It’s National Breastfeeding week this week, so I couldn’t let it go by without a breastfeeding related post! I thought I’d do something a little different though.
You may have already read my breastfeeding story (if not, have a look here!) and I’m pleased to say we are still going strong at 11 months. The thing I love about breastfeeding is in general the lack of equipment you need, however, the one thing I didn’t really think about were my clothes.
I totally underestimated the need to have breastfeeding friendly outfits. I wrote a post when I was pregnant about the difficulties in dressing my bump, but this was nothing compared to dressing my boobs, which even the dress I found perfect for pregnancy would not fit correctly! There are lots of great maternity options nowadays, or even non-maternity clothes that you can work to fit your bump. But when it came to finding breastfeeding friendly clothes, I didn’t know where to start. I obviously knew that I needed nursing bras but I hadn’t thought beyond that – I just thought I would lift my top up, pop a boob out and that’s that…apparently not that simple.
My first mistake was at the hospital. I only packed one pair of pjs and one nightie that was high neck. I couldn’t wear my pjs because I had a catheter in and I couldn’t wear the nightie because I couldn’t access my breasts. So I just had to sit in my hospital gown until they could take my catheter out because it was the only way I could feed. I think this was partly the reason why I didn’t want any visitors, as I was trying to get to grips with feeding, and unfortunately had to sit half naked to do it! My second mistake was buying padded nursing bras. They were awful! I couldn’t fold down the cups very well, so they kept half covering my breast, or I’d just have a lump sticking out of my top. They are were also completely the wrong size, causing me to get a blocked duct which is not nice. My third mistake was getting nursing vests. Because it was summer, I needed something that was cool, so I bought some strappy nursing vests. They had a clip down bit and then the material underneath had a slit in it for your nipple to poke out. Now, I don’t know if the top was too small or I have super large nipples, but honestly, I could just about get the nipple out, let alone any of my actual breast. They made it more awkward to feed in, especially when we first started out.
I was beginning to get quite down about my wardrobe – it only contained maternity clothes which were falling off me, but I didn’t want to go and buy a load of new stuff as I was hoping to lose weight. I literally lived in vest tops and the one maternity skirt that still fit and then I bought a few maxi dresses that I could feed in. Part of the reason I struggled with clothes was because I didn’t realise how self-conscious I would feel when just lifting up my top because my belly was on show. I also didn’t feel comfortable with having my boob exposed. So I found clothing so tricky to get my head around. I looked at nursing specific clothes, but find a lot of them to be quite frumpy, or are maternity/nursing, so they don’t sit right.
Then I discovered this AMAZING facebook group – Can I Breastfeed in It. I think it was mentioned on my baby facebook group, and once I joined, I started to discover loads of new ways to wear non-nursing clothes so you can feed in them, and also some really great companies that sold nursing specific clothes that were cool and not frumpy! There is a facebook group for the clothing element, and also a fab blog for great breastfeeding advice – have a look here. On top of that, a spin off group called Boob or Bust has been created to check you are wearing the correct size bra – most women aren’t! I went from a 38C to a 30FF…honestly wouldn’t have believed you until I went to an independent store to buy some bras and they came up with the same size, after a common high street store got it completely wrong!! So ladies, it is really important for you to check your bra size, especially if you are breastfeeding!
It has been a revelation to be able to wear “normal” clothes, but know that I can still feed Alfie comfortably and discreetly. I have learnt that there are two ways to comfortably wear clothes to feed in:
- The one up/one down method: This works with some kind of stretch vest underneath and then any kind of top over the top. You then pull down the stretchy vest, unclip your bra, then lift your top up.
- Pros: You can wear any top you like on top (as long as it is loose enough to be lifted) and your belly is completely covered.
- Cons: I got soooo hot in the summer wearing two tops!
- The pull down method: Basically, you just pull down the neck of your top. Also known as “flop it out”.
- Pros: You wear one layer of clothing and any top that is stretchy enough to pull down. Also there’s no faffing with different layers of material
- Cons: You may feel a bit self-conscious like I did at having a large part of your breast exposed. I got round this by simply placing a muslin over my breast (but not over baby’s head!)
Since losing weight, it’s been great to be able to go out and buy new clothes that fit me, are stylish (for me, anyway) and that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to feed Alfie is. Obviously there are some clothes that I still can’t wear – high neck dresses, or dresses that don’t a stretchy neck line. If I wear a top/dress that I have to pull down, I always have to remember to have a muslin with me – although now Alfie is older, I tend to accessorise with a scarf which is much easier. Things have changed a lot now Alfie is bigger – I’ve discovered high waisted jeans (honestly, amazing at keeping the mum tum in!) and he’s big enough to cover most of my belly, so I tend to just wear stuff I can lift up now. Because he’s not feeding so much in the day either, if I’m going out and I know he won’t feed, I can get away with wearing something else.
Here are some of my breastfeeding friendly outfits:
This was one of the dreaded nursing vests. Although it looked ok, just like a normal vest, I found it difficult to use, and personally wouldn’t use them again.
I generally wear t-shirts during the week when I don’t have anywhere special to be. I wear a stretchy vest underneath, with a slightly baggy t-shirt on top. At Christmas, I just swapped a tshirt for a Christmas themed jumper – you can still join in the festivities even if you’re breastfeeding!! I can even breastfeed in a fancy dress outfit – the final photo is from our friend’s “Down on the Farm” fancy dress party (hence why Alfie is dressed as a cow!) so I wore a checked button down shirt and dungarees. I just unclipped the dungaree and unbuttoned my shirt. Now I’ve had lots of practice, I can pretty much adapt anything to make it breastfeeding friendly!
Top left: Tshirt from New Look, vest underneath (can’t be seen) from H&M
Bottom Left: Christmas jumper from Asda, vest underneath (can’t be seen) from H&M
Right: Checked shirt from TK Maxx, dungarees from Primark, leggings from Primark
Below photo: Jacket from New Look, top from Primark, crop top underneath (can’t be seen) from Select, jeans from New Look
We’ve been to quite a few special occasions since Alfie was born, and I thought I’d really struggle to find anything suitable. However, it’s actually quite easy! I find lots of occasion dresses have low, plunging necklines which are perfect for popping your boob out! The top photo was taken at a black tie 30th birthday party. I was wearing a full length gown with a plunging neck line. I actually bought it for New Years eve just after I found out I was expecting, so it worked as a lovely maternity and breastfeeding dress, although it isn’t advertised as either! It’s too big for me now, but I could easily wear it now if it fit. The bottom photo was taken at a wedding. I was wearing a dress that was made of stretchy fabric so I could just pull the top part down. The straps also extended so you could make them longer to feed and then shorten again. The right photo was taken at a christening – it was a top and skirt combo and worked really well because I could either pull the top out and lift it up, or undo the zip. There are lots more options for special occasions than you think!
Top left: Love Label Plunge Maxi Dress from Asos (although I don’t think they sell this particular one anymore, they do similar)
Bottom left: Floral dress from Boohoo
Right: Top and skirt from Primark
This dress is a specific maternity/nursing dress. I bought it to wear when I was pregnant but I never did, so have only worn it as a nursing dress. This was just from ebay and only cost me £10 and I wear it loads!
Really special occasion dresses
I have been a bridesmaid twice for my friends since Alfie was born and both dresses were breastfeeding friendly. The first one was quite low cut, but so easy for me to feed in. The second one was also very easy to feed in, although I didn’t wear a suitable bra which made it more difficult. But it shows that you can still be a bridesmaid and breastfeed 🙂
So, there are lots of options for breastfeeding friendly clothes, it just takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the world is your oyster! I would highly recommend joining the Can I Breastfeed in It facebook page, although I take no responsibility for your bank balance once you realise you want to BUY ALL THE CLOTHES!!
Happy hunting, and happy national breastfeeding week – keep on boobing!
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