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The Perfect Postpartum Wardobe

By Amalah

Hey Amalah/Amy,

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.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s weekly pregnancy calendar, Zero to Forty.

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 [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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Liz
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Liz

I have an Olian pajama set from kiddo #1 that was super cute, I think I got it from Nordstrom maternity. However, their brand runs pretty small, I think. My hospital’s lactation dept also sold super cute nursing-friendly loungewear. But I ditto Amy — DO NOT take your own clothes to the hospital, except for what you’ll go home in. Which you may find is the same outfit you wore to the hospital, and that’s fine. Hospital gowns don’t make for the cutest pictures, I grant you that, but unless you are a genetic superstar, you just … won’t be… Read more »

qwyneth
Guest
qwyneth

Nnnnnnoooooooo! I want those pjs and shirts so badly! I’m just 12 weeks, but my boobs have swelled enough that none of my shirts fit right. But I’m not showing, so all the maternity stuff I’ve found looks ridiculous. Those shirts look so comfy and wonderful…and yet I’m going away Saturday, for a week, to a cabin with no washing machine. If only I could reach into the internet and pull one of those shirts out…

Brenda
Guest
Brenda

I hope you get commissions from Aimee — I just bought two gowns. The memory of the picture of me with the old ratty blue pajamas and black sports bra underneath holding my child … well, let’s just say there really needs to be a better way to to do it!

Amy
Guest

So, I have never been pregnant, and, god willing, I never will be. However, I have had sex ed, and health class, etc., and I have many friends who’ve had babies, and how come I didn’t know that there is 4-6 WEEKS OF BLEEDING after the baby. No one mentions that.
Well, perhaps they do in pregnancy books, or OB appts, but that seems like something everyone should know. Seriously. I am now scarred for life.

Katii L
Guest
Katii L

Just to ease your fears, after the first few days the flow is just like a period. This is my second go ’round and at 22 days postpartum the bleeding has completely stopped 🙂

mika
Guest
mika

I would add one thing — if you do happen to have a bigger chest, I would recommend buying some good quality camisole style nursing bras for use in the hospital, and they are also great for sleeping in (might not be enough support as a real bra if you are big chested like me, ahem). I really really got a lot of use out of the Bravado nursing tank. And for immediately after the hospital and for sleeping, I highly highly recommend Majamas pajamas http://store.babycenter.com/product/code/15822.do?scid=SSE:GOO&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=215383 . You can even wear the top while sitting in bed in the hospital… Read more »

VHMPrincess
Guest

FLIP FLOPS! BRING FLIP FLOPS for showering and for the first couple times you stand up post-partum…trust me, not socks or slippers, FLIP FLOPS!

Allison
Guest
Allison

I wore flip-flops while I was laboring instead of my slippers on my nurse’s recommendation. One of the MANY pieces of great advice she gave me, like DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH!! I, too only wore the hospital gowns and had my mom get me a cheap robe at Target so I didn’t ruin my comfy nicer one that I brought. I had a c-section and couldn’t stand the thought of wearing pants. I did have two Amy gowns which I loved, but I also went to Old Navy and picked some sundresses and comfy skirts. Even though I wore nursing… Read more »

Elizabeth
Guest

Not all the hospitals have gowns that go over your head–Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington just gave me the normal ones. You can wear two though, with one on backwards to give you more coverage. Definitely steal lots of the mesh panties. After I ran out of those, I actually wore my husband’s briefs (after I always teased him for having a couple of pairs of those!) because all my underwear were bikinis that hit right at my scar. It was a week before I was comfortable enough to wear my own. The demi-panel maternity pants from the Gap were… Read more »

Katii L
Guest
Katii L

Maybe it’s a VA thing because down here in Richmond the hospital gowns were standard issue, open in the back style as well. I wore pj pants and my maternity t shirts. The nurses just tugged my pants down a little to check my bits (sorry!). Lol

obabe
Guest

for my second kid/birth, i bought a cheap/on sale super cute pair of pj pants with a t shirt from target to wear in the hospital. like two sizes bigger than what i normally wear. maybe i was insane or something, but i loved being in something other than that green gown by the second day in the hospital, when i was up and on the floor getting juice and my baby from the nursery. it wasnt $$, so i didnt worry about bleeding/leaking milk/whatever(ok, i was insane: the day after i gave birth i was up and showering at… Read more »

Colleen
Guest

I asked for and got plenty of extra mesh panties…and I’m glad I did because with my first child I bled for NINE weeks. Nine. Heavily. For no reason other than to make me miserable and have a psuedo-diaper rash from have damp pads against my skin. We went through a lot of desitin those first few months. 😉 Second child, thankfully, only about 4 weeks. And yeah, forget about bringing anything half-decent to the hospital. Just wear the same thing home that you came in (unless it got messy from water breaking, etc.) and chuck around in a hospital… Read more »

Diana
Guest
Diana

Those four days at the hospital, I lived in my husband’s old sweat pants and some of my maternity tanks. I always felt better in “real clothes,” even if they were somewhat worse for the wear afterwards…

Anna
Guest
Anna

I just had my first about two weeks ago…and the advice about the hospital gowns is right on! Ditto on stockpiling those mesh panties. I wanted to add, though, that I found a bed jacket before I went to the hospital and LOVED it. Motherhood Maternity has a three piece pajama set: nursing tank, comfy pants, and a bed jacket. It is gray with a satiny edging. I left the pants at home (would have been ruined) but took the other pieces for when visitors came and I was in bed (with my lower half covered by a sheet!). Once… Read more »

Amy
Guest

Commenter Amy – they also don’t tell you that the first post-labor poo is worse than the labor. I didn’t tear during labor. I did when I pooped. UNpleasant. Milk of magnesia cured it in round 2. One dose, and I was fine. The colase they give you in the hospital didn’t do anything for me. We had an issue with leaving our kids alone with the hospital staff (both times), and with both there were times that I found myself following a cranky nurse down the hall so that my baby wasn’t alone while they did whatever they do.… Read more »

GEN
Guest
GEN

I have to chime in and say I had a different experience. Maybe my bleeding stopped earlier than usual, but I was able to wear a cute nightgown by the end of the day that I gave birth. (I gave birth around 5 a.m. and was “dressed” for a visit from friends around 6 p.m.) I didn’t have to throw anything away or wash anything. I did keep the gown sort of hiked up around my waist for a while just in case, but I never had the horrible floods of grossness that so many people describe. It was gross… Read more »

Kayla
Guest
Kayla

I guess not everyone has the same kind of experience! I wore my own pajamas in the hospital after the first night, and was so glad I did. I felt more like myself and was much more comfortable than in the awful hospital gown. Like a previous commenter mentioned, not all hospitals have gowns that go over your head. The ones at my hospital were the usual open-in-the-back kind and had snaps on the sleeves that I had to undo and redo every time I needed to nurse. It was incredibly annoying. Amazingly the pajamas I brought from home did… Read more »

psumommy
Guest
psumommy

I absolutely HATE being in the hospital after giving birth, so anything I could do to make it feel les…hospital-y…helped me! I got a few really inexpensive nightgowns that were way more comfy than the gowns I was given at the hospital. I did bleed on them a little, but because they were so cheap, it really didn’t matter- I pitched them when that first few days of REALLY heavy bleeding was over. I can’t remember where I originally saw this, but if you really hate the hospital gowns but still want to wear one for convenience, you can buy… Read more »

emily
Guest
emily

I think I read this tip in the Sears Baby Book, and whatever you think of those books, this made a lot of sense to me: The first little while postpartum is a time of recovery for you, even after you come home. It’s not time yet to start setting up your new life. People are very good at taking care of you when you are pregnant, but forget how much you need it with, say, a 10-day old. If you wear something that is obviously not Real Clothing, it subtly reminds them that when they visit, you should not… Read more »

Imanitsud
Guest
Imanitsud

Bravado Designs (check online) has a few options of what you’re looking for; good quality, etc.
Also, since no one else has mentioned this yet: consider going to a kids/maternity consignment shop or resale store and getting one or two cute things to wear post partum (stretchy knit dresses)… most of these places won’t buy things more than 1 or 2 seasons old, so they shouldn’t be hideous. You won’t be heartbroken if they get stained, but in the meantime you’ll feel a little more put together and save money. Just be sure to wash them at home first. :o)

ikate
Guest
ikate

I couldn’t WAIT to get into my normal clothes after the birth of my babe and as soon as I took a shower a couple of hours post birth I donned my own stuff. My hospital did not have gowns that go over your head, but I was given two normal ones so I could wear one backwards for more coverage. But they were ugly and not comfortable and had ties hanging everywhere. I’m heavier so I did my shopping at Lane Bryant before the due date and got a super soft and loose pair of gaucho-like PJ pants with… Read more »

Kelly
Guest
Kelly

If you are buying something to wear at the hospital make sure the sleeves are stretchy/large enough to get your IV stuff through when you put it on. I wore a stretchy black sleep shirt with a completely button up front. It was nice enough to take photos in and the dark color masked any stains or such that might have happened. The button front was nice as I was able to un-button a little to nurse and all the way to let the teeming masses of people who needed to see my bits be able to easily have at… Read more »

Snarky Mommy
Guest

I bought a pair of Majamas at my local nursing store for Baby2 and OMG they are the most comfy things ever. Seriously. I bought another pair so I could wear and wash and I still wear them to bed at 6 months postpartum!
The best nursing clothes advice I got came from our dear Amalah — for the first few weeks, wear zip-up sweatshirts. Easy access, no fuss. Target sells light-weight ones for warmer weather. I lived in them for weeks.

Claire
Guest

I absolutely love my nursing tank tops from Target. I wear them under everything!

Amberoni13
Guest
Amberoni13

I am also putting in a shout out for my old hospital in Atlanta that has ruined me for all other hospitals because they had these amazing things called Cold Peri Pads. This is a twist and break cold compress/panty pad that keeps the whole perinatal area cold for about 45 minutes. Oh, think it won’t matter? Think it might even be uncomfortable? You are wrong. They were amazing. We moved across the country and are using a hospital that has no clue what I’m talking about, so I have had to buy my own online for #3 (2 years… Read more »

Keli
Guest
Keli

Couldn’t agree with you more!! Those pads are awesome and I think that is why I did not have any gross bloody episodes. It was like having a regular period (and I bled for about 9 weeks). But as soon as I was allowed to, I got up, showered, put another cold pad on, and got into my own comfy clothes. 

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

Wow, it’s amazing how different women’s experiences can be. Here in Australia (well in my state anyway) they don’t give you robes, you have to bring your own clothes. They prob put you in a robe for a c-section, but they don’t give you any more than that I don’t think. It’s a tradition for me to buy a new pyjama set for after each labour (third due soon) and I never bled on mine. Maybe I’m lucky or the other girls were unlucky I don’t know. I do know I was hyper vigilant, if I started to be able… Read more »

Lindsey
Guest
Lindsey

I know this is old, but thanks so much for the info!! So helpful and just what I needed to hear/know as I’ll be heading into the hospital to give birth to my first in 9 weeks or so! I keep swing all of these maternity gowns and thinking…anything more than $15 is just way too much! What a waste 🙂

JC
Guest
JC

Well I had c-sections (android hips, can’t push babies out unless they are tiny, and my boys were both HUGE)……and the first go, I didn’t bleed much at all, second go around was a totally different story. It was a mess! But if you have the strength to shower regularly and change your pads quite often I think you can avoid destroying your things.  I have baby number 3 on the way, and was thinking about cuter things to wear while at home in case people decide to invade my home (my family tends to think that having a c-section… Read more »

amanda
Guest
amanda

I love all you guts and your tips. But I’d like to say, why apologise for tmi? Isn’t that what we are reading for? Birth is awesome and amazing and not clean. It is possibly one of the grossest experiences, but we HAVE to know about it, and want to cope the best possible way for each individual. So thank you for laying it out there.

char
Guest
char

this is the best sight I have found so far. I wore the hospital robes for the first one and then mostly my own clothes for #2 and this time I am hoping to get into my own. I too did not bleed all over the place. ya don’t get me wrong I did bleed but we are not talking waterfalls. my hospital has these amazing bubble tubs, like a jet tub but better. plus getting up and getting showered and cleaned up totally helped me to get back into the swing of things. but that has always helped me.… Read more »

mrvrmn
Guest
mrvrmn

This article made me cry and laugh at the same time. Thank you very much!