When you’re pregnant you tend to spend loads of time (and money!) getting READY. We research, we compare, we agonise, and we stock up on the things we need. For me personally, I bought lots of ‘dual purpose’ maternity wear and congratulated my self that I was going to be able to wear them for years breastfeeding, then the next baby, then breastfeeding again.
And sure, I got lots of wear out of them when I was pregnant and working, but to be honest, most of those clothes are still in my drawers having barely been worn since the birth of my first baby.
So why didn’t I wear them? Lots of reasons. Suddenly the season was wrong and the clothes were all too warm. They were too formal to wear with my pyjama bottoms around the house. Some of them had awkward access that just didn’t work as we were learning to breastfeed.
Also – I just felt like a whole new person after the birth of my first baby – it is true what they say – the day your baby is born a mother is born too. The clothes were perfect as I was jetsetting about attending meetings and managing projects, but I was new! A new mum, a whole new person – I didn’t feel like ‘me’ in those old clothes.
So, here is my guide to choose clothes to breastfeed in..
QUICK AND EASY ACCESS
In the early days breastfeeding a newborn baby you want clothes that have easy and quick access. Avoid anything that has buttons or zips that need to be undone. Baby will want to feed often – this is super normal – and zips or buttons would quickly become bothersome.
You also want WIDE access. What do I mean? When you are both learning to breastfeed you want to have a good portion of your breast available to manipulate, you want to see that you have a good latch and you don’t baby crowded by your clothes.
You may also want to consider access that lifts to show the breast below – that way the top portion of your breast and chest is covered. When you are learning and have a lot of your breast exposed, this may help you feel less exposed when breastfeeding out in public.
Check carefully what season bubs will be born in and purchase accordingly – but also keep in mind that in these early days you will probably keep room temperatures ambient so a simple tank top you can throw a cardigan over would also be perfect.
EMPIRE lift access has a panel that stops just on or below the breast and you lift this to access the breast. It is super easy to breastfeed in this style.
HEM lift access looks in most cases like an ordinary top but you lift to reveal a modesty panel underneath. Nursing access is usually by pulling aside or down the modesty panel.
DROP CUP is also a great option, especially at home. You unclip at the strap and the whole cup drops away. Some tops, but not all, will have a sling underneath to keep your top in place as you feed, or to allow for modesty.
NECKLINE access is also a favourite for new mums. Some breastfeeding tops are designed specifically for this access. Some will have panels for modesty, some will not. You may find, depending on your body shape that some ordinary non-breastfeeding tops are perfectly suitable for you to pull the neckline away – be warned though that they may eventually end up with a ruined neckline.
ZIP access tops are popular as they are usually invisible zips so the top looks just like a non-breastfeeding top. I would recommend saving these for later when bubs is feeding less frequently, or for when you have a special event. It is also good to note that whilst they look cute they may not work for everyone. If you have lower breasts, or larger breasts you may find some styles awkward to access your breast. You mostly need two hands to undo a zip, which also makes it hard when your bubs is very small – you may need to put baby down just to undo and do up your top.
NATURAL fibres like cotton or linen are ideal when breastfeeding because they are breathable – and when your hormones are changing a lot (read – you might be sweating or smelling different than you are used to) this is a good thing. Try to choose cotton from Fairtrade and sustainable sources.
Man made fibres from natural materials like viscose are popular in breastfeeding clothes because they drape nicely and wash easily. Historically the chemical process to produce these fibres are dangerous to workers and the environment and clothes possibly even retain toxicity. The good news is that the technology for these fibres are improving all the time. If you are not sure, ask the supplier about how the fibres are made and what assurances can be made about the safety of the material.
If you are planning to use baby carriers (seriously the best thing since sliced bread – you should definitely add this to your research list) – you may want to consider some tops with higher necklines, and definitely with natural fibres. Baby will rest their head on your chest and in humid climates that layer of cotton will help prevent a slippery sweaty mess!
If you don’t get anything in preparation – you can easily get something once bub has been born. Send your partner on a shopping mission, get online, or bundle baby into a carrier!
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