When I was pregnant, I really didn’t give much thought to what I would wear when breastfeeding. I didn’t have any close friends who had kids so there was no one around me to offer up any tried-and-tested handy mummy tips. From reading pregnancy magazines, I knew I had to get a couple nursing bras with drop-down cups, but that was about it! I honestly thought I would just revert to my pre-pregnancy wardrobe after giving birth. How naive was I. Dressing for quick and easy breastfeeding is a whole new game.
In the beginning: Nursing cover + button-down shirts
Early on when I still wasn’t comfortable with whipping out a boob in public, I liked using a nursing cover. This is like a big apron that you cover yourself with while feeding. It has a stiff neck so you can look down and see what you’re doing. Feeding in the early months was messy business as I had an oversupply which led to a strong letdown of milk so my baby would often come off the boob spluttering and protesting loudly. It was often a stressful situation so I felt much better using a cover.
With using a cover, I found it much easier to wear button-down shirts or even zip-up sweaters with my nursing bra inside. I just undid some of the top buttons, positioned baby then whipped on the cover and undid the rest of the buttons underneath. Trying to shimmy a top up over your boob when under a cover is much trickier to do. Button-down shirts were my uniform in the first three months or so!
However, as baby grows older and figures out how to use their hands, you may start finding it very hard to use a cover with them as they will just squirm and pull at it. So as my daughter grew better at handling my forceful milk flow and I grew more comfortable and confident with breastfeeding, I found it a lot easier to do without the cover. I also find it’s a lot more discrete nursing without a cover as whipping it out to cover yourself can make people stare. Some women use just a regular shawl or scarf to cover themselves but I find that too fiddly and I don’t like not being able to see baby.
What about those special nursing tops you can find in maternity stores?
Now, you might be wondering how about those nursing tops with side panels that are sold in stores? I got a couple because I figured they must work for most women since they are everywhere, but well, they definitely didn’t work for me. My issue was that I really needed to wear a nursing bra to hold my nursing pads and I don’t think that worked with the top at all. To make it work, I would’ve had to unhook my bra cup and slid it under the top before lifting the panels which is more complicated than it sounds given that most nursing tops are on the fitted side (for me anyway as I like loose tops). And that is only half working really because if baby unlatched mid feed while milk was still gushing, I wouldn’t have been able to quickly pull up my bra cup/nursing pad. So I just ended up using the nursing tops as regular tops because I couldn’t figure them out. Someone please tell me I’m not the only one in this!
What worked for me in the end?
After moving on from using a cover, I found button-down shirts no longer worked as they just left me exposed. So what was the next step? Eventually I realised all I needed to do was to wear a nursing TANK which is like a tank top with drop-down cups under a loose-ish shirt. This meant that when I pulled my top up to breastfeed, my tummy was still covered by the tank while my top-half was covered by my shirt. Black tanks are probably the most discrete, even better when paired with a dark-coloured shirt. When baby needed to feed, I just looked for a quiet corner wherever I was, undid the clasp via the collar then reached under to pull down the cup down under the shirt. This is when wearing looser shirts work better as it’s easier to get your hand under quickly and discretely and when you pull the cup down, it will not cling to your braless boob.
After that I would pull my shirt half up, position baby (her head will cover the cup that is down) then slowly lift my shirt till she latched. Then I will arrange the excess fabric around her mouth for complete coverage. If baby comes off suddenly, a loose shirt will just fall back down to cover you, allowing you to reach under and quickly pull up your cup under your shirt then redo the clasp from the collar.
So there you have it – it sounds so simple when fleshed out in words that I can’t believe it took me a while to figure this out. So if you’re expecting a baby and planning on breastfeeding or you have a newborn and are trying to work out how to breastfeed in public, I hope this information helps you a little bit. In case you’re wondering, I use Bonds maternity bras and tanks. I personally do not think they are fantastic quality but they are easily available in most stores and also carry smaller sizes. I guess convenience trumps when you are time-poor with a baby!
At the end of the day, you need to experiment and do what makes you feel most comfortable with feeding baby when out. Everyone is different. Some women don’t feel the need to cover up, others like me are more comfortable being discrete. I also breastfed in cars and nursing rooms a lot and I admit I have also done so in a toilet. This was my own choice and no big deal to me. And if you do not have a strong letdown, you might be able to work out those nursing tops and be spoilt for choice in the fashion department. Breastfeeding isn’t easy and can feel pretty inconvenient in the early months, but I promise it does get easier and you will soon feel it’s just another part of your life that you don’t have to give much thought to.