Wardrobe bootcamp: How to dress when breastfeeding

Editor’s note: This is a regular series in which we help Styling You readers solve a particular wardrobe or clothing crisis with a little advice and some shopping suggestions. If you think you’d like to be considered as part of a Wardrobe Boot Camp post, then please email me (nikki@stylingyou.com.au) with a couple of photos and a brief rundown of what specific help you would like.

The plea

I am a 32 year old with a 2.5 year old and a five month old (both little girls). At the moment I am breastfeeding and still wearing my maternity/breastfeeding tops which are starting to look very baggy & making me feel even more frumpy than I already do. I still have another five to six kilos to lose but am not focused on that too much at the moment (a great day for me means I have had a shower and washed my hair). 

I breastfed Eloise for 12 months and am hoping to do the same for Jade. My problem is my boobs fluctuate between an E to an F cup depending on what feed I am up to. I am hoping you can give me some ideas as I want to start buying clothes that make me feel great but will still look good once I have finished breastfeeding and my boobs have deflated somewhat. Surely I am not the only woman having this issue. 

Any help I would be so thankful,

Lauren

SY reader Lauren

The tips

Hi Lauren, it’s really lovely to *meet* you. I’m Emily and I write blog entitled The Beetle Shack. At present I’m in a similar position to you as I’ve just recently had my third baby. Over the past four years my body has undergone more change that I ever thought possible and as a result, my wardrobe has too. It’s taken some time to accept the fact that pencil skirts and high heels no longer form my wardrobe staples.

Throughout my baby raising years I have kept a pretty simple wardrobe to accommodate my ever changing bust size and body shape. I like to buy good quality, practical clothing that will stand the test of time. I stick to fun prints and patterns and wear a scarf with everything. When I’m shopping for clothing (usually online) I always keep my eyes peeled for soft, floaty fabrics, drop sleeves and relaxed fits – I know items that fit this criteria will work with me throughout the seasons and my many body transformations. Here’s my guide to how to dress when breastfeeding.

What to wear when breastfeeding

1. Karina Dress 2. Neo Ring 3. Paradise Passion Scarf 4. White Shirt 5. Mandrake Bag 6. Chambray Dress 7. Floral Shirt 8. Nancy Shoes

I’ve broken it down into five key things to look for.

1. The Shirt Dress: Shirt dresses are my “go-to” item each and every day. They provide easy access for breastfeeding and can be found in a large assortment or fabrics, prints and styles. I’m a fan of anything in floaty silks or cotton with a pinch of stretch. I’m even guilty of pinching my husband’s work shirts before rolling the sleeves, throwing on some footless tights and a boyfriend cardi. A shirt dress is the perfect trans-seasonal staple as it can be worn with tights, flat boots, a jacket and a huge scarf in winter or striped back to bare legs and a statement necklace in spring and summer. This one from Gorman is the perfect example.

2. The Jeans: A great pair of jeans will save you a bunch of time when dressing in a hurry. They require no ironing and can be pulled off the bedroom floor if things are dire (or is that just me?). Try a boyfriend style that can be rolled at the ankle. They look great with a belt, loose striped tee and ballet flats or can be dressed up with some sparkles and heels for the evening. As they are loose to begin with they’ll last you longer as your body changes after baby. I wear mine a shamefully large amount.

3. The Swing Top/Kimono: Oh mercy, hello post-baby life saver. I own an assortment of button down, sleeveless swing tops that I layer over stripped tees and tanks. Try a super soft cotton with a peter pan collar or a floral silk with scoop neck. Pair them with your boyfriend jeans or layer them over fitted dresses and skirts for a bit of fun. The swing top will accommodate a changing bust size and will look effortlessly great for years to come. Similarly, the Kimono (I have this one and love it) offers a bit of colour and fun to an otherwise simple outfit. It will work with your body whatever the size or shape.

4. The Scarf: A great scarf can save just about any dreary outfit, not to mention the hidden benefit of having something to disguise baby vomit, spilled food and ehum … milk leakages. I seldom leave the house without some sort of printed fabric around my neck – layers of wool for winter, large cotton squares for spring and autumn and long sashes of floral silk during summer. A tactfully placed scarf can hide the dreaded “lop sided” issue known to many a breastfeeding mother (this one can’t just be me, can it?). You can spend as much or as little as you’d like, either way, it will save your fashion bacon.

5. Shoes - Ahhh the one part of our body that isn’t affected by pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding … or is it? During my baby growing years my feet have spread to the point that many of my shoes no longer fit. It’s an expensive problem to have, and the perfect excuse to offer my husband. These days I work with about five pairs of shoes – ankle boots in black and brown – I wear these with jeans and dresses spring through to autumn and pair them with tights when needed. For spring and summer ballet flats and strappy sandals from the Horse are always at the ready.

Thanks so much for having me Nikki, it’s been fun thinking about some wardrobe essentials for the breastfeeding mumma. I hope this has helped a little Lauren and that you’ll be stepping out in style this spring.

If you’re a breastfeeding mum – now or in the recent past – what tips do you have for Lauren?

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beetleshack_258 In a past life Emily was a high school Visual Arts teacher. She always enjoyed the ‘naughty’ kids the most, the ones that were resistant to following the rules and questioned the boundaries. They were interesting, challenging and funny. When she was pregnant with her first child she could be heard saying ‘I hope I have a cheeky child, one that speaks his mind and is rebellious in nature’. Unsurprisingly, she did. In her personal blog, The Beetle Shack, she tells the tales of raising her own ‘spirited’ children whilst swanning about the house dressed as a fruit salad.

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  • http://www.LuckyBitch.com/ Denise Duffield-Thomas

    I just bought a whole bunch of Metalicus dresses – I’m about 21 weeks pregnant but they’ll stretch with me, and most of them can be pulled down from the neck, so I think they’ll be fab breastfeeding dresses too.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Good buying Denise … they will serve you through your pregnancy and beyond!

  • kmac

    I’m currently breastfeeding my second baby and was excited to discover the ‘breast-vest’, a singlet cut below the breasts (my ‘ample bosom’ never fit into regular feeding singlets) – still provides coverage, is nice and long, and lightweight enough for Summer. A strapless maxi dress will also be high in my summer rotation (paired with a denim vest to cover the bra straps) – easy to pop one of the girls out by pulling down one side, a light-weight scarf will be handy to drape over baby and boob to keep me covered.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Seriously great tips there kmac! Thanks.

  • http://emhawker.blogspot.com/ Emily

    I’m breastfeeding at the moment and was excited to see this one, but I just don’t like shirts in general, and find them quite revealing when breastfeeding as well. I prefer a tee or jumper over a breastfeeding tank (my favourite breastfeeding tank is actually from Kmart – I hope this doesn’t knock me out of the Styling You club!).
    But great tips! Thanks for sharing. Agree on the scarf – something, anything bright when I’m in the in between sizes stage makes me happier.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      You’re absolutely still in Emily … more than one person below has recommended the Kmart breastfeeding tank!

  • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

    I think you have to go with a level of discretion that feels good for you!

  • sarah

    Great post – I am in this exact place at the moment and have been struggling with what to wear. Thanks for the suggestions

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      Hey Sarah, I hope you find some fabulous pieces this season! It does get easier the longer your dressing yourself for feeding!

      xo em

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      Hey Sarah, I hope you find some fabulous pieces this season! It does get easier the longer your dressing yourself for feeding!

      xo em

  • StyledbyBec

    Yep, I have been going through this for the last 7 months. Button down shirts are the way to go as well as dresses that have zips at the front. Jersey dresses that cross over at the boobs are great too. The other thing I have done is wear a bonds maternity singlet with a trendy top over the top and when feeding just lift the top because my tummy is hidden with the maternity singlet.

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      The zippered dress is a new one to me! What a GREAT idea! I am partial to the button down everything though

      xo em

  • Kalyani

    Great post..stay stylish in every phase of your life! I love your blog for this very reason Nikki:-)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think it helps you to feel good when there’s a little thought into your style – no matter what else is going on. It’s not the be all and end all – just a helping hand.

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      I’m with you, Nikki knows whats up and just how to deliver it. I’m often over here checking her out (hello model and me, my favourite!)

      xo em

  • Amanda

    Hi Lauren. I adore your beautiful baby! I breastfed my first baby for 2 years and Miss-nearly-3 is still breastfeeding (yikes-not the plan!). Anyway I hate button-down shirts so bought a couple of purpose made double layer bf’ing tops which were great and looked smart. Check out http://www.breastmates.co.nz. I bought most of mine second hand on Trademe. Another thing I did was to buy 3 long sleeved cotton tees in neutral colours from The Warehouse. They were about $5 each. I cut vertical slits in them over the ‘girls’ and then wore them underneath my usual tops and tees. I could just lift up whatever top I was wearing and had easy access to breastfeed via the slits. Tummy all covered up too-bonus! You could do the same with cheap singlets to wear under your usual tops in summer. (it’s always summer in Australia right…). It saves buying lots of new clothes in a size you may not fit for long and it’s nice to wear your usual clothes. Sorry for the novel, all the best! Amanda

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Never apologise – this information is gold and will really help other readers – thanks Amanda!

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      Fabulous creative solution with the long sleeve tops, nice work!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Great tips Emily I have not breastfed for a long time but the shirt dress is a very good idea and they look lovely on,In have seen some of your dresses on your blog and you have a great style.I loved what you chose for a breastfeeding Mum and after having a baby you want to look as good as you can!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Emily has fabulous style Lisa … I love seeing her outfits too!

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      you are too lovely Lisa, thanks x

  • Jasmine

    I love wrap dresses while pregnant and breastfeeding, though they can cling to your belly a bit – look out for the rare ones that have more structure through the waist (where the skirt part has been cut separately and sewn together) as it will skim over your belly and hips more.They’re easy to feed in and also adapt to whatever size you are each day. I also like those singlets with the boob part missing that keep your tummy covered when you lift up any top (dolman or batwing tops are good) to feed. Cardigans are good for hiding any lumpy bits around your middle without looking like you are trying to hide something – they just soften your silhouette so the bumps are less obvious.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Jasmin – great tip about the wrap dresses and cardis!

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      I agree, anything that keeps the tummy covered is a winner :)

      xo em

  • Amy S

    Thanks for the great ideas Emily – very timely for me (I’m Mum to an 18mth old and now breastfeeding again with a 3 wk old). A frustrating time from a wardrobe perspective with my maternity wear now too loose and previous clothes too tight aghh! Another tip I have for Lauren is to layer a breastfeeding cami underneath regular tops – you can then breastfeed by lifting top layer up and cami bra cups down for discreet feeding as for a nursing top.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Fabulous tip Amy and good luck with the toddler/baby juggle. I had that with my eldest two!

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      YAY! Congratulations on your most recent addition Amy, what a wonderful time it is when there’s a newborn around!

      You’re lucky your maternity wear is too loose (winning), My youngest is just about 5 months and mine still fits! ahahah

      The layering is such a great solution!

    • Emily @ The Beetle Shack

      YAY! Congratulations on your most recent addition Amy, what a wonderful time it is when there’s a newborn around!

      You’re lucky your maternity wear is too loose (winning), My youngest is just about 5 months and mine still fits! ahahah

      The layering is such a great solution!