If you're a nursing mom, it can be hard to know what to wear. Not only are you struggling with an unfamiliar, postpartum body, but you also have a hungry kid on your hands. How do you feed a wiggling baby without your wardrobe getting in the way?
Clothes made for breastfeeding can be hard to find and are often expensive. What do you really need? Are there any clothes from your pre-pregnancy wardrobe that'll do the job? Here are seven tips to help you stylishly breastfeed your baby without breaking the bank:
Invest in a good nursing bra. Regardless of what you're sporting on the outside, make sure your undergarments are getting the job done. "I don't think you have to buy all the things made for breastfeeding," says Sabrina Easterling, a board-certified lactation consultant. "But a well-fitting nursing bra is mandatory."
When your baby's hungry, he wants to eat now, so you don't want to struggle getting him to the source. "You need to be able to easily unclip it and give your baby access," she says.
Make sure you try out the clasps to the flaps before you buy it. Can you easily unclip them with one hand? Will the flap move out of the way easily without getting in your baby's way while she's trying to eat?
Don't forget the nursing pads. "You may leak a lot, especially at the beginning," says Sabrina. There are many different kinds available, so try out a few to find what works for you. There are disposable kinds that stick to your bra, fabric kinds that are washable and ones made from silicone. You can even sew your own if you're crafty.
Tip: Pack a couple of extra pairs in your diaper bag or purse, just in case.
Think about materials. Before you buy, keep a few things in mind, says Sabrina. "Is the material going to look bad if you forget your nursing pads and it gets wet? Is it stretchy enough to pull above or below your breast and go back in place when you're done?"
Many moms buy basic low-cut or cowl-neck shirts that can be pulled below their breast when they're ready to nurse. But if the material isn't made from a forgiving fabric with some give, like rayon or nylon, the neckline can get stretched out after a few nursing sessions.
Some shirts are made especially for nursing and have elastic in the neckline. But they can be hard to find and a little pricy. A few inexpensive tops in a stretchy fabric get the job done at a more reasonable price.
Wear layers. "A lot of moms have two layers on," says Sabrina. "An open or wrap-around sweater on the outside and a tank top underneath."
You can also layer a nursing tank or a tank with a stretchy neckline underneath a looser shirt. When you want to breastfeed, just pull the top layer up and pull the tank down. The underlayer prevents you from flashing any skin when you pull up your shirt. Your maternity band from pregnancy can also be a good layering piece to wear under your shirt.
Button it up. Julia Sundberg, a mom from Buffalo, New York, swears by button-up shirts. "They're really easy to nurse in. Plus, they look professional," she says.
Button-ups, however, might be best for moms who have been breastfeeding for a while and have the hang of it, warns Sabrina. "If you have a really hungry baby on your hands and you're trying to manage your baby and your shirt, it can take some coordination."
Wrap it up. If you want one article of clothing that will get you through pregnancy, the postpartum paunch and your breastfeeding days, a wrap dress is your one-stop shop.
"I bought a great, basic wrap dress in a couple of different colors," says Maggie Westwood from Moraga, California. "They're super flattering, and really easy to nurse in." A wrap-style shirt also works, providing easy access for your baby with the minimum of effort for Mom.
Don't forget accessories. A few basic accessories can also help keep you covered up no matter what you're wearing. Many companies sell special nursing covers that can help you breastfeed discreetly.
While some moms swear by them, they can be a bit pricy and aren't for everyone. "You don't have to buy a special nursing cover," says Sabrina. "They can be hot and some babies don't like them. A lot of moms just use a light receiving blanket."
Some of your everyday accessories work great, too. "In cooler weather I love wearing an infinity scarf," says Maggie. "It easily stays around my neck and I can just drape it over my baby when he's nursing."
"A loose wrap-around sweater or cardigan can be used if you don't have a blanket available and want to be discreet when the baby's nursing," adds Sabrina.
Whatever you wear, just remember to be comfortable. "It's about getting creative and finding what works for you," says Sabrina. And you'll always have your most important accessory: your baby.