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Building a Breastfeeding Wardrobe

By Amalah

Hi, oh well-dressed one!

I have a shopping dilemma. I have a four month old daughter who is an avid breastfeeder — in fact, it’s her main hobby. My wardrobe at the moment is pitiful. The one pair of jeans I have was ill-fitting before I got pregnant, now they’re…well, they’re very sad. So it’s time for some basics. But my basics also need to include good hot-weather wear. We are going to spend the entire summer in Greece with my in-laws (I know, poor me) and I’m thinking some sun dresses would be perfect. But dresses are not so good with breastfeeding, right?

Do you have any suggestions for some light, casual summer dresses that could work for breastfeeding? I like dresses that hit at about the knee, but I’m tall (5’11”) so my knee tends to be other people’s mid-calf. I have the usual post-baby issues — tummy and hips that are a little larger than I would like — and I have really fair skin so dresses that cover up (in light fabric, of course) are probably better for me.

Let’s hear it for summer!


Summer Dresses You Can Nurse In

Actually, I LOVE wearing dresses right now. There are tons of styles that are great for breastfeeding, particularly in the sundress category. All you need to look for is the right kind of neckline that can be pulled down or off to the side. (I once saw a mother yank up the bottom hem of her floor-length dress to breastfeed in a restaurant. Now I am ALL FOR nursing in public, buuuuuut…no. It’s not asking too much to suggest a little wardrobe accommodation.)

Cross-front dresses work really well for me, especially when it’s 1) in a stretchy fabric and 2) something that can be tossed in the dryer to reshape the bodice after a day of yanking it down — which is why I’m a fan of the inexpensive stuff at Old Navy. I’m not going to put my expensive velvet cross-front dress in the dryer, but a polyester empire waist one can get gently fluffed back into shape if you stretch out the straps. (Plus, have you noticed how awesomely tummy-hiding most of Old Navy’s styles are these days? Thank the cheap mass-manufactured clothing gods, is all I can say.) Then there’s anything that buttons up the front or ties at the shoulder. And shirtdresses provide a little more arm coverage while still offering easy access to the boobs.

Many of these styles are available in Old Navy’s “Tall” section, if you’ve had success with their definition of tall. As I am a good six inches shorter than you, I must admit ignorance there.

Now…two more things. Since you brought up needing a little coverage up top, I know most of these (except for the shirtdress) don’t provide that. But that’s kind of just the way summer dresses are these days. I’d recommend focusing on the necklines first and then picking up one or two neutral, lightweight shrugs, short-sleeved cardigans or even just a lightweight silk shawl to cover your shoulders when you’re outside. (Shawl bonus: instant nursing cover!) Or skip the clothing and get a nice wide-brimmed sun hat, which is probably something you’ll have more luck finding while you’re actually on vacation. We just don’t do glamorous floppy hats very well here in the States.

A Word About Nursing Bras

And since I know many of you are thinking that those necklines will never, ever work with the big wide-strapped full-coverage nursing bra offerings out there — remember that you don’t HAVE to wear nursing bras. Sometimes they make things easier, but sometimes not so much. I don’t wear them anymore. Partly because once Ezra started solid food around five months my boobs almost immediately deflated back down to their former A/B cup non-glory, and partly because I got sick of how much they limited my summer wardrobe choices. If you’re pulling down a dress strap, you can pull down a bra strap. Strapless bras yank down every bit as easily as a nursing bra. (I LOVE that I’m still a little bigger in the boobs than usual, meaning I can finally consistently fill out strapless dresses. Plus: stretchy smocked styles are super easy to nurse in!)

If you’re really full-chested, I know you’re still going to be a limited in your pretty sundress-compatible bras, but there’s really no reason why you should limit your options even FURTHER by insisting they include plastic nursing hooks. If your bra still peeks out from the edges of a cross-front sundress, layer in a stretchy cheap tank top to hide it — a tank that you can put in the dryer for sure, and preferably something that you wouldn’t mind demoting to sleepwear if the neckline eventually gets stretched out past the point of no return.

If it’s too hot for blankets and your baby won’t tolerate a nursing cover, but you’re self-conscious about the wide expanse of top-boob you’re exposing, keep a cloth diaper/burp rag/lightweight scarf/something similarly small handy for getting your baby on and settled, then just drape it over your chest. Yeah, people are going to know what you’re doing — but I don’t think being appropriately discreet necessarily means swaddling yourself up in mountains of fabric lest someone realize that OMG A BABY IS SUCKING ON A BEWB UNDER THERE. You might also want to consider a sling or Ergo carrier if you don’t have one already. With a little practice they provide both baby transport AND built-in breastfeeding camouflage.

More From AlphaMom

Nursing Bras, Nursing Tops, Nursing Fashion Faux Pas
The Perfect Postpartum Wardrobe
Shapewear for the Mummy Tummy

Published May 28, 2009. Last updated January 14, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 [email protected].

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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