The Perfect Postpartum Wardobe
I’m a new reader, but enjoying your sass/honesty/poop jokes tremendously. Here’s my question: I’m 32 wks pregnant with my first baby (stretch marks already, what’s up with that? but not my question). But I am looking for what cute but comfy clothes to wear in the hospital and the first few days at home that I can sleep in, wake up in, look adorable in, and nurse in, all while in the messy postpartum experience. Because people want to VISIT and see the BABY, but my understanding is that I will be attached to said baby during much of that early time, so I’d like to feel, well, not too horribly ugly and unpresentable. (We will limit visitors, but I work in the hospital where I’m delivering, so some socializing is actually unavoidable, and frankly, nice to see some of my very close work friends.)
There are very few pajama options out there — I was thinking more of a cute pants/top idea than a nightgown/robe option, the better to look almost like I got it together to get dressed. Are pants a bad idea given bleeding etc of postpartum? Of note, I was on the 12-14ish size before pregnancy, and although have only gained about 12 pounds thus far, I’m a L-XL in most maternity clothes.
I know there’s lots of time, but this is what I’m obsessing about today — any ideas?
– Pregnant in Boston
Welcome, new reader! Allow me to crush a couple of your hopes and dreams before getting to the recommendations portion of this column.
1. Don’t pack your own clothes for the hospital
Seriously, do not bother, unless you have nightgowns you are willing to toss in the trash before you leave. Yes, I know, every book and list out there recommends bringing your own gowns and PJs and comfortable underwear and in theory, that sounds very nice and comfy and home-away-from-home-ish. But then visit the maternity ward and notice that everybody is wearing the standard-issue hospital gowns (although probably with their own slippers and robes).
You will bleed and ruin anything you bring, pretty much. (I even had to toss my slippers and socks.) (Sorry in advance for the massive oversharing going on in this column.) So why ruin YOUR stuff, especially expensive maternity/nursing stuff? I remember hearing stories about the giant disposable granny panties the hospital provides and dutifully packed my own underwear, but after my first trip to the bathroom I told my husband to just take that stuff home, dear GOD, and fully embraced the mesh things and even swiped several pairs to wear at home — all to buy myself as much time as possible for the bleeding to slow before donning my own stuff.
YOU MUST wear gowns in the hospital, since you’re regularly being checked and examined down there, and while the hospital gowns aren’t the cutest things in the world, they are comfortable and convenient, with openings for nursing that still manage to mostly maintain your modesty for visitors. (And no, they aren’t open down the back like other hospital garb — you pull them over your head.) I personally bled on several, and it was nice to simply ring the nurse for a change and disposal instead of rooting through my bag and then sending my husband home with a bag of soiled nightgowns to deal with.
2. So…bring a robe
If you’d like to feel a little more covered up, but trust me, NO ONE is going to visit you and then cluck their tongues about how the woman who just gave birth is wearing a HOSPITAL GOWN, like, can you BELIEVE how she’s let herself go since having that baby nine whole hours ago? God.
3. Immediately postpartum, maternity clothes are your best and most comfortable bet
Which is why so many maternity tops closely resemble nursing tops with the stretchy, crossover boob style. As a first-time birther, I will admit that my expectations for my body’s recovery time were HYSTERICALLY out of whack. I really expected my stomach to deflate during my hospital stay and I’d be back in cute little yoga pants by the week’s end. Too many trashy gossip rags, I guess.
So I was frankly, shocked by how pregnant I still looked for a long time afterwards, and that maternity pants mostly remained my only option. But looking back, I wish I hadn’t fought it so much — oh, the memories of squishing myself into JEANS for NO APPARENT REASON — since the number-one rule for dressing “cute” is to WEAR STUFF THAT FITS, and if that means hanging on to the elastic belly panel in order to avoid the Worst Muffin Top Of Your Life, so be it.
This doesn’t mean building up a nursing wardrobe is a bad idea. If you don’t own some maternity stretch pants or leggings, go ahead and get some now for maximum wearing time. If you decide to buy more tops, look for the empire waist style in stretchy knits that allow for easy pulling down around the boobs. But for the time frame you mentioned — the first few days at home — just plan on culling any cute, pulled-together outfits from your current maternity wardrobe.
4. When you do buy, get the comfortable stuff
As far as true “nursing wear” goes, to finally get to what you were asking about, I am huge fan of Aimee Nursing Gowns. Their styles offer pretty much everything you can ask for in nursing lounge-y clothes: super-soft fabrics, a ton of stretch and a lot of support around the boobs (i.e. you don’t have to layer a nursing bra underneath, and they’ll hold a nursing pad in place). I only had a gown last time (still do! still wear it! holds up to a zillion washings wonderfully!) but can’t WAIT to get some tops and lounge pants this go-round. (Hint! Wow! What great gifts they make for pregnant ladies!) I put my gown on within an hour of getting home from the hospital, climbed into bed with the baby and probably changed out of it two days later or so.
5. Speaking of pants and whether they’re a good idea or not…eh, it depends
With a c-section, nightgowns were my best bet, even though I’m not particularly a nightgown person. But it was about a week before any sort of waistband — maternity or not — was really comfortable. The bleeding (lochia) settled down after a few days — I think there were only two or three days at home (although my section meant a longer hospital stay) where I was using the hospital-issued ginormopads and changing them constantly, and then after that it was very much your run-of-the-mill period-type bleeding. If you can get to the bathroom occasionally and have no reason why pulling pants up and down would be painful, then pants are just fine postpartum.
(Of course, lochia can be different for every woman — some women get it for two weeks, tops; others bleed for six full weeks. I bled for about four. And the heaviness of the flow can vary wildly.)
The most important thing is to be COMFORTABLE. Way more important than appearing pulled-together and impressive to visitors who really only have eyes for your newborn. Think stretchy knits, supportive bras and tops, easy boob access. For visitors you aren’t comfortable nursing in front of, get a nursing cover. And of course, lots of slimming black.
Published July 17, 2008. Last updated March 27, 2018.