Breastfeeding-specific clothes are hard to come by on a budget unless you’re lucky enough to snag some fancy brands second hand. Decent quality nursing tops can set you back fifty bucks a piece and sometimes even more. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of spending reserved for special occasion wear and I’m absolutely loathe to shell out that much money for everyday wear that is bound to be exposed to dangerous, clothes splattering substances such as finger paint, play dough, food colouring, yoghurt, snot….and….you know, all that kind of stuff.
Big chain stores like K-Mart, Target and Big W do carry some basic breastfeeding tops. Pumpkin Patch has some too. But here’s where I’ve been hitting walls lately- for some time now, all the breastfeeding tops and dresses I have seen that these stores have stocked are also maternity wear. I’m not freaking pregnant! I’m breastfeeding! It’s not the same! I don’t necessarily need or want a billowing drape over my tummy. I don’t want those gathered, elasticky sides that stretch over your bump. I mean, I already have a tummy and some weight to lose- the last thing I want to do is encourage people to ask when I’m due- it’s happened at least once before and while I felt kinda awkward saying “Um no… I’m not pregnant, I’m just a little bit fat…” I could tell the person who asked felt a lot worse than I did!
There are, in my repertoire, three main methods of feeding- either over the top (OTT) where you pop a breast out and over the neckline of your top to feed, below the hem (BTH) where you sort of yank your top up to free a breast underneath it to feed or (and this one is reserved for custom nursing wear) out of the special concealed gap or hole tucked discretely away in the folds of the top (OOTSCGOH)- I don’t recommend trying to make your own OOTSCGOH type breastfeeding top!
So here are my tips for breastfeeding while wearing clothes. Seems like a no-brainer but in all honesty- I was forever marching up to unsuspecting sales staff and saying things like “I need tops that let me get my boobs out super fast- what have you got that does that?” so I thought a simple list might help a boob-noob to buy a few bits and pieces that will work for them without having to break the bank.
Singlets are THE foundation garment for the breastfeeding mum, in my humble opinion. You can opt for the Bonds breastfeeding singlet (it has a built in bra shelf and little snaps like on your maternity bra to open each side for easy feeding) that will set you back about $30 or so, look for a generic version at somewhere like Big W (much cheaper) or just buy basic thin strapped singlet tops. If you’re crafty, you can modify a basic singlet with minimal effort like this. If you’re not (I’m assuredly not) you will find that a good stretchy singlet is pretty forgiving when it comes to the OTT method.
The humble basic singlet works well with layering if you don’t like exposing your tummy to the cold. Simply wear a singlet under whatever top or tee you like. Yank the top up like you would for a BTH feed, then yank the singlet down as you would for an OTT feed and away you go.
3- Low cut V necks.
Sounds simple but a stretchy, low cut V neck is perfect for breastfeeding. If you aren’t a fan of showing off the merchandise, you can always use the layered method with a singlet or even repurpose your belly band as a kind of boob tube thingy then do a kind of double OTT manoeuvre- latch on your babe and again, away you go!
4- Light cardigans.
K-Mart make these really cheap, floaty, thin, drapey cardigans. Over a singlet, you have a perfect breastfeeding ensemble. The drapey cardi is light enough to use as a nursing cover, should you desire one (I don’t- but if you do- enjoy!) and is also nice to wrap lightly around your little one as you cuddle up and breastfeed. I’m sure you can get them elsewhere too.
5- Wrap dresses.
Got an occasion to go to? Wrap dresses are your best friend. They look lovely on just about every body shape, the drapery is very forgiving if you need or want that in a frock (I often look for that in clothing, it seems), flattering and these things are just about made for the OTT method!
6- Button up shirts.
These can be as exciting or as simple as you like. From the humble flanno to a silky, spangled number- so long as it has buttons all the way up or down, it’s easy to feed in. Pop the required number of buttons open and you’re in business.
I have several low necked numbers, a strapless one and a couple with stretchy, low-ish necklines great for the old OTT method. Caution- when wearing strapless it can be hard to pop just the one boob out. Something about the strapless style means the other boob might get lonely and pop out to see what all the fuss is about. Just a heads-up.
My feeding in public style is pretty well as follows- hold squirmy toddler at chest level, utilise a well-practised OTT manoeuvre and feed. That’s it. I do find scarves are good- you can use them to cover up if you want to but for us, they’re a focal point and work like breastfeeding necklaces (also a great idea!) – something to focus on and fiddle with while feeding. I know for us that there have been periods of extreme distractibility so anything that held her attention for long enough to get her tummy full without any sudden-distraction related injuries (aka The dreaded Niplash) was more than okay by me!
It’s still worth checking out stores that specialise in nursing clothes, like Mamaway or Nursing Angel for special outfits or, you know outfits on special (my personal absolute favourite kind).