Today we are talking nursing friendly clothes to breastfeed in! Breastfeeding my first child, Addie, started off rocky. (She’s now almost 4 years old, for those who are new around here!) The learning curve was high. For one, I had to learn the mechanics of breastfeeding (proper latch, what letdowns are, clogged ducts, what it looks like when babies swallow, etc.) Second, and more significantly, I battled a lot of anxiety about doing it correctly, if Addie was eating enough, and comparing myself to other new moms for whom breastfeeding seemed easy. And third, I had to figure out what kind of gear and clothes I needed to be able to breastfeed. It required a lot of research, time, and energy that I didn’t have as a new mom.
This time around with Ella (who just hit the 1 month mark–how did that pass so quickly??) breastfeeding has been much smoother. I have a handle on the mechanics, on my anxiety, emotions and expectations, and on how to dress for it. Plus, before she was born I prayed for her to have a good latch. 😉
While this post isn’t touching on the mechanics of breastfeeding or the emotions it can bring up, what I hope to do is spare you some energy with that third category about what to wear. Once I found the proper clothes and gear to breastfeed in, I felt a little more like myself, and that went a long way!
MY APPROACH TO BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY CLOTHES
There’s a whole market for breastfeeding-specific clothing, but if that’s what you’re looking for here, you’ll be disappointed. I try to avoid those as much as possible for several reasons: I’m usually not in love with the styles, they’re usually fairly expensive, and even if they’re cheap I won’t be able to wear them once I’m done nursing. There are, of course, exceptions. And once in a while a cute nursing-specific item that makes breastfeeding really easy is nice to have. But generally, if I’m going to buy any clothes, I’d rather spend money on clothes that I can wear while nursing and after. There are SO many options for that! With the right gear and right clothing I’m able to breastfeed in regular clothes all the time. So, here they are!
There’s a lot of gear we could talk about for breastfeeding like pumps, nipple cream, nursing pads, etc. but I’m limiting this to things related to clothing or things we wear.
I nurse in public all the time, but for a bit of privacy, I like to use a nursing cover.
One thing I didn’t realize is that nursing covers are NOT all the same. I was originally given one that looked similar to the one above, but it was on the smaller side so it didn’t provide that much coverage. Plus, the opening at the top wasn’t very large and was essentially ineffective. I felt like I was fighting the cover the whole time, trying to maneuver it to actually cover me or constantly adjusting the top because I couldn’t see what I needed to see. It was actually pretty troublesome and made nursing quite difficult—especially as a new mom who was trying to get the hang of nursing!
Somehow I realized how bad that original nursing cover was and found the one I’m showing above instead. It is much larger and provides more coverage. Also, the opening at the top is wider and actually stays open on its own, so I can easily latch the baby as well as peek in much more easily to see how she’s doing. I’m not exaggerating when I say that upon switching to the new nursing cover, I instantly felt like I was 100% better at nursing because of how much easier it was to use.
My nursing cover is by Balboa and can be found HERE in a lot of different prints. If you’re in the market for one like this, I’d check the measurements in the product listings to compare how large they are. I did a quick comparison with 4 others that popped up as popular and well-rated on Amazon, but still none of them were as large as Balboa’s.
Stretchy 3-in-1 Nursing Cover
There’s also THIS cover which is actually a 3-in-1: carseat cover; shopping cart cover; nursing cover. I bought it as a carseat cover but didn’t love it as a nursing cover at first. However, I have grown to love it a lot, and I’ll explain why. First, why I didn’t like it was because it wraps around you snugly and therefore prevents you from being able to see, which makes it hard to latch a newborn as well as hard to check on them while nursing. My sister-in-law uses this and she said it’s easier when the baby’s older, can support their own neck, and latches more easily. In the earlier days she ducked her head under the cover entirely. That worked, but she said it totally messed up her hair, haha! (In the picture above, I am pushing out the nursing cover with my free hand so that I can see inside. Otherwise, it lays right against my neck with no visibility.)
However, the plus side is that because it wraps around you snugly, you can wear whatever and do whatever you want underneath and you’ll be fully covered. It’s key at the beach when it’s really windy. The first nursing cover I showed above blows around in the wind and exposes everything, but this one stays on me in the windiest circumstances. There’s tons on Amazon, but the one we got is for under $12 HERE.
I own two types of nursing bras 1) a regular one for daytime, and 2) a soft one for nighttime that allows me to also pump handsfree.
STANDARD NURSING BRA
With Addie, I settled for cheap nursing bras and I really didn’t like them and didn’t feel great in them. But I just made do with the mindset that the time would be temporary. Looking back, I realized I was wearing them for almost a year, and that’s a pretty long time to not feel great in something you wear daily.
This time around I let myself splurge on nice nursing bras because nursing a baby several times a day for a long period of time deserves some splurging! Actually, they cost about the same as my normal bras and are from the same brand, Natori. They’re on the expensive side, but I LOVE these bras—both the regular and the nursing ones—and ohhhhhmigosh what a difference a good bra makes!
I got THIS one by Natori shown in the pic above. It feels so comfortable, feels just like a regular bra, and does NOT feel like a sports bra like many nursing bras do. *Cue angels singing* LOVE IT! I would absolutely wear it once I’m no longer nursing too! I got it in my regular size in both nude and black. You can find them HERE.
I also want to try ThirdLove nursing bras as they are often compared to Natori bras but with some discounts can be found a bit cheaper. *Edit–Ella is now 4 months old. I’ve now tried ThirdLove nursing bras and they do not compare to Natori bras. The Natori nursing bras are WAY softer and more comfortable. 👍🏽
SLEEPING NURSING BRAS
If you will not be pumping, you can get sleeping bras like THESE which are really soft and comfortable. I wear these in M.
However, I planned to be pumping this time around, so I looked for one that I could nurse in easily at night as well as pump in handsfree. I got THIS one from Amazon and so far it’s been good! It feels durable, but it doesn’t squeeze me too much. I wear this in size M.
(So far I’m only pumping in the evening and first thing in the morning so the sleeping bra has been sufficient for pumping. If/when I start pumping throughout the day I’ll get a daytime handsfree pumping bra.)
UNDERCOVER MAMA CAMISOLE
This is the only nursing camisole I use because it is unlike all others!
First of all, nursing camis are a MUST for me because they allow me to nurse comfortably in most of my regular tops, as long as the tops are loose enough to pull up. A camisole keeps my stomach covered when I pull tops up to nurse.
Other nursing camis have their own straps and often their own built in bra. They usually just go on top of a nursing bra (or maybe in place of one, but I always still wear a bra), so when you unhook everything you have to unhook the camisole first and then the bra—it’s a lot of layers. What’s different about Undercover Mama camis is that there are no straps, just a bodice, and it attaches directly to your nursing bra. That means you only have to unlatch ONE set of things instead of unlatching layers. When you’re nursing and unlatching things multiple times a day, unlatching layers gets old really fast. That’s why I love Undercover Mama camis!
You can find them HERE in tan, black, and grey. I wear size S in the version from a few years ago, but I tried the current version and it feels a bit snug on me. I think I’d prefer sizing up to M in the new ones, even though the ones in S from a few years ago still fit me now.
NURSING FRIENDLY CLOTHES
Now that we’ve got the gear taken care of, let’s talk about the kinds of clothes you can nurse in!
BUTTON UP TOPS & DRESSES
There are tons of button up tops and dresses out there that make nursing accessible! When I hear “button up tops” I immediately think of collared button ups like all the plaid shirts I wear in the fall and winter, or chambray button ups. Those might seem either a) too stuffy for some of you, and/or b) not very helpful in the spring and summer! But, good news! There are a few other types of tops in different styles and for different seasons that have buttons as well!
COLLARED BUTTON UPS
I already named these, but when I nursed Addie through the fall and winter, I basically wore my normal clothes because I wear so many plaid shirts, open cardigans, and open vests during those seasons! For spring and summer, you can find button up shirts that have short sleeves. I rounded up a few below that you can shop by clicking on any of the items below:
BLOUSES AND TUNICS
Button ups don’t have to be stuffy! There are more relaxed and flowy blouses with buttons like some seen below. Click on any image to shop the item.
HENLEY’S AND COTTON TANKS & TEES
Lastly, for really casual outfits, you can wear Henley’s or cotton tanks and tees that have buttons. Click on any image to shop the item.
Here’s a roundup of button up dresses that you can breastfeed in!
CROSS-FRONT OR FAUX WRAP TOPS AND DRESSES
These are perhaps the quickest to nurse in because all you have to do is pull the neckline to one side. I had several faux wrap dresses in my early 20s long before I ever had kids, and I knew even then that they’d be perfect for nursing a baby in–and they were!
Here’s a roundup of cross front dresses and tops! Click on any image to shop the item. Also, ModCloth always has cross-front dresses!
(VERY RARE, BUT SPECIFIC ONES ARE RIDICULOUSLY STRETCHY)
Edited when Ella was 4 months old. I originally wrote this post with a note that I intentionally left out v-neck tops and dresses knowing those didn’t work for everyone, including myself. I was never able to nurse in v-neck anything, and they always needed to be button ups, cross-fronts, or pulled up completely. In the last 3 months I have found these v-neck tank tops that are ridiculously stretchy. I can nurse easily in them, and if *I* can do it, I am confident most others can as well.
Above I’m wearing the same tank in 3 different colors. Tucked into a skirt, this was my summer uniform when it was super hot, when I wanted to be dressy casual at church or out with friends, and when I wanted nursing to be really, really, really easy. They come in 8 colors HERE. I’m usually size S/M or 6/8 and wear these in size M.
A similar t-shirt that is also ridiculously stretchy is HERE and comes in several prints. I wear these in size M.
Both the tank and tees are fitted at the bust, making them flattering when tucked into a skirt, but are loose at the waist which makes them drape well with a front tuck into shorts and jeans.
STRAPLESS TOPS AND DRESSES
I haven’t nursed in these mostly because I haven’t thought through how to pull down a strapless bra for nursing and I’m not about to buy a nursing friendly strapless bra! But, if you can figure out the bra situation, a strapless dress would be super easy to nurse in. I think of this as an option to have in your back pocket when looking for dresses to wear to weddings if you can’t find button-up or cross-front options you like. There are tons of strapless dresses!
Edit–Ella is now 4 months old. I’ve now nursed in this exact dress and other dresses with thin spaghetti straps that I could pull off easily + a regular strapless bra. It’s super easy to nurse in if you’re wearing a strapless bra with soft, moldable cups.
LOOSER TOPS AND SWEATERS (+ UNDERCOVER MAMA CAMIS)
Lastly, like I said earlier, I wear any of my regular tops that I can pull up easily and wear Undercover Mama camis underneath. This includes any of my cotton tees like my Madewell V-neck tees, my twist tees, all of my striped tees, and my flowy printed tees like THIS one and THIS one. It also includes my Lush tunics (or the softer and shorter similar Henley version), among other flowy tops I own.
Between all these options I scarcely ever feel the need to buy nursing-specific clothing apart from undergarments. I can more or less wear my regular clothes thanks to Undercover Mama camis, and there is a lot of variety between the different types of button-ups and cross-front clothing. The 6 outfits above are what I’ve been wearing and breastfeeding in the last 4 weeks since Ella was born!
You can view my past nursing-friendly outfits HERE, though that only shows my button up and cross-front outfits. Most days I just wear loose tops that I can pull up, as you’ll see in my Outfits of the Day.
I hope this helps some nursing mamas out there! You’ve got this!