What to Wear While Nursing.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above by the ultra-talented Claiborne Swanson Frank for her gorgeous book Mother and Child. May we all look this good while breastfeeding…

I’ve fielded the question of how to look stylish while nursing countless times over the past few weeks, and I’m so glad — it gave me the occasion to get my own ducks in a row on this topic.

The first thing I’ll say is that I underestimated what I would need the first go around. It somehow did not compute that I’d need breastfeeding gear and nursing-friendly clothing for, like, a year (duh), and so I bought the minimum (slash ignored nursing-friendliness) and was frustrated by the fact that I could wear approximately 1/50th of my planned wardrobe.

At any rate: my first recommendation is to invest in some good nursing bras that fit well and hold up in the wash — and to buy in multiples. During the first few weeks, I really liked this pull-down style from Majamas — so comfortable and unfussy. This time around, I also added some Coobies to my lingerie drawer (similar to Majamas, though a different, more sports-bra-like fabric) after multiple Magpies recommended this label. During those first few bleary days/weeks, I was barely making it out of loungewear — let alone into public — and these felt easy and comfortable. Once I got my feet under me, I tried a bunch of different brands and ended up loving the Bravado Seamless Nursing bra. Read the reviews: people are obsessed with this bra, and for good reason. It is super comfortable and made of a material that creates a nice silhouette while also…absorbing messes. (Even with nursing pads, things happen.) At night, I liked a bunch of soft cotton styles I found from Belabumbum, including this one.

So, that’s my number one tip: buy a couple different brands and styles of nursing bras and really figure out what you like, and then double down on that style. I’d strongly recommend trying at least one pull-down style in the early weeks and testing the Bravado, which, in my opinion, is the best on the market. (Because otherwise you end up doing a TON of laundry. Not that you aren’t already, but — ya know. One less thing to keep track of.)

Also, stock up on nursing pads. I’m intrigued by these reusable ones — I’d forgotten that they existed until after I ordered the Lansinohs (which are, in my opinion, the softest disposable ones out there), and think I might try these after I get through my first box. I’m curious whether they are as absorbent as the disposable ones…

I also picked up this Haakaa manual breast pump because I found that I was “wasting” a lot of precious milk while mini would start nursing on one side. This was not only frustrating because I had an undersupply and wanted to save every last drop — but because I often soaked through my nursing bra/pad/etc. I’m curious to see how this works. My sister said it was annoying to have to get one into place at every feed (she was using a different brand — I have higher hopes for the Haakaa) and she eventually gave up on it, but we shall see. WTTW: I’ve heard you need to buy a stopper to go with this because the Haakaa tips over easily. I ordered this one even though it’s a different brand — the reviewers say it works with the Haakaa — because it was less expensive and less visually offensive than the Haakaa brand one (what is with that cheesy flower?). OK, enough on that topic.

OK, nursing bra: done. Next: buy a nursing cover. I was pretty uncomfortable about breastfeeding in front of anyone outside of the immediate family, and using a swaddle or burp cloth just didn’t cut it. I hated wearing a nursing cover so much — it feels suffocating and uncomfortable — that I apparently threw away the one I used with mini, because it’s nowhere to be found in our apartment. But it’s a necessary evil. This go around, I bought this Bebe Au Lait cover in blue gingham because it’s cute. I’m also contemplating one of these styles for when I’m at home with guests over because — even though it offers less coverage all the way around — it looks like it will make me feel less suffocated. (But — the prints are all hideous. Yuck.) My message here is that I was somewhat spartan with myself the first go around — “I’ll just buy two nursing bras” and “I’ll just use a blanket to shield myself,” I told myself. But nursing is something you do SO FREQUENTLY and for SO MANY MONTHS (if it’s in your plan, of course): why wouldn’t you take the time to figure out what will make you the most comfortable and effective at this daily activity?

So, two nursing cover styles it is for this mama. Just convinced myself.

OK, next up. What to actually wear. I really hate most designated “nursing” styles. There are so many frumpy cotton pieces in ugly colors with obviously-placed layers that scream: “I’M A MILKMAID! EASY ACCESS HERE!” Not for me.

In the very early days, my favorite thing was to wear a comfortable cotton nursing tank with a cardigan and leggings. I’d make myself feel more put-together by adding big earrings, statement shoes, or — this go around — a fantastic headband. I really loved this Gap sleep cami, which I’d wear sans bra and just put nursing pads into the cups of the tank and I already know I’ll get a ton of wear out of this long-line cardigan this go around. There are tons of nursing camis out there — I found I didn’t love the ones that were super compression-oriented because they made me feel uncomfortable as I recovered from my c-section. I preferred the Gap sleep style because it was so loose and comfortable. I did order this in white to test out this go around. I figure it might be a good companion for some loose-fitting jogger-style pants like these or these for dressed-down mornings at home or runs to the coffee shop. For cardigans: I also love this for a fun statement, this for comfort, and this because it looks easy-to-wash and comfortable, and the 90s ribbed look is in.

My go-to during the early months was loose-fit tops and button-downs, especially in tunic styles because they tended to be more comfortable for maneuvering the baby around and more flattering to a post-partem figure. I’d pair them with maternity jeans or leggings during the first few weeks of recovery. Here are my favorites right now, many of which I’ve already ordered:

+This J. Crew button down.

+This striped peplum top.

+This clever double-layered tee.

+This drape-knit nursing cardigan.

+This voluminous white top (to feed, pull up — kind of creating your own nursing cover!; layer with a nursing tank beneath).

+This flattering empire waist top.

+A classic chambray button down. So easy with white skinnies.

Because it will be warmer this go around, though, I’m focusing on dresses and jumpsuits. A couple of my favorite finds:

+This nursing caftan (currently on sale! I own this — so chic).

+This button-front jumpsuit.

+This utility-style jumpsuit. (So chic with Celine sunnies and Hermes Orans.)

+This button-front midi.

+This floral, bow-shouldered sundress.

+This sweet dress. Love the Peter Pan collar and puff sleeves.

+For the Fourth: this dress feels perfect.

+This chambray shirtdress.

+This elegant midi or this similar maxi — the latter ultra-generous to a post partum figure.

Finally: sleepwear! I absolutely loved these maternity nightgowns from Gap and this one from Belabumbum. They are almost identical to one another — soft, stretchy cotton with drop cups and I’ve been wearing them a lot towards the end of this pregnancy, too, when even my maternity leggings irk me. They were heaven, especially when I didn’t want anything near my c-section incision. I also wore my beloved Cosabellas quite a bit, and plan to do the same this go around. (I now have a few pairs.)

This go around, I also picked up some Lake Pajamas maternity jammies and Roller Rabbit jammies that match mini. Both are a super soft cotton and I can’t wait to wear them. I also like the look of this striped sleepshirt.

If you are going on a beach vacation — this tie-front swimsuit looks genius.

P.S. My maternity essentials and baby gear redux.

P.P.S. What’s in my hospital bag.

P.P.P.S. A mini tech detox worth testing.

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29 thoughts on “What to Wear While Nursing.

  1. Oh I’m excited! My baby shower will be this weekend and I’m thrilled to find this! I’ve been looking for nursing bra’s too and some other essentials while breastfeeding. Any tips will do its my first time!

  2. Excited to check out a few of these recs with number 2! I never got the hang of the haakaa with my first but a tip even better than a stopper is to put the haakaa in a coffee mug so it doesn’t tip over. I don’t do button downs so I also swore by nursing tanks (I used the ones from Gap) because they kept the belly warm when I pulled my shirt up to nurse or pump. The Bravado clip and pump was my favorite pumping bra because it works with all brands and you don’t have to unclasp anything. FWIW Bamboobies worked really well for me as the disposable kind were not soft enough for my sensitive skin. I did switch them out each time they were wet so I probably ended up with 10 or so pairs but no thrush concerns. They have an overnight versions that can work during the day if you have a strong let down.

    1. Thanks, Annie! The coffee mug hack is genius (and free) — sometimes I am just not as resourceful as I should be. Thank you for all these ideas/tips!


  3. Bravado makes some great nursing tanks that have built in cups so you don’t have to wear a bra but still have plenty of coverage. I got several in black and white and wore under my shirt every day. I just pulled my shirt up – the tank covered my stomach and my shirt and the baby covered up top. The tanks are also ideal for pumping at work and maintaining a professional appearance. Only downside is the fabric is too hot for the deep days of summer.

  4. Bella Materna also makes great nursing bras (specifically the Anytime Bra) , especially if you’re on the more well-endowed side. They’re not completely ugly and I liked that the cups were separate (rather than the more sports bra-like style with many nursing bras). I took out the extra padding (didn’t find it necessary at all haha). I’ve also heard that Nordstrom will turn any regular bra into a nursing bra for a small fee – also worth checking out?

  5. Checkout on Insta! Kate is a mom, NICU nurse and sleep and lactation consultant with tons of great tips, particularly on breastfeeding. She (along with several trusted mom friends) inspired me to get the Haaka and Kate has a whole insta story tutorial on how to use it.

    1. Thank you!! Spent some time going through her Instagram account and there are so many good tips/rules of thumb/reminders here. Hope you are feeling good in these final few weeks!!! xx

  6. The haakaa is amazing! I use it every morning while nursing my six month old son and am amazed at how much milk I’m able to gather that would otherwise just go to waste soaking my pajamas or a nursing pad. It really helps to have that extra little bit to add to the amount I pump while at work. Sending you so many good thoughts as you draw nearer to micro’s arrival.

    1. Yay! So glad to hear this. It sounds like a perfect solution 🙂 Thanks for the well wishes, friend! xx

  7. I loved the Hakaa pump and wish I had found it in the early days- I had the same frustration with “wasted milk.” Now we are passed the nursing season and it’s currently in use as a bath toy 🙂

    I remember going to a birth class and the instructor telling us to just skip the reusable nursing pads as it’s easier to get thrush with them (maybe one is inclined to wear wet ones a little longer than the easy throw-away kinds?). So perhaps follow your instinct and stick with the Lasinoh ones!

    Thinking of you lots!

    1. !! Good to know on the reusables. Going to stick to Lansinoh I think. This is why I need my Magpie tribe…


  8. This is a brilliant post! I haven’t needed to worry about nursing-friendly clothing in my own wardrobe, but this is such a helpful post for the many nursing mamas out there. Pointing my pregnant sister-in-law your way!

    Also: I will say that I own several pieces from Toit Volant and I LOVE that label. Need Supply is a great place to find it, too, because occasionally they have really steep markdowns!


    1. So good to know!! They have such unique shapes — high fashion but not crazy expensive. Into it!


    2. Me too!

      P.S. I meant to mention this in my original comment, but this past weekend, I finally got to see a copy of that Claiborne Swanson Frank book you reference above. It’s soooo gorgeous! I love. Thinking of giving it to my mom for her birthday. 🙂

      1. Isn’t it gorgeous?! Would love to own a copy myself but until then…perhaps a gift for my mom is in order, too 🙂


  9. I appreciate this post so much! I despised my drab nursing-friendly wardrobe and these are fabulous alternatives. One hack that I loved- I found wrap styles very convenient for both nursing and pumping at work. They didn’t require me to get half naked in my office and I felt pulled together and still fashionable. DVF wrap dresses are my staple (and lots are available on The Real Real at a steep discount). A built in pumping bra that doesn’t require the whole bustier situation is also a must! I liked the Simple Wishes everyday bra

    1. Oooo great (!!!) picks. Had forgotten about my fleet of DVFs — I especially loved a wrap romper from them last go around. Agree with you on the modesty front — you can just sort of loosen the belt and pump/nurse without having to fully unbutton or anything. And thanks for the bra rec, too — was not familiar with that line!


  10. I haven’t had much luck with the reusable nursing pads as my shirt still ended up getting wet — but I also am working on dropping/spacing out feeds so could be a factor. Hope you have better luck!

  11. Great advice! I learned with my second that nursing covers just do not work for me. I always wore a Uniqlo Airism camisole under my clothes and just pulled my top up – the camisole kept things covered underneath.

    Unrelated to nursing, but relevant to your readership’s interest: Have you seen Maisonette’s new house line of toddler clothes?? Really cute styles (especially for girls) and the price point is great!

    1. Hi Kate! Oh interesting – great suggestion. I like the idea that this could convert literally anything that can be pulled up into a nursing top.

      And YES – so funny, I just ordered this pinafore for mini this morning:

      SO CUTE.


  12. I love reading TFM. I wanted to pass along a comment that I wish it was possible to read it through Feedly. I click in there most days but your blog for some reason doesn’t show the full post there and I have to click into each post separately. Often I don’t take the time to do that in the moment and end up going to the website directly to catch up 2-3 times a month instead. Any chance of making the posts fully readable through Feedly? Many thanks for your consideration and bravo for your insightful and interesting writing. Sincerely, EDB

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for reading along and for letting me know about this! I will look into this with my developer to see what I can do 🙂


    2. Feedly is also my preferred reader of choice and I’ve never been able to read your blog through it. I just wait (patiently) till I’m able to click through to the main site. It did not even dawn on me to voice this, so I appreciate another reader doing it!

      1. So good to know!! Looking into this currently. Not sure why my blog wouldn’t play nicely with this reader. Will get to the bottom of it!


  13. Love these tips! I’ve been nursing for what feels like a decade (in reality it’s been a combined 4 years). Now that I’m currently pregnant with our fourth, I’m trying to get excited about another round of nursing. Bravado also makes a nursing tank that I’ve found to be pretty good (and supportive), but my favorite ones are these inexpensive Gilligan brand nursing tanks from Target. Not very supportive but so comfortable and looks great underneath a cardigan or button up. As far as coverage/covers go, I have always found those to be so awkward and I might as well have a flashing neon sign over my head “breastfeeding here.” I’m curious if your feelings will change with this second babe as mine did when I quickly realized no one cared enough to look anyway and I’m too busy to care (although modesty is still important to me but I find my cardigan or a swaddle blanket to be enough coverage).

    1. Yes, I’m super curious to know how this time feels/works given that I’ll have been through it once before and I have a strong feeling I’ll be distracted by a very active toddler 🙂 Thanks for the tip on Gilligan brand nursing tanks, too! xx

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