When I was expecting J, my first child, I ruined quite a few of my clothes, stretching them out beyond belief in my refusal to buy maternity wear.
Reasons why I did not want to buy maternity wear:
- Maternity wear is expensive
- Maternity wear is ugly
- I’d only be wearing them for 9 months so why bother
I had resorted to sneaking teeshirts from the Barn Owl’s drawers when he decided that Enough Was Enough and insisted that I get some new clothes.
Unfortunately, I was also suffering from terrible all-day-long sickness, and even walking around the house was making me dizzy. I could not bear to bring myself to go down to the high street to buy circus tents to wear.
Which is when I discovered the big bad world of online shopping!
I also discovered that maternity and nursing wear has changed drastically in the last decade or so, and most things are comfortable, chic and reasonably priced. I have since changed my attitude towards buying clothes during pregnancy and I highly recommend that expectant ladies invest in good quality maternity wear.
Now, this is not to say that you have to necessarily go to a specialist shop to purchase purpose-built maternity wear. You just have to know what to look out for when choosing clothes for this stage of your life. I didn’t figure this one out until I was well into my second pregnancy and had a better idea of what sort of clothes would work well in the transition from pregnancy to the postpartum state.
Reasons why I recommend expectant ladies to purchase maternity and nursing wear:
- Pre-pregnancy clothes will stay nice and not turn into shapeless bags
- Husband will stop complaining about missing shirts (and shorts)
- The clothes will actually be worn for much, MUCH longer than 9 months, especially if one is breastfeeding and takes a longer time to regain pre-pregnancy shape
- The clothes are usually super comfortable and flattering to the figure which makes a big difference to your outlook on life when you’re approaching the size of a whale, hurting all over and feeling miserable about stretch marks
- Most maternity clothes also double up as nursing wear which makes life very easy if you decide to breastfeed or use a breast pump.
So here are my top tips to keep in mind when looking for maternity or nursing wear (as well as some hacks for making regular clothes work for you)!
Owls Well Guide to choosing Maternity and Nursingwear
1. For bottoms, look for styles with a fully elasticated panel that extends over the top of your bump. This panel can then be worn over the top of your bump, folded down midway or even scrunched up under the bump, and will stretch and shrink to accommodate the changes in size during and after your pregnancy.
I have found this style to be the most comfortable as it doesn’t slip down when you walk (or run) around or lose elasticity, so it lasts the longest. Additionally, I think looks great for after pregnancy because the elasticated panel smooths over all your wobbly bits!
Regular clothes hack #1: Yoga pants with a high waistband and soft, stretchy and breathable material would work well too – size up if you’re worried about it getting too tight and uncomfortable towards the end of your pregnancy! Look for maxi or midi-length skirts with elasticated waists, plenty of pleats and gathers for loads of room and to make sure that hemlines stay decent in the front as your belly burgeons.
2. For tops and tees, try to find styles that will last you through those nursing days. This can either be combination maternity-to-nursingwear tops or have any of the following features:
- Buttons that go all the way up the front (at at least mid way)
- Wrap tops
- Loose fitting or flowing tops, or oversized, boxed-shaped tees
- Trapeze or swing tops that are narrow on top and loose at the hips
- Styles with pleats, ruching, gathers, shirring and smocking (basically anything that has extra hidden fabric with a little ‘give’) are your friends
Regular clothes hack #2: Look for longer length tops or tunics – these won’t turn into crop tops and will cover your bump neatly well into the last trimester. Long cardigans, cute serapes or ponchos, as well as loosely draped wrapped tops are great cool weather gear and can also double-up as great nursing covers!
3. Although in general I prefer separates for maternity and nursing wear, it is probably a good idea to get one or two really nice dresses for special occasions. You never know you might have to go to a party, a wedding, or just dress up for date night (I suggest a movie and a fancy restaurant). Take your time and choose something really nice that you might even deign to wear after your pregnancy – you can always cinch in the waist with a belt!
Regular clothes hack #3: Maxi dresses are your friend – especially high waisted or empire line styles!
4. Many nursing tops and dresses now have very cleverly hidden openings for easy access to the milk bar. However, do avoid nursing access openings that have a zip or velcro closure. Who wants little zip teethmarks all along the side of your boob? Or start a breastfeeding session with a loud ripping sound that will frighten the birds? Nobody, that’s who.
Regular clothes hack #4: Look for tops and dresses that have a hidden bra shelf and stretchy open neckline – quick and easy pull-down access!
5. For lingerie, stick with your usual bikini style panties (boy shorts if you want more coverage at the back) and wear them under your belly, just be prepared to buy new pants as these will surely be stretched all out of shape. Stick with breathable cotton and seamless styles as keeping cool and comfortable is key to preventing nasty infections.
6. As for bras, your breasts are likely to get tender during pregnancy and will definitely change in shape and size. Ditch all your underwire bras, and find some good quality maternity and nursing bras that are not only soft, breathable, stretchy and easily adjustable to accommodate fluctuations in size (which can be +/- a whole cup or two every few hours), but provide good support so that you don’t get backache. Most nursing bras will come with drop-down cups, so find ones that you can clip and unclip easily with one hand.
Regular clothes hack #5: If you don’t fluctuate in size much, a good sports bra or sports tank, crop top or camisole with an inbuilt bra shelf are a good option. They’ll be comfortable, give good support and wick sweat away from the body to boot. Layer them under your other clothes to use them as nursing bras.