unpadded, underwire-free ones like these, for a few reasons: Underwire can plug a milk duct, padding can get in the way when you try to fold down one side of the bra for nursing, and lace or bows can be itchy and annoying.
2. Buy one good, circle-scarf-style nursing cover
With Baby #1 I bought a nursing cover that I quickly grew to hate. It was reminiscent of Pam’s from The Office. It looked a little like a medical apparatus and a lot like a horse’s feedbag.
It just didn’t work. Our firstborn would pull it back like a curtain, leading to a festival of inappropriate sharing. Anyone walking by could easily see everything. And I do mean everything.
When I was pregnant with Baby #2 a friend (love you, Becky!) gave me one like this. It was life changing.
With an infinity scarf-style nursing cover, the baby can’t pull it off. It covers your back in case you have to lift your shirt up. It covers your entire front. You can cover your baby or peek in at her. It’s not swelteringly hot under there.
I have a green and ivory ikat print one, and since I wear tons of black and white and grey, it goes with pretty much everything, and it’s stylish enough to wear as an infinity scarf when I’m not nursing.
Don’t scrimp on this. If you’re like me, you will use it ALL the time.
3. Deep v-necks are your friend
Did you know that you can nurse a baby while carrying them in a sling, wrap, or Ergo carrier? You totally can! The secret is a nice deep v-neck top and a clip-down nursing bra.
Adjust the carrier so the baby’s face is at the right height, throw a blanket or scarf over everything for modesty, pull down that shirt and you’re good to go.
Especially with a second or subsequent baby, this can save your life. Have I done this at our local children’s museum? Yes. Yes, I have. Have I done it in line at Disneyland? Yes. Yes, I have.
4. Strapless tops are naturally baby-friendly
These won’t work for the office, but if you’re hitting the beach or it’s 102 degrees outside (Hellloooo, southern California in October! You forgot that it’s autumn again!) strapless tops are the BOMB when it comes to nursing.
I would recommend making sure you wear a scarf or necklace or something, though, so you don’t look totally topless while feeding your babe. That can get awkward.
5. Wide neck sweaters work great
When the weather gets cooler, you can still wear nursing-friendly tops, you just have to be a bit creative. Cowl-neck, off-the-shoulder, and even some boat-neck sweaters can work in a pinch.
6. Choose loose-fitting over formfitting
Obviously the looser overall fit the better, especially if a neckline is high. Flowy, bohemian-style stuff is your friend.
7. Try the double tank top trick
This might surprise you, but your tummy will take awhile to get back to normal after you have a baby. (WHAT?! I know, right?) Some people’s (read: mine) never really do.
So if you’re a little self-conscious about stretch marks or a less-than-toned tummy, first remember that YOU BROUGHT A HUMAN LIFE INTO THE WORLD. Your body rocks, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of there.
Still, you may not want to share your tummy and all its stories with random strangers at the mall while you try to nurse a squirmy six-month-old. Enter: the double tank top trick.
Wear a tight-fitting tank top (preferably a nursing tank with clip-down sides) under a looser tank top. Time to nurse? Lift up the outer tank top, clip down the nursing tank, and you’re set to jet. All that’s exposed is what’s essential for baby’s lunch. Your stomach, back, and top are all covered.
8. Crossover fronts give easy access
Shirts, dresses, and tanks with a front crossover style work fabulously for nursing. Costco has a few ($20!) maxi dresses out right now that are so popular I’ve probably seen then on fifteen different women at my church over the summer.
9. Button downs for the win!
This might be obvious, but if a top has buttons, a baby can get access to the necessary objects. Button downs aren’t my favorite (they just tend to look weird on me), but I’ve found a new love for the ones in the back of my closet in this nursing season, especially as we head into fall.
10. When in doubt, improvise
I’ve used cloth napkins for a nursing cover. Baby blankets or burp cloths can work great. I’ve even repurposed a beach towel at a pool party. Baby’s gotta eat!
There’s no need to break the bank for a nursing-friendly wardrobe. With Baby #1 I purchased a few nursing tops and they were both unflattering and awkward to use. Don’t make my mistake. You can probably use lots of what you already have!
Those of you who are nursing mommas – what are your go-to tips and tricks? Share!