Thursday, January 7, 2016

Top Up or Top Down: Clothes for Breastfeeding

Maternity wear is not nearly as complicated to figure out as nursing wear is. Maternity wear = find what fits and wear it (as long as it's something that does not complicate your need to urinate 83 times a day). For the past almost five months, I have scoured ye ol' Google and Pinterest for DIY nursing tops (ain't nobody got time for that) or advice from other breastfeeding moms. No one seems to care about telling me how I should clothe myself now that I have become a human smorgasbord, so I went on a bleary-eyed, milk-stained quest of my own. I have spent countless hours poring over the following websites in search of the holy boobie grail: Amazon, LOFT, thredUP, H&M, Old Navy, Gap, Target, Zulily, and Pinkblush Maternity. (I am sure many other sites belong on this list, but we do not have all day here.) I tried to reuse a lot of my pre-pregnancy (and even maternity) wardrobe, but I didn't have as much nursing-friendly clothing as I had hoped.

Anyway, if you are losing sleep to a flesh-covered bundle of love and want someone else to do the work for you, here I am. Or, if you are wise and thinking about this journey before you embark on it, again, here I am. Allow me to share with you what I have learned. It might not work for you, but at least I tried?

Question One: Are you a top-up or top-down breastfeeder (not a word, but here I go making it one)? 
* Top Down: It took me awhile to learn that I loathe trying to bundle up a bunch of fabric at my neck by awkwardly pulling up my shirt to feed Vincenza. Thus, I am a top-down breastfeeder. I would prefer to pull down my top to access the ladies than juggle the bottom of my shirt in a fit of total and complete discombobulation.
* Top Up: My mom, however, preferred breastfeeding my brother and me by pulling up her top. I don't know why, but that was what she preferred. I know a lot of women who can do this well. I bow down to them and their awesomeness because I can't make it work.
* Why it matters: You will hate t-shirts if you are a top-down breastfeeder because most t-shirts do not have enough elasticity to pull down and snap back into place nicely after you've nursed the babe. I have watched plenty of women perform this task effortlessly, but I am not one of those women. Everything about me is awkward.

Question Two: What kind of clothes should you look for when you're shopping?
* Nursing nightgowns: I bought these while I was pregnant, and I LOVED them while I was pregnant and when Vincenza was an insatiable newborn. They had a little bit of padding, so if someone came to visit, I didn't have to put on a bra. Since I had a c-section, they were also great for my healing incision. Also, when I went through two days of engorgement (possibly worse than labor), these nursing nightgowns were all that did not hurt. I bought these at Motherhood Maternity during a promotion.

* Looser tops: They are forgiving to your healing body. I am almost five months out and currently typing this post while wearing maternity leggings. I have zero shame. They in no way have to do with nursing, but they sure are comfortable. Ultimately, you want to be comfortable. Also, you want to wear fabrics that aren't itchy for you or the baby.

* Padded nursing bras (NO UNDERWIRE): I get mine at Target because I have to pull them down so much that I don't think it's useful to spend a lot of money on something that gets milk-stained and takes a serious beating (sometimes quite literally these days with a baby who must grab all the things). I make sure mine are padded so that they take care of any "leakage." You don't want to look like you're wearing a wet bikini under your t-shirt. Be careful with underwire because I've read that it can lead to plugged ducts/mastitis because of the pressure it creates. (I know multiple women who have had mastitis, and it sounds horrific.)

This is the Target nursing tank. I have it in gray, black, white, and stripes. 
Buy it here for $19.99. 
Find the nursing bra here for $18.99.

* Henleys: If you do not know what a henley is, it is essentially a button up that buttons only partway down the shirt. If you choose to get a henley (or five), then make sure the buttons go below the bottom of your boobs. Otherwise, you're going to struggle to access them when you have a screaming baby in your arms. No bueno.

 This henley is J.Crew from thredUP.

* Button-up/button-down shirts: These are probably the best shirts for nursing. They are also great during pregnancy because once your belly gets too big to button them, you just leave them unbuttoned over a t-shirt/tank. WIN. Thus, if you find yourself pregnant again while you're still nursing another child, button ups will surely become your friends.

This is a flannel from Old Navy. It's a few years old.

This button-up is a bit "fancier" (would be great for work) and from The Limited several years ago.
I paired it with one of my black nursing tanks from Target.
I have no idea why she's making that face, but it makes me laugh.

I am actually several months pregnant in this picture; this top is a maternity top from Stitchfix. It has buttons halfway down the shirt, so it has been perfect for nursing. It's also work appropriate! 
I wore this shirt (from The Limited) before, during, and now after pregnancy. I can wear it over a nursing tank (or not). This one is sleeveless, so I am not wearing it much now that it's cold outside. It'll be great for spring/summer, however.

* Zipper up sweatshirts: Since I am a top-down breastfeeder, sweatshirts that do not zipper are utterly (udderly? BAHA) useless to me.  This sweatshirt is THE BEST. It buttons just far enough down and has the perfect amount of stretch to make nursing really easy (as easy as it can be). It holds its shape well because it has spandex in it. Always opt for a bit of elasticity in your shirts if you can.

* Heavier cardigans: I wear these in place of regular sweaters because, as I said, I hate lifting my top to nurse. Regular sweaters require lifting my top. If you do wear a regular sweater or are a top up breastfeeder, make sure to wear a nursing tank under it so that you are not catching a mighty big draft on your midriff.

I paired this zipper up sweater with a light pink nursing tank from Motherhood Maternity. (They have a great color selection, and the prices aren't terrible, about $24-$26 per tank.) 

* Crossover or wrap tops/sweaters: These will work well for you when you are nursing or when you are not nursing. They make for easy access. Just make sure the shirt is stretchy or it won't snap back to its original shape very well.

This wrap sweater is from Motherhood Maternity (no link), but Nordstrom has one that's very similar. I have heard great things about it and want one for myself! 
Find the Nordstrom one here for $39.90.

* Crossover or wrap dresses: Unless you want to pull your entire dress over your head, you might want to make it easy on yourself in the dress department by wearing a dress with a stretchy top that crosses over. Like this one:

This dress came in a grab bag from White Plum.

This maxi dress has the same idea.
(From StitchFix)

* Final Notes:
-Spandex helps garments hold their shape. If you're pulling your top down over and over again, you likely don't want to have a case of the saggies.
-If you are a top up breastfeeder and want to wear t-shirts, try to get ones that aren't too fitted so that you are not struggling to pull up a fitted t-shirt and feeling a bit like a sausage link stuck in its casing.
-Determine whether or not you want (or need) to drop dough on a nice nursing bra. My chest isn't large enough to worry about a ton of support.
-Try to reuse maternity stuff and rethink your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. I've learned that you really don't have to sacrifice your sense of style for nursing-friendly clothes.

Question Three: Where do you look for nursing tops without spending your child's college tuition on a top that's really the onesie version (for the love of SNAPS) of a nursing top?
* Target: I like their nursing tanks and padded nursing bras (inexpensive compared to other options). Their maternity tanks do a nice job of pulling down and snapping back into place without getting all saggy.

* Old Navy: Their nursing tanks were not meant for my chest, and they were poorly made compared to Target's version (and not much different in price). Old Navy has great, affordable button downs, which are PERFECT for nursing. I pair them with a Target nursing tank. I wouldn't even bother with their nursing section. Almost nothing receives a good review, and you can find other, better, non-nursing stuff that is actually nursing friendly. Find their nursing tops here.

* Gap: They sell nursing tops, but they are often backordered (guess that means they're good?). The selection isn't large, but they always have sales going on, so I am sure you could try out a few of the essentials from them. Find their nursing tops here.

* ThredUP: This is tricky because you need the search feature to maintain your sanity. I search for "henley" (make sure the buttons on a henley go down to the bottom of your bra so that you can actually get to your boob without going all HULK SMASH on your shirt, leaving yourself naked and afraid.) I also search for button-ups/button-downs, whatever the proper terminology for those shirts happens to be.

* Motherhood Maternity: They specialize in this sort of thing, and they have decent prices. I especially love this striped top.

* H&M: Look at their maternity stuff; you'll find nursing tops in that section of their website. Their prices are great, and they have a pretty decent selection.

* ASOS: Not the most cost-friendly option, but they have a lot of options that are very pretty. If you plan on having multiple kids for whom you must whip out a boob, then maybe invest in a piece from ASOS. They have free shipping both ways, so that's a perk. Find their nursing stuff here. I love this floral dress and this polka dot dress.

* LOFT: They have so many pretty button up tops and also have a bunch of henley tops. I waited for one of their 60% off sales and scored several awesome tops, all of which I have test run and receive the awkward nursing mother stamp of approval. LOFT is great if you are going back to work and want some tops that double for work and for nursing. Search for "henley." I just got several tops from them and LOVE THEM ALL.
* Wal Mart: I know, right? WAL MART. Find some here. I like this one.

* Pinkblush Maternity: They have some gorgeous dresses that would be great for family pictures. Their dresses are a bit less expensive than ASOS. Find their nursing options here.

Zulily: They don't always have nursing stuff, but sometimes they do. This is not my first stop to look for anything, but they frequently have nursing tanks. A lot of women swear by Bun Maternity nursing tanks, which are frequently on Zulily for less, but I am not even willing to pay the Zulily price for them. When summer comes, I might be singing a different tune, however.

* Amazon: I look for henleys here. If you type in "nursing tops," you get a lot of clothes to wear if you were a nurse. Yep. This brand has a lot of cute stuff, but I have not tried any of them yet. This sweater is cute but could be cumbersome. I bought and love these. They are such a good price! (They also have short-sleeved ones.)

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I am SURE I forgot a whole host of things. However, as many of you moms know, we're working on borrowed time here. I squeeze in as much as I can wherever I can. Also, this post in no way is judgmental of moms who do not or cannot breastfeed. (I feel stupid even typing that disclaimer because we all do the best we can and what works for US, but contemporary society is so hellbent on fueling the mommy wars that I feel compelled to include it.) Anyway, I hope you found this post somewhat useful.


  1. Love it! This is super helpful :)

  2. Thanks for the informative post! I'll definitely be saving this for later!

  3. Ok, you have got this breastfeeding dressing thing down! When it comes time to have a little babay, I'll be referring back to your blog. Oh, and I have the Nordstrom wrap cardigan. It looks a bit funny wrapped, it doesn't have the lovely cowlneck has but worn open it's wonderfully fleece-lined. Highly recommend.

  4. This post could not have come at a better time! I agree that finding maternity wear was a heck of a lot easier than finding nursing-friendly tops. I've been wearing a lot of button-down shirts, but I might have to look into getting some henleys...because who has time for ironing these days?! I also like the idea of getting some wrap/crossover dresses. Thanks for posting this!!

  5. Love the options my goodness! This post was a perfect time. I love the Bun Maternity tanks and their hoodie. Also the Nordstrom wraps, but I haven't tried any henleys because of all the buttons. May give that a try from your J Crew suggestion.


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