I am the woman who never bought maternity clothes. I had maybe two pairs of maternity jeans as a fall-back, but other than that I wore forgiving shapes and extended my already-owned jeans with elastic hair ties. I just couldn’t see the point in spending money on clothes that I would wear for mere months of my life.
So just when I thought my maternity wear issues were over, I remember coming home from the hospital, looking in my closet and realizing that 80% of my wardrobe was unwearable for breastfeeding — for (gasp!) another year!
Regardless, I fell back on my two main maternity wear mantras:
1) Don’t spend money on something you won’t wear for years; and
2) Never compromise your style.
Of course it isn’t always easy to marry the two, so here are basic guidelines for an economically smart and style-savvy maternity nursing wardrobe:
1. Buy cheap nursing tops
Nursing tank tops have a flap that either lifts up or snaps down to reveal two strategic holes, allowing women to discreetly breast feed without any stomach exposure — which we’re all sensitive about. I agree with Alyssa that the best fitting tanks are from Glamourmama, and you’ll want a snug fit for layering. There are more affordable tanks at Old Navy and Target (the Galmourmama retails for $39 a pop), but spending a little more on a well-fitting tank is the difference between a short-lived buy and a long-term wardrobe staple. Just because there’s a nursing flap doesn’t mean it can’t be layered under sweaters and dresses for years to come.
2. Layer It
An open cardigan over a nursing tank top is a convenient, comfortable and classic look. This one from Banana Republic can even be wrapped around the baby as you nurse. And the best part? It’s an easy way to look put-together and stylish well after your baby is weaned and potty trained.
I also love the idea of using this new draped-front vest from Old Navy (only $22.50) for nursing fashion. Summer mamas can dress up a nursing tank while still staying cool, but it can also be used for layering in any season.
Besides open cardigans, look for ones that are longer and offer more coverage, like this classic Infinity Cardigan at J.Crew.
3. Wrap It
Wrap-style dresses are the perfect solution for dressy occasions or at-the-office pumping. I especially love this dress from the Etsy shop Lirola because of all the ways it can be worn during and after nursing.
The same goes for wrap tops (like this one from MonicaM Boutique) which are also extremely convenient and perfect for layering.
4. Multi-Functional Scarves and Shawls
I’m a big fan of oversized scarves (like this beautiful summer scarf from Sweet Nature Designs) to accessorize any outfit at any time of my life. Not only are scarves great for public breastfeeding, but scarves came in handy when my milk would unexpectedly start to leak on my way to work.
If you’re into the Boho Chic look, find shawls that can be draped and wrapped in a variety of styles, like this one from Meydalle.
5. Cover Up
This is an optional purchase for public breastfeeding, but it’s way more stylish than draping a receiving blanket over your baby — and wayyy more convenient than having your baby kick and flail the blanket off. Bebe Au Lait sells the popular Hooter Hiders as well as their original line of nursing covers, and both have a comfortable closure behind the neck and a rigid neckline to help moms keep eye contact with their baby. The only difference is the pattern choices.
For a more unique look, I love the nursing covers at LaDyLaDuke — like this feminine Feeder Frock, which provides front, side and back coverage.
6. Cover Under
When I saw that these high-rise panties from Twin Syndrome were tagged for “nursing,” it took me a minute to realize their genius. These are the perfect solution for when a non-nursing shirt forces breast-feeding moms to expose their bare postpartum tummy. Love this idea! And I have to say, I’m loving the retro sexiness that strategically covers our trouble spot — for more than just nursing purposes.
7. Pump In Style
Beyond breastfeeding, stylish working moms have to carry a bulky breast pump every day. I used the popular Medela Pump In Style — a fantastic electric pump built right inside of a black bag (which I couldn’t have nursed so long without). As for the “style”? Eh. Because I stored all of my pumping accessories in the Medela bag, I still had to carry another — more fashionable — bag.
The very best option for stylish moms?
Besides being the most convenient option for working moms ever (hands free!!), the small, portable, double-electric pump isn’t built into a bag — meaning you can store it in your own bag of choice. And even if you do decide to use the Medela bag, it’s much more stylish than the Pump In Style alternative. (Although, I have to say, the Medela pump is unparalleled in quality, so the bag really is second fiddle.) If you can find a way to borrow, rent or buy — this is the ultimate choice for stylish working moms.
8. Plan ahead
A key to making smart choices in maternity wear is to make strategic purchases ahead of time. You should buy things that you love for any time of your life — not just for nursing — and waiting until the last minute might result in expensive impulse buys just to make do.