I am a great believer in learning from my mistakes. A lot of the ill advised decisions I have made over the years – and having to live with the consequences – have made pretty darn sure that I will never make the same error again in the future. I’m not sure if this is just something inherent in me, or if it’s the way I was raised. (I would go with the latter, taking as an example the time I was a teenager and my dad said to me: “Bethan. If you wanted to you could go out and get a tattoo on your forehead for all I care, just don’t complain to me about it when you regret it five years down the line!!!)
But having lived my life careering from one disaster to another, I’m starting to think that maybe it is even better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, and I like to think that’s where me and my blog come in!
Having got my pregnancy wardrobe totally wrong, and then my breastfeeding outfits, I have kind of become a bit of an expert; the Trinny and Susannah of the maternity and nursing world, if you will. If I can take any positives from it, it would be that “next time” I would totally know what not to do and also that in having got it so wrong, I can share some tips with you lovely lot.
I must admit, I didn’t really prepare my wardrobe much beforehand. I thought it would be silly to get a lot because you just don’t know what’s going to work and what will be a waste of money so all I got was a maxi skirt from Primark and a cream tunic top from H&M. When I was in Newcastle for my pre-baby hair appointment (which turned out to be a week before she was born, as she was early) I went into Bravissimo to get fitted for nursing bras but they didn’t have any appointments for ages and I was too hot and pregnant to hang around. So, I figured I would just wait to see how big my boobs got and I had some maternity sleep bra things which I thought would do in the meantime.
I don’t think a lack of preparedness was my main downfall though. To cut a very long and sad story short, the number one thing I got wrong during the early stages of breastfeeding was I made the mistake of caring what I looked like; life would’ve been A LOT easier if I hadn’t. I have mentioned before that it took a long time for breastfeeding and me (and Gwenn) to get along and because I was so absolutely devastated and felt as if my dream was slipping away from me, I felt like I needed to take control over at least one part of my life, and that part was my appearance. Even when Gwenn was days old, I was making sure I had a proper bra with matching knickers on, clean styled hair, actual clothes (as opposed to PJs), the whole shebang, just in case anybody who came over judged me for not having done so.
Because I didn’t have a lot of stuff that made it easy to breastfeed in and because I was obsessed with looking presentable, the outfits I wore usually resulted in me having to take off all my clothes when Gwenn was hungry, so I just didn’t go out of the house. It made for a very miserable summer and it is something I regret.
What follows is basically a list of what I would buy if I did it all over again. It is very personal to me, my shape and style, but hopefully you can take some ideas from it?
After having done a lot of research, I can confirm that no nursing bras fit me. There are not many brands who go up to my size and even those that do are still no good because they are wireless. I bought two in the nine and a half months that I was feeding Gwenn: one in the closest size I could get to my actual measurements (trust me, next best thing is no good when you need a 36 JJ) and one which was supposed to be the right size but gave me no more support than a sleep bra. Consequently, I never wore them outside the house and if I wanted to feed her in public I would wear my normal bras and end up taking all of my clothes and said bra off. Not exactly discreet!
When Gwenn was almost six months, we went to the Lakes with my mam and step-dad and I had to think of something, because we were going to be out all day for 6 days in a row and getting naked was not going to be an option. This is when I had the plunge bra idea. These bras are so low cut that you can easily manhandle your boob out and squish the moulded cups down and out of the way. Admittedly, this is probably not advised in the manufacturer’s care instructions but you gotta do what you gotta do!
When I was road testing the idea, I went for the Wild at Heart bra from Bravissimo, which is based on a shape that comes in various prints. They also sell lots of plain moulded and plunge styles, if you wanted something more neutral.
I would one hundred million percent go down this route again. If I were in the house, I would wear a sleep bra; if I were outside, it would be a padded plunge. This is not for everyone, I do understand that, but I could cry when I think how different things might have been if I’d had the idea sooner.
(Another note on underwear: I always felt loads better if I had on kind-of-matching underwear. I bought a few pairs of dark blue knickers to go with my Wild at Heart bra for example, so I knew I looked pulled together underneath my clothes even if I look horrific on the outside!)
My wardrobe is predominantly dresses, but they can be a bit of an issue if breastfeeding. The first option is to go for something that buttons through.
This shirt dress is pretty amazing, and I’ve seen similar shapes on ASOS recently.
I bought this shirt dress about a year before Gwenn was born, and got loads of wear out of it.
Alternatively, you could wear something quite low cut and I found that a lot of maternity dresses tend to be already geared up to nursing in this way, so you only have to buy once, if you get what I mean. And obviously there are “proper” breastfeeding dresses but they were too expensive for me to consider. These Bibee dresses are lovely though.
A top half and a bottom half are probably what most nursing mums go for. I never wear jeans or leggings, so for me it was always a skirt with something tucked in. Still a massive faff on but I personally found it easier to pull something up rather than button something down. “Next time” though I think I’d look for tops that didn’t have to be tucked in at all; crop teeshirts are everywhere, and not expensive at all and I already have loads of midi skirts so maybe these looks would work for me (minus the heels 😉 )?
Make what you already have work: You’ll probably already have loads of stuff that will work for you and you don’t have to buy things that are specifically marketed as nursing clothes. Obviously it’s nice to treat yourself to newness but having a baby is expensive enough without buying a completely new wardrobe.
Explore charity shops: I love charity shops. I once got a Masai Company dress for £5 that was £85 in a department store the previous year. I have loads of vintage St Michael (I mean, does it get better than St. Michael?!?!) and I have been very lucky to find premium brands like Jaeger and Betty Barclay for pennies. Obviously it helps if, like me, you are happy to dress as an old lady 😉
Focus on other areas: If you feel like your clothing choices are being governed by boob accessibility and that you are wearing the same things over and over, why not focus on other areas? Maybe invest in a really nice blazer or a cashmere cardigan. Or buy some new shoes and a bag, neither of which are affected by fluctuating breast size (as far as I am aware).
Take care of yourself: I loved having my regular eyebrow and eyelash tint when Gwenn was little because a: I look much better for it but b: it’s nice to spend a bit of time being pampered, even if just for 15 minutes peace. If I had more money then I would have been going for facials and massages and all sorts.
Google like mad: These are some of my favourite breastfeeding fashion websites and blogs –
Pinterest is amazing too!
Don’t care too much: For me, and the majority of other women I know, it is important to look nice. Rightly or wrongly, a huge part of my self-esteem comes from how I look. But in the early days of no sleep and rest, constant feeding, sterilising, welcoming visitors etc etc, it really doesn’t matter if you have washed your hair or your jeans are clean. The biggest mistake I made was expecting too much of myself as a new mum and putting too much pressure on myself to look a certain way. Yes, I have just shared with you some tips on looking good while nursing, but ultimately your wellbeing and your baby’s health are what is priority.
So there you have it. Hardly an exhaustive list but just a few thoughts that popped into my head about breastfeeding fashion.
To find out more about all areas of nursing, click on the badge below and read more entries to The Breastfeeding Diaries on Zena’s Suitcase.