I'm a working mother of one busy nursing toddler. I'm also a graphic designer and a closet fashionista. When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, I had no idea what to buy to get started in nursingwear. Many moms don't use nursing tops - they just pull up their tees to nurse. But I felt as uncomfortable baring my postpartum tummy as I did a glimpse of breast. And the first time you're faced with dining in a crowded restaurant with your in laws and a hungry baby, you'll be glad you have a good nursingwear wardrobe! Nursing discreetly can be done under a cover (I always felt I had a big sign that says "nursing! right here!") or it can be done discreetly by just adjusting the fabric of nursing tops and dresses around your baby's mouth and nose.
New mama: you're barely awake, you haven't had a shower in two days, and your baby is nursing every hour, for 45 minutes. What you need are a couple of great PJ / lounge outfits. Whether you prefer a gown or a PJ set look, get something that's flattering and comfortable so if guests pop in to see that new bundle, you feel good. A comfy cotton nursing top in a casual style, like a tee, a henley, or a hoodie paired with yoga pants are your best fashion friends right now.
If you're venturing out for the first time, say, to a mom's group, a nursing tank under one of your pre-pregnancy cardigans or button-front shirts works great. Tanks are the most versatile piece you'll own, and I recommend having at least one in a neutral and a fun color. They work under sweaters in the winter, keeping your belly warm.
For your Friday nights out to dinner with your husband - your breastfeeding baby in tow - go with a cute nursing top with some details - ruching, gathers, pleats or a tee in a fun color. Pair this with a new pair of dark denim jeans and those heels you had to give up when you were waddling around while pregnant, and you'll feel like a stylin' mama! Or try a nursing camisole under a cropped jacket with a skinny scarf, jeans and boots.
Cute nursing tops with details work great under denim jackets and trousers with ballerina flats when going shopping with your baby. They also work well with a pencil skirt, a statement necklace and heels for the office, too.
Necklaces, skinny silky scarves or wide Pashmina-style scarves are a nursing mama's best accessories. I pulled out my sturdiest necklaces, that my nursling can play with. Long, dangly pierced earrings are another story; I keep them small and out of sight. If you need a bit of extra side coverage, a pashmina or scarf draped next to your body, along the back of your baby's head works well, while still being able to make eye contact with your baby while nursing.
If you want to look like one of those mamas we all love to envy - the put-together, looks like she dashed out the door with nary a drop of milk or a blob of spitup on her - then get a few dresses. Short sleeved casual nursing dress paired with sandals and a fun necklace in the summer, a long-sleeved nursing dress with a denim jacket and boots in the winter can go to the mall, to play dates and out to dinner. One piece + accessories = get out the door easily. You'll be the mama everyone loves to envy. If you're a working mother, layer on a skinny scarf and wear the dress with peep-toe heels to work.
For a special occasion (I define dinner out with my husband a 'special occasion' these days), definitely get a nice nursing dress. This dress is as good for pairing with strappy heels and a sparkly wrap at an evening wedding, as with a jacket and boots at the office. Carry your baby in a sling in an elegant fabric, and you can take your baby almost anywhere! Believe me, your other half will be pleased to see the return of the stylish woman he knew before baby.
If you're carrying your baby in a sling or carrier, favor empire waist styles, cross wrap or nursing tanks with drop cups. They allow you to nurse your baby in the sling, without having to wrestle the hem of your shirt up. I nursed in every museum in Paris, on the Metro, and even on the Eiffel Tower with a travel wardrobe that contained four nursing tops and a nursing cami.
In the winter, nursing turtlenecks are my favorite layering piece. They go great over jeans, under jackets, belted over skirts at work and look great with a statement necklace. Or you can put a nursing tank underneath and wear your regular turtlenecks too.
One aspect of nursing that I did not know, is that I would lose so much weight postpartum. My advice is don't buy your entire nursing wardrobe before you deliver or are in those few months postpartum, just buy enough to get started - PJs, lounge wear, a nice dress and a few casual tops with fun details. Fortunately, there will be a new season - and new designs - that you'll also want to own so you can build on your wardrobe over time.
Still nursing? If you're in your second (or third!) year of nursing, you're probably thinking, "I have a full wardrobe already." Pat yourself on the back, and celebrate with something new to spice up your wardrobe! Nursing a toddler with all the various acrobatics that go on is challenging enough; keeping covered is essential for toddler pop-on-and-pop-offs whether at the park or the playgroup.
You were stylish before you became a mama; now you have the cutest new accessory of all!