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Have you ever come across a solution to the unfortunate problem of nursing bras constantly peaking their way out of the top of nursing-appropriate shirts?

Nursing Bras, Nursing Tops, Nursing Fashion Faux Pas

By Amalah

So here is an interesting dilemma that I thought you may be able to resolve for me while I await the arrival of my second nugget of love. I was (and hope to be again) a professional breastfeeding mom for at least a year which, for my first, placed me in a headstrong and frustrating battle with two competing interests and they aren’t what you might expect: the nursing bra versus the nursing/pumping shirt.

As a first-time mom I naively expected these two things to work in perfect harmony, but I quickly learned that they have adamantly opposing purposes, the first being to keep your breasts (your unnervingly heavy breasts, which change by up to a three cup sizes throughout the day) in check and the second being to provide one-handed discrete access to those coveted milk-factories at lightening speed. Inevitably, and for good reason, nursing bras seem always to be full coverage while the best nursing tops tend to have a V-neck, drooping-neck or are just otherwise prone to easily expose a lot of chest so that they do not fully cover a full coverage bra. The result…showing a little lace teaser to the judge is absolutely not an acceptable way to win hearings, if you get my drift.

Have you ever come across a solution to the unfortunate problem of nursing bras constantly peaking their way out of the top of nursing-appropriate shirts? And, I will confess, I am absolutely open to shameless marketing here if you have discovered a company that has managed to design a nursing bra that does not come practically to my neck in coverage but still keep these suckers appropriately under control. Thanks!

Mrs. Existential Crisis

Apologies in advance for a more crowd-sourced column than usual, but I have been furiously Googling on your behalf for several weeks now and have come up pretty darn lacking.

Personally, I usually went with nursing tanks over nursing bras, particularly at first when my cup size was fluctuating like crazy and you’d go broke trying to keep up with them. Bonus points because tanks more or less look like any ol’ regular meant-to-be-seen layer. My go-to look was a nursing tank paired with a regular, non-nursing-centric button-down (left fully or partially unbuttoned), a zip-up hoodie, or a deep stretchy v-neck. I think I bought a couple actual “nursing tops” with my firstborn, then got super cranky about the price mark-up on anything and everything officially labeled maternity or nursing and went out of my way to find workable clothing and underwear among the regular racks.

Once my boobs settled down into a somewhat predictable size and my babies got their latching down pat, I still mostly stuck with nursing tanks and workable layers…or just regular, inexpensive, non-full-coverage, non-underwire bras from Target or GapBody and mastered the nursing-from-below maneuver. (Slide baby into position while pulling shirt AND bra up, use baby’s body or blanket or deep-v layering tank to conceal postpartum midsection if in public. I also just hiked everything up and over while pumping, which I always did in private anyway, so who cares if my belly is out?) Sometimes I just yanked the side of a regular soft-cupped bra down from the top — push the strap down off the shoulder, roll and tuck the cup off to the side.

If I wasn’t wearing a button-down/zip-style top later with a tank underneath, I stocked up on stretchy v-neck t-shirts from Old Navy and The Gap whenever they were on sale, so if I stretched the necks out too much they were priced to more or less toss or demote to sleepwear. (Just realized I’m wearing one now, paired with reindeer PJ pants! Happy holidays!)  I definitely owned nursing bras all three times, but since I regularly encountered the very problem you describe with full-coverage visibility not working with most of my clothing, I didn’t wear them even close to exclusively, especially beyond the first six weeks.

THAT SAID. I 100% know this anti-nursing-bra/nursing-wear approach simply doesn’t work for women with larger, more cumbersome chest sizes (I think I topped out at a smallish C-cup), or women who need to dress in a more complicated professional fashion than I ever did, as a WAHM who could totally slob it up and rarely had to give a crap about Discretion While Nursing.

So! Ladies Of Ye Old Comment Section: What did you wear? What did you do? What clever work-around or solution did you come up with, or can you provide insight into some Amazing Product that I clearly am not aware exists? Give us your best and brightest nursing wear combos, please!

Photo source: Depositphotos/Anetlanda

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Lucy R

    I’m well endowed and followed similar pattern… nursing tanks for six-ish weeks when I needed constant access and was otherwise slumming it at home. Then as I wanted access to my regular wardrobe I switched to regular bras and button downs or vneck/loose tops. I wear regular bras and just reach inside and grab a boob through the vneck to breastfeed. To pump I pull the shirt up, and either stick the flanges inside (no pumping bra) or pull both boobs out and wrap the pumping bra with zipper around.

    I’m 8+ months pp and still breastfeeding and pumping at work and just gave away alll the special snapdown bras and tanks. All done with those!!

    Work dresses are the trickiest 🙂 … a few times I’ve found myself in the mothers room having to take the whole dress off!

    • Alison B

      I second all of this! I do the exact same things, even down to the pumping flanges method. Glad to know it works for someone else too. 🙂 And ditto on the work dresses, hah!

  • Guest

    I also went with non-nursing bras. I had a private place to pump, with a lock on the door – I hope you, do, too!! So when I went to work I’d wear a regular bra and/or a shirt that didn’t necessarily provide nursing access. It allowed me to wear so many clothes that had been packed away forever! When it was time to pump I’d just take my shirt and bra off. It did make me feel a little bit vulnerable and I checked the lock a million times, but I found it also felt fabulous to wear non-nursing attire and feel like a real person again. When I got home I’d change into a nursing bra with a stretchy shirt for baby access.

  • Guest

    I wore nursing bras or tanks (Rumina were my favorite) with regular work tops when pumping at work. I just pulled up my top and pumped. The tanks were the best because they kept my stomach from being exposed, but if I was wearing a nursing bra, I would usually wrap the shawl I kept in my office around my stomach for warmth and to prevent the cleaning lady from seeing everything when she inevitably walked into my locked office.

  • Sarah S

    I am in the midst of this now – still nursing my 11.5 mo and pumping at work. I’ve been wearing nursing bras almost exclusively, mostly due to the fact that my pre-baby bras are just now starting to fit (and the fact that they probably fit poorly pre-baby and were low quality anyway…). I don’t have many/any specific nursing tops though. My favorite solution has been the type that clip on to your bra (so basically like tube tops): https://www.amazon.com/Undercover-Mama-Nursing-Tank-Breastfeeding/dp/B006MJL6ZG

    They don’t provide coverage for the bra straps but they solve the plunging neck line issue. I wear them with just about any regular old top – I just pull up the sweater or whatever and the tank provides coverage for my mid-section. They are also really nice for any tops you can pull down (v-neck, low scoop neck, etc.) and are great for v-neck or wrap style dresses that otherwise would expose the ample coverage of my nursing bras. I also wear them with my regular old button downs. They are also nice and long, which I found to be nice with my post-baby extra weight around my middle. I found that many of my pre-baby tops seemed too short for a new body shape (larger chest and wider hips/tummy).

  • Guest 2

    Like Lucy R, I’m also well endowed (size I as in ice cream), so I always felt more comfortable with a nursing bra. Mostly, I wore a tank top over my bra and whatever shirt I wanted; when I nursed, I pulled up the shirt and pulled down the tank.

    I did like the under shirts I got from Undercover Mama–they clip onto the hook part of the nursing bra so that you take the tank and bra down all at once. Looking at the pictures, they still may not be the coverage you want …

  • Kendra

    I loved the Bravado nursing tanks. I would wear those to bed and they were easy to layer clothing with. They are a bit on the pricey side but I invested in a few and I wore them for long time. I even still wear some to bed now since my boobs never setting back down in size. At work if I couldn’t wear a tank under my clothing I would wear a bra with a clasp in the front for easy access when pumping. Like a previous poster, some days I would be in the room pumping without a shirt on at all since it was just easier.

    • Roselyne

      Seconding the Bravado rec, with a side-note to size up SIGNIFICANTLY.

  • s

    I preferred nursing bras to nursing tanks, which I found to be both too figure-hugging around my squishy midsection and yet non-supportive up top. At home, I wore a nursing bra with a stretchy shirt (loved the Liz Lange maternity tanks from Target – they just look like regular long tanks (no ruching on the sides), but were super stretchy and snapped back into place). In colder months, I added another layer, like a cardigan or hoodie or even a regular sweater or shirt that I just yanked up from the waist while I pulled the top of the tank down for nursing access. (I hate button downs, personally.)

    At work, I had a private office, so I just stripped down for pumping. I didn’t wear any sort of nursing-appropriate tops or dresses. I changed into a hands-free pumping bra and threw on a cardigan to keep warm and locked the door. (I had to buy and Add-a-Lock from Amazon, because my office door doesn’t come with a lock.) I’m pregnant now and am looking forward to trying out the Freemie cups for pumping, which slip right into your nursing bra so you don’t have to get undressed. Many friends have sworn by them, but they came out after I had stopped pumping last time.

  • Paige

    When I went to work, I wore a full coverage nursing bra underneath and a regular top over it. As Amy said, I was pumping in private, so I could hike up my shirt before accessing the bra clasps, and I never had any peeking issues. I changed into a nursing top or a deep cut henley shirt immediately on getting home in the evening so I could nurse all evening. I’m sure that sometimes my bra showed, but my husband had the brains not to mention it.

  • guest

    I never wore nursing tops. Just wear a regular tee (or blouse), with a button or zip up jacket over it. Pull the tee/blouse up and the baby covers the front of you while the button/zip up covers the side and back.

  • DJ

    I never bought any specific nursing shirts. I just used regular button downs or tank tops (my job has a relaxed dress code). For pumping and nursing I’d pull up from the bottom and unlatched the bra. At church I’d do it in the back or use a muslin blanket to cover us; when out and about elsewhere, I honestly didn’t care. No one is going to find my tiger stripes sexy (except maybe my husband). I never really used nursing tanks, my cup size with #2 was an H. They just didn’t support me. And I have bad headlights when I’m *not* nursing. So I used nursing and regular bras (nursing when out with baby; either at work).

  • Roselyne

    So, very specific recs – I breastfed (well, combination fed due to breastfeeding issues, which is the most inconvenient of ALL worlds and still requires constant boob access) my daughter until she was 18 months old (stopped a year ago), and I’m pregnant with my second (6 weeks to go THANK GOD). Let’s just say I’m right in the middle of the breastfeeding/pregnancy/wardrobewtf thing. 🙂

    For home: nursing tank. Cheap Target nursing tank was a great PJ base (but kinda not supportive/covering enough for public, at least in white). Kendra below recommends the Bravado tanks, which I’ll second, even if it’s pricy. Just size up – I typically wear 38D, and somehow wound up still feeling like I could have gone a size or two bigger when I got 42DD. But, yeah, nursing tank. Add cardigans for cuteness, blazers or leather jackets for style, zip-up hoodies for heat, whatever – as long as there’s front access, you can layer. Bonus is that nothing but the tank top needs to be nursing/maternity specific – I did the same wardrobe for pregnancy and nursing, just went from maternity tanks to nursing tanks under my more substantial tops. 🙂

    For work/formal things/wearing/feeling human: A GOOD bra. A bra that actually acts like a bra. A bra that is comfortable and supportive and actually smooths things down under clothing. I highly, highly recommend the Anita t-shirt nursing bras, in cotton. They are not cheap (like 80$CAD, and hard to find on sale, ouch) but they are the BEST at being both a bra and providing access. Stick under a button-down, and done. Or under a shirt you can tug down, whatever – this bra doesn’t actually go higher than a normal bra, it’s great. OR nursing tank top under a blazer with a cute scarf. Multi-purpose, and the high-cost items aren’t restricted to nursing wear.

    For nursing/maternity wear, can I highly recommend BoobMaternity? I have their Simone dress (actually, I have one from last pregnancy that has short sleeves, and just bought the long-sleeved version). They look adorable, the stripes hide stains better than flat fabrics, the cotton is excellent, the belly stretches for pregnancy and somehow doesn’t sag after pregnancy so it’s still wearable wtf, and the boob access is wonderfully easy AND fairly discreet. The dress isn’t cheap, but do NOT buy it from the manufacturer – search online (I got it for about 50% what the manufacturer would have charged, from a small nursing boutique having a black friday sale across the country. Extrapolate to your experience, but you don’t need to pay retail!)

  • disqus_J8VI2rBNPz

    Lechelibre.com

    My dress from here is currently the most practical and best looking item of clothing that I own. Highly recommend!

  • Laura Bennett

    I’m totally with you on the button down shirts. I was all button-downs, all the time, while nursing (at work, on the weekends, whenever!). They didn’t provide quite as much discretion in public as nursing tops, but honestly, the more discrete nursing shirts just got covered in milk/baby drool, which was then decidedly not discrete for the rest of the day.

  • S

    As a larger breasted EBF mom who works in a more professional environment, this has been the bane of my existence. When I was pregnant with my second I ordered these tanks off amazon and fell in love. iLoveSIA Women’s Nursing Cami Maternity Breastfeeding Tank Tops 3PCS Black+Black+Nude Size M Fit 34BC 32CD 36AB https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LC507TK/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_PoUwybXJVVH4Y

    They provide enough coverage and support so that you don’t have to wear a bra with them (I wear a 32e and ordered mediums). They provide plenty of lift and support and I wear them every single day! I either live in pants+a nice blouse I can pull up or drop down or nursing dresses. I’m on the younger, trendier spectrum for wardrobe but I have had a lot of success with the wedbsite pinkblushmaternity.com for nursing friendly dresses and tops that don’t look like they belong on my grandma.

  • Lauren a

    I went with a soft Bralet , covered by a tank, then a normal shirt I’d hike up- bralet to the side, tank pulled down, and normal shirt pulled up. Way easier than trying to feed a nipple through a hole in a nursing bra then through another one in a nursing shirt. And I found I was always well covered that way too- to the point I never needed a cover.

    But- milk nursingwear has some cute crewmeck tops and I found them ideal for under a suit jacket. But seriously- $40 for a tshirt? Sheesh

  • Cass

    I’m now 5 months into nursing with my first and I’ve encountered the same problems you mentioned above. I spent a good chunk of time trying to find a nursing bra that a] came down low enough for nursing tops and b] didn’t look industrial strength/looks pretty. Belabumbum has both pretty bras and great nursing sleepwear. Bravado bras are my go-to mostly and I believe I have a Cake bra that’s not so bad. Kindred Braverly has awesome sleep bras.

    For nursing wear hands down my favs are from Evie De Fraise. They make access really easy and I don’t even think twice nursing in public. They can be pricey, but they regularly are on Zulily so I’ve gotten them cheaper. There are also a couple drapey tees from Destination Maternity/Motherhood that were cheap and every time I wear them other mother’s ask where I got them. I also love Pea in a Pod nursing tanks, those were the best when I started.

  • Jodie Yorg

    I’m a professional breastfeeding mama four times now – just about to wrap up my final (woohooo!) year ever. If you’ll be pumping primarily at work, I wouldn’t worry about the shirts at all honestly. I usually do one of two things:

    1) The Bravado bras definitely are my mainstay. I have 2-3 that aren’t quite as low as normal bras, but also don’t feel like boob chastity belts. These are really expensive in my opinion though ($50) though I wear them so often the per use is pretty low. Target has a Bravado whitelabel brand that are MUCH cheaper, but much fuller coverage. I have a 3-4 of these as well. I wear blousy shirts to allow for easy pumping access. On days my shirts have lower cuts, I wear the more expensive ones. Higher necklines the cheap ones.
    2) I also have 4-5 nursing tanks that I use under shirts in the way Amalah describes. These are my go-to on the weekends. I always have one under my tshirts but it’s honestly more for hiding my belly fat than anything else

  • Nicole Parker

    OOOH ME! I know!!!
    These, and I still wear them all the time and I’m way done breastfeeding:
    http://www.mommygear.com/undercover-mama-nursing-tank.htm

  • I was a 38I (as in ice cream) when I went back to work, and am now somewhere in the 34E range at 2 years postpartum and still nursing. I SWEAR by my Cake bras, specifically the Croissant:
    http://www.cakematernity.com/croissant-seamfree-nursing-bra
    They offer a lot of coverage but minimize the gapping/bulging that happened for me with basically every other bra that I tried, particularly in year 1 – with the benefit of being thick enough to cover pointy nursing nipples and the occasional leak, even under thin dress shirts and tshirts.

    I never found nursing tops/tanks to be all that useful for the logistical reasons you mentioned. My boobs are too big for the combination pull down/pull up to really work without having a lot of bunchy fabric everywhere. I was never really able to make the nursing cover work either. I wore a lot of button down shirts for easy pumping access, and generally stick with tops I can pull up to nurse.

  • R

    I shelled out for a couple of fancy nursing bras by Cake and the like from our local bfing center and stopped wearing them entirely when I found the Gillian O’Malley lace underwire nursing bra at Target. It’s, like, a real bra. The soft lace cup has enough give to accommodate size fluctuations during the day, it’s plenty supportive for my C to DD size, but cut like just a regular bra so it doesn’t show under v-necks. Disposable nursing pads inside the cups make for a reasonably smooth look under clothes. I like these bras so much I’m still wearing them 2.5 years postpartum and halfway into my second pregnancy (I just replaced the nursing pads with some removable liner inserts I yanked out of a swimsuit for a smooth look under t-shirts).

  • C

    I’m typing this in my office pumping right before I go to court. I like the target bras and had good luck with some better cuts with no underwire at the Motherhood outlet. I wear normal work shell tanks with my suits and keep a long snuggly cardigan to keep me warm while pumping. For Christmas I asked for a pumping friendly work dress. I’m always so cold. Let me add to this, pumping around court sucks. It’s impossible to keep a schedule.

  • Allison

    Another large-chested nursing mom here (and currently pumping while at work with my second kid). I wear nursing bras all the time (except when we took a family photo and I needed to look fab). When I had my first kid I went to Nordstroms and they were able convert a regular bra into a nursing bra for me, which was great. I was able to get my usual brand (Fantasie smoothing bra) and I paid extra to have them convert it for me. But you can totally do it yourself, see instructions here: http://blogs.babycenter.com/tips_and_tricks/diy-the-uncrafty-moms-nursing-bra-conversion/. And I wear normal work shirts and camisoles and have no issues pumping, although I have a lockable office (with a portable heater) so I can disrobe completely if needed.

  • Ann

    I’ll second scarves! And cardigans or suit tops. Whatever I wore got ruined after a few months of getting pulled aside to pump and would get loose or start riding down, but a scarf covers all the wardrobe malfunctions.

  • Shelbey

    Just wanted to add in that Gillian O’Malley underwire nursing bras are like real bras. I accidently wore one the other day because I didn’t notice until it was too late!

  • Haven’t tried it myself, but a friend said that Nordstrom’s will convert any regular bra into a nursing bra – the one she posted pics of looked really good, too

  • Veronica

    Yes! It’s such an issue! When I was nursing I could find some decent bras like bravado that did the trick but couldn’t find anything decent for tops or dresses. Hence I actually built it myself! The company is called MAIA MODA, a sneak peak of the product is at http://www.maiamoda.com and we launch in the spring! We are working hard to get some great breastfeeding clothes for all those hard working mamas!!

  • Delora

    I was a G-cup before pregnancy; you can imagine the insaneness that went on after my milk came in. I wore supportive (including underwire after the first few months) nursing bras 100%, and always lifted my shirt up from the bottom to nurse. There was no way one of my vein-y, floppy melon-breasts would fit through even the most giving of necklines. If I was feeling super self-conscious, I’d wear a tanktop (usually just a crappy wife-beater style) under my regular shirt, and pull that down under my breast when I pulled my outer shirt up to cover my belly, but usually I didn’t bother. If someone wanted to check out my bloated, stretch-mark-covered side-belly, then f-them.

  • Annie

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the leading lady bras (I bought them on amazon) that I found mentioned on Lucies List under nursing wear. I have G-cups now. There is no underwire and they are just so comfortable, plus the drop panel has coverage above the boob.

    That said – I gave up on trying to find “nursing” shirts and just started finding pieces from my non-nursing wardrobe that would work. I am in a professional environment and pump at work, so I usually just hike up my shirt or take it off when I pump. I’m favoring vnecks, but its astonishing how hard it is to piece together a decent outfit rotation while pumping/nursing. When I travel with my daughter I end up using a nursing tank and an open button up shirt.

  • Alissa

    I found success by wearing double tank tops. The bottom layer would be a nursing tank and the top layer would be a regular tank. This was great for nursing because it covered above and below what you unclipped (with just the nursing tank, there was a lot of skin exposed, which was quite chilly in December in New England!)

  • Lauren

    I love and exclusively wear clothes from https://milknursingwear.com (also available from Amazon) They have very normal looking clothes that just have secret panels and stuff to get to the boobs. They aren’t cheap, but they are very long lasting and high quality.

  • Susie

    Target has cute nursing bras. Repeat-Target Sells Cute Nursing Bras!! Underwire and not, tanks too. I’m living in them these days…