Long before Mama's MilkBox was even a thing, I sold maternity and nursing clothes in Pittsburgh by private appointment only. I also had way more time to blog. This post is still very relevant today:
A frequently asked question is, “How many nursing clothes do YOU have?” Makes sense, right? I mean, I would want to know how many breastfeeding clothes the lady who sells breastfeeding clothes has too.
So I’ll start at the beginning ...
I found nursing clothes when I was about 4 months into breastfeeding my first child (circa early 2012). I was suspicious of the cost and use but tired of wearing oversized shirts and feeling self-conscious about my back and belly. To prevent those risks, I scheduled my day around when I needed to breastfeed my baby next; so I only went out in 2-3 hour chunks of time. I still planned to do that but when I found out that nursing clothes existed, I ordered these two items for fun:
And while I didn’t love them as much as I loved my Banana Republic, GAP, Loft, Ann Taylor and Anthropologie clothes, it was surprising to me how easy it was to feed my baby and still feel like I was dressed as a human. I can’t remember if I ever really breastfed in public with those tops but I recall my husband finding it nice that I was wearing clothes that weren’t pajamas or old t-shirts too.
So I bought another shirt in something that was more my style:
And it worked. If I was going out to get groceries, meet a friend or walk the dog – with the possibility I might be a little longer than planned – I wore THIS top. I pretty much lived in this top (even if I pumped a bottle before we left the house) because I felt like I could nurse the baby if I needed to and I felt pretty.
That was pretty much it for my first time breastfeeding because I only made it 9 months. (So 3 shirts that I used all. the. time. for 5 months). That was also 3 years ago. And a lot has changed.
First of all – the breastfeeding support networks have grown tremendously; there are Facebook groups, tons of local LLL chapters, private lactation consultants, hospitals that train their nurses in lactation and more. For example, kellymom was my only resource when I needed help and let me tell you, 3 years ago, the site was bare. It was very useful but compared to what it is today, it was slim pickings.
I also live in Pittsburgh now – home of The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh. That one resource alone (and there are so many more) is phenomenal.
So as you can imagine – the style and availability of nursing clothes is a little more phenomenal now too. When I became pregnant a second time, I went out there looking for the best breastfeeding clothes (I was also a little more determined to make it to my 1 year breastfeeding goal).
First of all, there are so many more designers. From Loyal Hana who said hello to the scene in 2014 to Boob which goes back 15 years. Milk Nursingwear has also been a staple and now that I’ve been The Maternity Girl for 2 years, I’m able to provide exclusives of my own.
Next, the styles have increased as well. From lace sleeves to assymetrical hems, nursing Moms no longer have to choose between just colors. (2016 edit: WE HAVE ITEMS WITH SEQUINS NOW TOO)
With my breastfeeding history (I struggled), I didn’t go out and buy 10 pieces of breastfeeding clothes but I did set myself up for success: one basic t-shirt (which I can’t even find for a photo and wore while pregnant), two tanks, one nursing camisole and a nursing nightgown (which was also useful in the hospital; [sidenote: I can always tell when a Mom has delivered her second or later child based on if she’s wearing “normal” clothes or a hospital nightgown]) and I brought myself to 2 months of breastfeeding with those 8 (remember the earlier 3?) pieces of clothing:
I wore THE HECK out of all those clothes … to the zoo, to preschool, around the house, out to dinner:
When the weather started to turn, I invested in 2 more tops and a dress that would allow me to breastfeed in public without feeling like I was stuck in new baby purgatory. This was actually more of a requirement than an option since I was so busy maintaining the toddler’s schedule that I had no ability to arrange my day around when the baby needed to eat:
I wore the heck out of those items too. That dress? It even made an appearance at the circus:
A few more months in, I invested in 2 more “fancy” tops (here’s 1):
This was a personal favorite as I felt I had mastered not only the art of breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public and being a Mommy of 2 – I felt like a normal, pretty woman too! (This was my favorite way to style the above):
So where does that put us? 12? Somewhere along the way I “retired” my first 2 tops to pajama tops. I had worn them for so long, I didn’t want to wear them in public anymore. Then I retired the nightgown (“for another pregnancy, MAYBE”) and one of my earlier basic shirts became a night time nursing t-shirt too (I get cold easily). Overall I think that left me with about 7-8 items in my “daily wear collection” and if 1/2 of it was in the laundry at the time, I still had 3-4 options to wear (which also worked out really well since I went back to work and didn’t have time to stress or worry about clothes).
Do you need 12 pieces of nursing clothes to breastfeed a baby? No. But I feel that the nursing clothes and the great support I have found in Pittsburgh (especially at the St. Clair Baby, Breastfeeding and Me meetings) have brought me the farthest I’ve ever been breastfeeding – 13 months (and change). On days when it was hard, I didn’t think, “I should just stop this and then I can wear my regular clothes and drink and hire a babysitter.” I mean, I wanted to drink and hire a babysitter but I LIKED. Correction – LOVED my clothes. I didn’t WANT to wear my old clothes. And my investment in those clothes? I didn’t want to abandon that. Or my baby (even when she bit me). So yes – maybe clothes and fashion may seem superficial, but I TRULY believe it’s not. It’s about looking good. And feeling good. And being able to easily do the job that you have when you are a breastfeeding Mom (that is of the MANY jobs all Moms have). As if being a Mom, dealing with your changing body, doing it all on limited sleep and more wasn’t hard enough … at least nursing clothes remove the anxiety of, “What am I going to where?” and the feeling of “Nothing looks good on me!”
So yeah – I think the lady that sells nursing clothes has about a dozen in her closet (but let’s be real, that’s maybe 1/3 of all the clothes you have in your closet if not WAY less. Am I right?)
2016 UPDATE: This post is 11 months old and while I have been done breastfeeding for a little less than a year now, I STILL wear "breastfeeding" clothes - every day! (And I get a TON of compliments on them too since you can't find them in mainstream stores and people think they're boutique specials or something). Here's my outfit from a PTA event I went to 2 weekends ago:
My name is Elena aka The Breastfeeding Stylist and the creator of Mama's MilkBox and Carmen.
We have one mission here at Mama's MilkBox: help Moms find their "old" fabulous selves in their new normal.