MilkMaid: What to Wear While Nursing.

By: Jen Shoop

Hi lovelies!  Typically, I post two times on Thursday, once about #minimagpie, and once about something else, but I didn’t get around to it this week, so today will have to do as a (delayed) update on #minimagpie.  Hopefully we’ll be back on sched next week.

I promise I will get to sharing details of #minimagpie’s birth, but I have been too emotional to write about it.  I’ve sat down (er, remained reclined…I am doing minimal moving these days except when necessary, thanks to the c-section) multiple times to try to capture the experience but have become so overwhelmed with joy, exhaustion, new mom nerves, and all of the warm and fuzzy feelings that have accompanied all of the tender care my parents, siblings, friends, and ESPECIALLY Mr. Magpie have been showing me that I can’t get through a few sentences without shedding some major tears.  Also, holy hormones.  WOW.  More on this in a future post–and I’m not proud of it–but there have been multiple meltdowns in the past week and a half that I would like to attribute to a confluence of pain medication, exhaustion, and hormones, including an epic one when I thought I’d quadrupled the dosage of Vitamin D I was supposed to give minimagpie and literally lost it.  Just broke down into sobs thinking I’d poisoned her and wondering how I could have been so careless.

Then I realized I’d actually given her the correct amount.

Luckily, my mom was sitting by my side on the couch and she set things right–reassuring me, as she did multiple times during her weeklong stay–that I was doing a good job (an overstatement, but a welcome sentiment nonetheless) and gently reminding me not to sweat the small stuff.

And also, she eventually just laughed.  What a gift!  It was a great moment of release to laugh at myself in the midst of such an intense emotional time.

I could write many, many posts on the wisdom she passed along to me last week, but one of them that replays in my mind over and over is: “Jennifer, babies cry.  They cry and cry.  Sometimes because they want something and sometimes for no good reason.”

I could also write many, many posts on the outrageous solicitude, patience, and love Mr. Magpie has shown me the past ten days.  I literally cannot write any more about this right now because my eyes are welling up just thinking about it.  He is my everything.  Thank you for this life, my love.

At any rate, I am feeling so loved and cared after, and am at the same time consumed with loving and caring after mini, that I need to store up all of the emotional strength I can garner for those two preoccupations first.  But I will eventually share more!

And, here is a sneak peek of me with my new best bud:

The Fashion Magpie Mini Magpie

The Fashion Magpie Mini Magpie

OMG.  I am biased, but she is SOMETHING.

SO, today, onto a lighter, adjacent topic: what to wear while nursing.

A slight preamble first.  Please tune out if you’re not in the mood for details about nursing.  Things are ’bout to get REAL.

UM, so, nursing is a whole thing and, as many nurses told me over my stay in the hospital, it’s a learned process for both mother and baby and involves quite a bit of tinkering, or at least it has for me.  My milk never fully came in (or, maybe, has not yet??!?! — she says hopefully) so I have been in this slightly maddening process of nursing as much as I can, then passing mini off to Mr. Magpie to be “topped off” with formula from a bottle, then pumping with a terrifying “hospital grade” breast pump.  My mom and I had a good laugh about me being strapped to an “industrial grade” machine.  Also, I’ve whined about this in the past, but I’m using this scary hands-free breast pump bra and my mom about died laughing when I first put it on and told her I was basically a milk cow.  But, you need one if if you don’t want to sit there holding the two pump things in each hand and doing nothing for 15 minutes at a time.  Which, believe me, you don’t, especially when time feels very precious.  I can’t wait for my Ollie Gray bra to arrive — it is genius.  I hate having to switch out of my clothes to switch into the hands-free bra every time I need to pump.  What a pain.

Anyway, we’ll work it out and it’s fine and I’ll probably end up needing to use more formula than anything else, which initially made me a little upset, but my mom, per usual, set things straight, reminding me that so many healthy babies are raised on formula, and that I was trying all the possible avenues I could to breastfeed but that it may not work, and that it wasn’t my fault.  (And I really am.  I am eating these “boobie bars,” drinking mother’s milk tea, doubling up on oats, and even taking fenugreek pills. But the body does what the body wants.)

And also, in the words of a dear and encouraging friend (thank you, S.!!): the slogan should not be “breast is best” (i.e., breastfeeding is the best way to go — though it is) but “fed is best.”  Trying to keep that mantra top of mind.  Because at the end of the day, the goal is a healthy, growing, well-fed babe.

So, with that in mind, I’ve had the last ten days or so to adapt to a life dominated by breastfeeding and pumping and have accordingly had a lot of time to think about the most efficient but non-hideous things to wear while doing it.  (Hint: pickings are ultra slim.  Like, paper thin.  Like, tracing paper thin.)

I have generally been horrified by the maternity and nursing fashion options on offer, as I grouchily bemoaned under pick no. 1 here.  But, I’ve discovered what works well for me–by which I mean, what has been both functionally useful and nominally attractive at the same time.  Below, my top picks:

Pick 1: The Nursing Nightgown

I’m not normally a nightgown kinda gal.  I much prefer a pair of jams, as you may have gathered from my insta over the past few months (ahem, here, here, and here).  (And P.S. — these $59 lovelies are among my favorite recent purchases.)  But recovering from a c-section has transformed me into a nightgown lover.  So comfortable not to have anything touching the incision, and, especially in the first few days after the procedure, not to have to mess around with pulling up and down a pair of pants.  I ordered this Gap nightgown in two prints ($39) and love it.  So soft, so forgiving, and so convenient.  Also, the prints are super cute.  I also ordered this nightgown from Belabumbum ($66) because I have loved their nursing bras and have not been disappointed.  Super soft and semi-attractive.  Finally, I have been living in my Claridge + King oversized shirt ($180), which I actually ordered years and years ago for my wedding and have monogrammed with my wedding date on the cuff.  It’s the perfect nursing gear because you can easily unbutton it and it’s cute to look at.  (Also, it’s a very Tom-Cruise-in-Risky-Business kind of look, which I dig.)

The Fashion Magpie Claridge and King Sleep Shirt

Pick No 2: The Nursing Bra

OK, so when I’m not wearing the hideous pumping bra contraption (which, I’ll be honest, is not SO bad — it at least serves its purpose well and is thoughtfully designed in the sense that you can adjust its size pretty easily), I am living in these Belabumbum nursing bras ($44 each).  I ordered one in both black and pink and love love love them.  So soft and comfortable, but still pretty and feminine.  If I continue this nursing routine, I may snag a few other styles of theirs, like this “Ruby” one (on sale for $31).  I like that these can make me feel like a woman instead of a frumpy milkmaid.

The Fashion Magpie Belabumbum Nursing Bra

For total comfort, I also love (!) the Majamas nursing bra ($33) — more of a pull-down style instead of a snap-down siutaiton.  So comfortable but still provides some support and I like the low bust-line, personally.  I typically save this for nighttime so at least during the day I feel elegant in the lace-trimmed Belabumbum style above.  (Thanks, C., for the suggestion!)

Pick No. 3: The Daytime Look

For daytime, I’ve been living in button-down tops (oversized oxfords, denim boyfriend shirts, etc. — that are easy to unbutton and nurse from and that run long and loose to cover things up), like this J. Crew denim popover (on sale for $54 –I also loveeee this gingham popover, because — you know, GINGHAM!) with my David Lerner full-panel maternity leggings.  You pretty much look 6-months pregnant when you leave the hospital.  I’m now down to probably what I looked like at 3-months pregnant (?) and am preparing to make the switch to normal leggings soon, but they’ve GOT to be high-waist because I’m still not ready to have anything low-rise interfering with my incision!  A friend who just recently went through a c-section recommended these high-rise leggings by Lysse ($59) as the perfect “transitional” pant, so I’m on board.

And, I top it all off with my Gucci mules ($595).  A little basic, but functional.

The Fashion Magpie JCrew Denim Popover

The Fashion Magpie Black Leggings


the fashion magpie gucci princetown loafer the fashion magpie gucci princetown loafer

Pick No. 4: The Nursing Tank

The other look I’m rocking is leggings with a nursing tank and a heavy cardigan over top.  Though it wasn’t in my initial round-up of nursing tanks (see pick no. 1), this Gap style is my absolute favorite ($22).  A sweet girlfriend of mine gifted it to me in a little “post-delivery survival kit” and thank God she did.  First, it’s super soft.  Second, it pulls down (no snaps involved, which just feels easier).  Third, I don’t know what I was thinking, only picking nursing tops that are super compression-oriented.  Gap’s is soft and flowy and it covers a whole manner of sins.  Trust me, the last thing you want immediately after a c-section is something pressing on your skin.  Barf.  Fourth, I love the length — slightly lower than your hips. I was so encouraged by the fit and style, I also bought their similarly-designed crossover top — super simple, super boring, but I figure with black leggings, some great shoes, and some good jewelry, I’ll be halfway decent.

The Fashion Magpie Gray Gap Crossover Nursing Top

The Trimmings

+I can’t speak highly enough of this balm for the whole nursing process. Organic, healthy for baby, you don’t need to wipe it off before nursing, and it soothes.

+Obvious, but you need these if you’re nursing, or you’ll have to change tops like 53 times over the course of the day.

+Obsessed with these burping cloths ($22 for 2) that fit around the nook of your neck.  They’re super thick and absorbent and, like all Aden + Anais products, they come in the cutest patterns.  (P.S. — I got a handful of their similarly designed burp cloths from the “Ideal” diffusion line by the makers of Aden + Anais, but they are not nearly as absorbent.  So, I say splurge on the real deal.)

+It took me awhile to start using my nursing pillow because I was so worried about having anything pressing on my abdomen, but I just started using my pillow (I have pillow covers from IvieBaby that are GORGEOUS! — I have this pattern and this pattern) and love it.

PS — I did add some new, non-nursing finds to Le Shop!

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28 thoughts on “MilkMaid: What to Wear While Nursing.

  1. Read this when it was originally posted but so glad you suggested a re-read now that I’m nursing. Especially the comments! So grateful for you and all your readers that are supportive and encouraging! 🙂 #womenofsubstance

    1. #WOS material for sure. So many smart, tenured moms leaving some great words of wisdom — and now you are joining their ranks and can pass on the love 🙂 You GOT this!!

  2. Great list of essential tips for nursing Mums. Having just got through this stage as a first time Mum the nursing gown and using bra is key…especially for those early newborn days. It took me a long time to find the perfect nursing bra!! I found a great range of comfy and practical bras which were actually quite pretty too (before they got covered in milk and sick regularly!!)

    1. Agreed, it takes some trial + error to find what works for you. Right now I’m on a mad hunt to find more appropriate nursing tops that don’t look like nursing tops — so lots of looser tops or button-downs. It’s going to take some time to get this whole “new mom” thing down! xoxo
      PS – Congrats to you!

  3. My son & I never got nursing figured out (5 lactation consultants, nipple shields and all) so I exclusively pumped. For pumping, I recommend these tanks as I wore them under just about everything. They are hands-free and can be nursing tanks as well.
    Rumina’s classic nursing tank. Heard lots of good things about the Dairy Fairy bras as well.
    And yes to what everyone else has said, fed is best!

    1. WHAT! How have I never heard of either of these despite doing what feels like endless research?! Thanks so much for sharing. Especially interested in the Dairy Fairy bras. Seem to be very thoughtfully designed! THANK YOU for sending, thank you for sharing your experience, and thanks for reading! xx

  4. I’m reading this a few days behind, but just wanted to thank you for posting about this. Filing away for future needs … and, by the way, you look absolutely radiant and your daughter is gorgeous! Congratulations to you 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, MK!! Glad to hear it might be useful even to someone not yet at this life stage 🙂 xoxo

  5. Just saw the cutest nursing top at Old Navy. It’s called Maternity Double-Layer Nursing Top. Check it out.

  6. Nursing can be such a rough journey! I did the nurse-pump routine initially too and it is tough! My son had a lip and tongue tie that we had revised at 13 days. The ties plus stuff with NICU really hurt my milk supply in the beginning. The ibclc who found the ties and referred us to the right professionals and then helped me get my supply up and baby off of formula was a miracle worker!

    I have heard some moms say that fenugreek killed their supply, so just know that it doesn’t always help everyone. If MiniMagpie hasn’t been checked for ties by a tie-savvy lactation professional, you might consider that, too.

    I’ll also say that while by 4 weeks we were exclusively breastfeeding and no longer supplementing with formula or bottles of my own milk, it was a stressful journey that definitely contributed to my PPD and while I’ve loved breastfeeding (still nursing and he’ll be 2 in June) I’m not sure that being so stubborn about breast milk was the healthiest decision for me and I’m never sure that I would tell another mom to do it. If some formula gives you a chance to enjoy your baby and stress less, then do it. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

    Good food/healthy diet, hydration, skin to skin, and nursing on demand are all so good for you both at this stage, so find a comfy spot and snuggle down. You are doing GREAT and you are the best, most perfect mom for MiniMagpie. Congratulations!

    1. MELISSA! OMG. This is just what I needed to hear this morning. You are the kindest soul for sharing these insights (interesting note about fenugreek! WHAT! — and you’re the second person to make a note about the tongue tie situation) and words of encouragement. It makes me realize that there are so many squiggly paths to success in feeding your babe, and there’s no one right answer. THANK YOU for this gift of a note today. SO much love to you.

  7. hang in there lady! nursing was a rough go for us too – my supply never was enough to satisfy lou and she was also part formula from the get-go (then full formula at 4 months when i threw in the towel and became a human again). FED IS BEST! she is a beauty and you look radiant <3

    1. Lara, THANK YOU for the support. From reading your comments, I feel we have had very parallel experiences both in delivering our babes and nursing them. Now we definitely need to get coffee when I’m back in the DC area! Thanks so much for your sane commentary. LOVE.

  8. Stick with the fenugreek and mother’s milk tea, I swear it works wonders! I nursed/pumped for over 3 years between my 2 kids and dealt with ups and downs with supply. Oatmeal anything is great. Drink a zillion gallons of water and try to relax. This part is huge.

    Once you’re back into all your pre-pregnancy clothes, you might want to separate your closet into nursing vs. non nursing friendly. I made the mistake once of wearing a shift dress (that didn’t zip up the back) on a day trip and had to gracefully find a way to nurse in it on a park bench in Boston Thank God for nursing covers! One of my best friends and I keep talking about starting a line of nursing friendly shifts because they’re so hard to find.

    1. Thanks, Jen! I think the water is key, too. Sometimes, I think water heals everything. I try to keep a jug of it by my side at all times, but it’s so hard to remember to drink on top of all the other things I’m trying to do. I’ll need to come up with some sort of mnemonic to remind myself. Thanks for the reminder!

      AND, great point about separating my closet. I can’t imagine nursing in a shift. YIKES. You are a houdini. #momlife


  9. The joy in your eyes is STUNNING!!! Love that pic and excited to hear more.

    The first two weeks of nursing are absolute HELL ON EARTH– no one talks about it for some reason, ugh. But my IBLC says 100% of women go through it, hmmmmm (have you ever seen the Reese Witherspoon movie four christmases? Where she holds the baby and talks to the pregnant lady? Yea, you’ll eventually get to that point too, fear not!)

    Frighteningly, the lactation chocolate chip cookies are gone from amazon! I’m addicted!!!!!

    (Ps: also super super impressed that you are both: a) wearing clothes, and b) keeping up with your writing! It makes me so happy to see these posts so thank you!)

    1. Thanks, Bunny! So reassuring to hear other ladies go through the same process. I had this very vague romanticized notion of what nursing would entail. HA!

      A girlfriend of mine made me the most delicious lactation cookies from scratch — I’ll have to ask her for the recipe and post it here!!

  10. You look beautiful and radiant and she is a perfection. Congratulations on the best thing you will ever do!
    I’m impressed you are able to keep up the blog right now!

  11. You are both so beautiful!!!
    I went through the exact same maddening process- nursing for what seemed like hours only to find that the baby was still hungry, having to top her off with a bottle and then pump and then start all over again and again… I was also chugging mothers milk tea, etc. At one point the night nurse suggested I wasn’t eating enough protein so my husband gleefully started grilling us steaks EVERY night, but even that didn’t work. I was soo resistant to formula but then realized my husband and his 3 brothers were all formula fed and all turned out to be smart, successful and athletic :). Once I started using formula to supplement it made life so much easier! Sounds like you are handling it really well-but just wanted to say I feel you girl!
    hang in there- you’re doing great!

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