growing a minimalist wardrobe: (while) nursing.

March 19, 2015
growing a minimalist wardrobe: breastfeeding | reading my tea leavesI thought it was only fitting in a week when I wrote about breastfeeding to also write about the wardrobe needed to accommodate such a job. I realize that this post will only serve a niche readership. But I hope it will be helpful for those readers and not too tiresome for everyone else. Besides, my point, really, is that a nursing wardrobe doesn’t have to be nursing-exclusive, it just has to provide easy access to one’s breasts.

Suffice to say, I was not interested in growing a whole new wardrobe to accommodate breastfeeding. And yet. Not all clothes are created equal and not all clothes make for easy access. The first month or two post-baby presented an especially interesting conundrum of not wanting to get anything new and not being able to comfortably wear much of what I already owned. To be clear: this would have been true breastfeeding or no. Growing a human has a way of shifting things.
Still, I didn’t want to invest in a special breastfeeding shirt or dress and I didn’t want to give up on any of my favorite sundresses. So I mostly just waited it out. I spent the summer in a pair of worn-out cut-off corduroys and pulled v-neck t-shirts up or down to nurse. More than once, I pulled a tank top strap off my shoulder and nursed, one boob out. I bought a tank top with buttons. I bought a romper with straps that I could pull down. And I splurged on one special dress that I knew I’d love to wear even after my boobs had calmed down and I began to feel more like myself. Because sometimes you need to treat yourself. Even if your stomach still feels pouchy. Especially if your stomach still feels pouchy.
Truth be told, I spent the first few months after Faye was born feeling frumpy. But frumpiness notwithstanding, I don’t think I would do anything different clothes-wise. Like everything else with a baby, the moment of discomfort is relatively fleeting. My best advice to brand new mothers is to wear clothes that are soft and comfortable and that won’t make you scrutinize whether you can fit your bum into your jeans. (You probably can’t. But you probably will be able to soon enough. And if you still can’t after a few months? You buy a pair of new jeans. Because the problem is the jeans, not you.) I think you should treat yourself to something lovely if you’re able, but I don’t think that that treat can only come in the form of a utilitarian dresses you’re not going to want to wear again.
Nearly ten months in, breastfeeding still presents its share of sartorial challenges but I don’t feel quite as stymied by it. My favorite sundresses still don’t really allow for an all-access pass, but I’m saving them for next summer and date nights and embracing buttons instead.
growing a minimalist wardrobe: breastfeeding | reading my tea leaves
A few of my favorite breastfeeding-friendly finds:
Washable nursing pads (I borrowed my sister’s!)
A few other things I think look lovely:
A button-up tunic dress
A button-up jumpsuit
A button-up dress for a special occassion
A pair of shorts (or two) + tee
One thing I never used:
a nursing cover (though I did cover up with a swaddle a few times)

More minimalist wardrobe posts, HERE.

*I received both my new Bridge & Burn button-up dress and my favorite Tradlands button-up (pictured above) as gifts. Many thanks to these thoughtful brands for letting me test-drive their beautiful clothes.

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20 Comments

  • Reply moni.zuza March 19, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I've pretty much lived in tanktops and hoodies. Nothing beats the one boob out simplicity. I have some nursing shirts with access pockets I received as presents, but find it more complicated to reach the nursing bra snaps. I miss my wardrobe, but maybe the long absence will make it easier to part with things I no longer need in there… and get closer to that minimal wardrobe.

  • Reply Kai Klaarika March 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    I wore biggish t-shirts. I also did not get any other maternity clothes than one pair of preagnancy- jeans. The breastfeeding time is relatively short ( about 6 months with me), it's really not worth it, getting a whole new wardrobe and then getting rid of it in 6-12-? months.
    Beautifully said, that thing about it being the fault of the jeans, not you 🙂 sweet.

  • Reply Sid March 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Oh, I wish this post had existed 5 years ago! It took me a fair bit of trial-and-error to find an approach to nursing-friendly clothing that worked for me. A few epiphanies I can share. You really don't need to spend money on nursing bras (or special shirts) – regular bras are mostly easy enough to get a boob out of. For the first few months when your cup size can change hour-to-hour, a couple of soft cheap "sleep" bras are wonderful for day and night use (to hold those breast pads in). Once things stabilize, invest in at least one quality comfortable bra that makes you feel good when you wear it. Finally, for women who don't want to deal with a nursing cover but aren't comfortable flashing boob/belly while nursing: layered stretch tank tops (lift the top one up to nurse – top one covers the top of your boob and the bottom one keeps that belly covered).

  • Reply Julia March 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    great post. i definitely gave up on dresses while i was nursing. i did splurge on one "nursing dress" from figure8maternity.com for my brother's wedding that i will totally still wear, breastfeeding or not. it was pretty damn handy for a four month old at a wedding.

  • Reply Monique March 19, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Oh what a lovely post!
    I invested in 2 nursing tops and 2 nursing bras from H&M and was very happy that I did (2 for 29.99…http://www.hm.com/us/product/52026?article=52026-B&piaDept=Subdepartment_ladies&piaType=Large_picture). This nursing "gear" made me feel more comfortable in the first few months when I was often nursing in public (in front of friends/family/visitors, in restaurants, cafes, parks, airplanes etc…). Once I was in the swing of things, I transitioned to my "regular" clothes (except the sundresses, which I missed dearly) with a tank top underneath.
    As you say so eloquently, it's all about feeling comfortable…soft fabrics and indulging yourself in something special when possible! Thanks for all your lovely posts! I am enjoying the "breastfeeding" themed week 🙂

  • Reply Emily C March 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    It is such an ordeal to figure it all out! I remember being very frustrated at first – many of the clothes I looked forward to wearing after pregnancy still wouldn't work, because I needed to breastfeed (or because my hips and ribcage are both permanently wider). I tried several nursing-specific dresses and tops before getting frustrated and settling on Target nursing tank tops underneath t-shirts and sweaters on most days, and growing to like button-down shirts more after finding ones that fit properly (including Tradlands, which are amazing). I think early on it's so hard to sort out, and any extra fabric in the way of the boob got so frustrating for my baby – but once she and I were in the groove, we were more flexible.

    I totally missed the boat on that style ace & jig dress and found it just after it sold out – what a stunner!

  • Reply Gwyn March 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I love your blog. It's in my Bloglovin' list "Essential". I am 27 years old. I am not married (yet) and i don't have kids (yet). But I anticipate that someday I might. I probably will. And even though I haven't had the experience(s) yet, I enjoy reading about your experience and advice. So, from a haven't-nursed and nont-currently-nursing but some-day-mom, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Lauren March 19, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    "And if you still can't after a few months? You buy a pair of new jeans. Because the problem is the jeans, not you.) " Oh, this speaks to me! Thank you for saying this so kindly. 18 months later, I've thrown out all my pre-pregnancy jeans because they just don't work anymore. But I so love my body and the extra skin I earned. Grateful for your body positive message here!

  • Reply Anonymous March 19, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    As someone who's still feeding her 18 month old after a gap of.three months when her then year old weaned when she was six months pregnant I wouldn't have gotten this far had I not invested in good quality nursing dresses and tops. They're all I've worn for almost three years now and still in.great condition. I'm very bored of them but I've been inspired by this blog to use what I have and slowly buy new non breast accessible clothes when my youngest weans and I can pack my nursing wardrobe away for when I or a friend needs it again.

  • Reply Jessica Welsh March 19, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I remember feeling frumpy, trying to make my current wardrobe work without spending money on new clothes, wondering when those jeans would fit again (they never did so I gave them away). You're right though, "the moment of discomfort is relatively fleeting." Before you know it, you've found your new normal. Thanks so much for this Erin!

  • Reply Jen March 19, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    The best nursing things I have are:
    two cowl neck t-shirts (cheap, stretchy light-weight knits from KMart, I just pull down the neck – one boob at a time, no tummy showing, no buttons etc.), a strappy dress from Patagonia (boob pops out, no bra needed, moisture wicking "outdoor" fabric that is strong and stretchy, leaks don't show; fit while pregnant, fits after too!), and a men's tank top – the kind with huge arm holes ("wife-beater").

    I wear the man's tank top to bed (co-sleeping) and I can roll over onto my side and pop a boob out the armhole, leaving the extra fabric (which there isn't too much of) snug between my boobs instead of draping all over the baby's face. It also stops him from trying to add a little t-shirt into his mouth while he nurses, and leaves me otherwise clothed (no bare belly in the middle of the night), and keeps my other boob covered so he does not try to play with it and tweak the nipple!

    The clicking of the little plastic latches on nursing bras and tanks wakes baby up, so I opted to find uh… quiet clothes.

  • Reply Aya March 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I find that with each of your postings, I like you even more. You are also one of the few blogs that I read thoroughly and click each link, rather than skimming along. I'm about 4 months away from the birth of my first and am already having a bit of a time dressing myself. This post is helpful, timely, useful and kind. Thank you for you and your wonderful blog.

  • Reply Ally March 20, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    This is a great post. I found my way here via Tradlands and what luck – at 8 months post-partum I am getting sick of my existing nursing-friendly wardrobe and looking for some updates, but I'm also back in the realm of buying clothes for a semi-permanent, non-fluctuating body shape so I want to buy stuff I will wear even after I'm done breastfeeding, whenever that is. Hooray for this post! Loving those striped shorts.

    My MO is to pair a button-down shirt with one of the several maternity tanks I have. Then I can unbutton the shirt and pull the tank down to either nurse or pump. Since the tanks are incredibly stretchy and also not really my "normal wardrobe" favorites, I don't worry about stretching the neckline beyond repair, especially since they only exist under button-downs now.

  • Reply thefolia March 20, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Cheers to anything button-down. I think of it as a "new wardrobe" by wearing tops that easily accommodate for feedings that I didn't give much thought before. Happy closet hunting for easy access!

  • Reply thefolia March 20, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Cheers to anything button-down. I think of it as a "new wardrobe" by wearing tops that easily accommodate for feedings that I didn't give much thought before. Happy closet hunting for easy access!

  • Reply Marie Willford March 21, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Interesting. I'm currently nursing my 4th baby. I was looking at a capsule wardrobe worksheet where you make a pie for activities your wardrobe needs to be appropriate for. Mine has a tiny chunk for Sunday best, but is mostly playing with kids. But even when in Sunday best, I am nursing! I don't love buttons, so I am finally buying some nursing dresses (we have hot summers and i NEED to be able to wear dresses) and specialty tops ( nothing that I wouldn't wear when I'm done) because I will spend all day, everyday, for the next year at least, nursing.

  • Reply Busola March 21, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Ha! I too just pull up my tank top or v-neck tees to nurse!

  • Reply Catherine March 25, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I'm tackling my 16th month of breastfeeding (2 different children.. both mine!) and I simply wear a nursing cami underneath *everything* so I can pull up my shirts without exposing aforementioned pouchy stomach! Works perfectly for me! 🙂

  • Reply carrie July 21, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    I’m about to have my 3rd baby. For the 1st baby, I had 1 Target nursing tank (bought on consignment) that I wore EVERY SINGLE DAY under whatever shirt I was wearing- and I nursed for 22 months–ugh, what was I thinking! For child number 2, I had a couple of ill-fitting consignment nursing tanks and cheap-o, uncomfortable nursing bras that I never wore. After about 6 months of that ridiculousness, I just started wearing my regular bras again and pulling them aside to nurse. Needless to say, this destroyed the bras and was not terribly convenient either. This time, I’m over my excessive frugalness, and I’m gonna do what it takes to be cute AND comfy! Soo I’ve bought a couple NEW (woohoo!) nursing tanks and have just ordered about 7-8 $50-60 nursing bras from Bravado and Nordstrom, which I’ll try on and probably keep the best 2 and return the rest. Also already shopping around for cute shirt-dress, button-up things.

  • Reply Veronica Horner August 17, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Great post with some awesome options! I found it so hard to find good / fashionable nursing clothes that I started a brand called Maia Moda (www.maiamoda.com). We are focused on providing clothes that will work through maternity and breastfeeding that reflect your pre-motherhood style and are great for work! (one of the hardest to category to find!)

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