One of the most frustrating parts of nursing (well, after latch issues, colostrum staining issues, supply issues, pumping and bottle issues), was my complete inability to find cute clothes that allowed for easy nursing. Never was this issue so apparent then when it came to dresses. I know, dear readers, that you feel my pain. We have had many of you asking for advice on this topic.
One would think this was easy. In this day and age of pro-breastfeeding (almost to a fault, as M points out here) one would think that there would be scores of adorable nursing clothing available to help us legions of breast-feeding mothers continue to nurse.
Not so much.
While there is certainly more choice now than even two years ago when I first started on this quest, separating the dowdy from the cool takes a bit of work. Especially when it comes to dresses. Not only do you need easy access and minimal exposure, but if you are like me, you need something that works with a nursing bra. Gone are the days I could get by bra-less, and while one can nurse in a strapless bra…strapless bras are neither supportive nor easy when it comes to nursing.
So to narrow the scope somewhat, here are the "rules" I applied to all dresses to be able to qualify as "nursing dresses":
- Easy Access — You must be able to nurse in this dress without having to untie it from the back, lift it over your head, or go through any other weird contortions.
- Minimal exposure – One boob at a time, please. Just one boob at a time.
- Nursing Bra – You must be able to wear a nursing bra with this dress. While there are a few that would require a decent looking bra, all cami style or strapless dresses are out.
- It must be washable. Spit-up happens.
- Bonus points for pooch-hiding properties
Here are my picks:
The first two dresses are not actual nursing dresses, but I think both would work nicely. The navy dress is Nation Ltd's Central Park Slub Dress, $99 at Piperlime.com, and is made out of a nice, stretchy model/supima blend, giving it great drape over the pooch area. The lower neckline is flattering to breastfeeding boobs, but I'd want to pair a nice looking nursing bra with this dress. Go here for my favorite pretty nursing bra picks.
I'm also completely in love with J. Crew's Grecian inspired Shirred Racerback Gown, $78. J. Crew's knit dresses are amazingly stretchy, and I've nursed in several over the last couple of years. I also like that the straps of this dress are fairly substantial, easily hiding nursing bra straps. However, you will probably need a racerback nursing bra (which you can now find at Target for under $20).
Lastly, reader Whittni found Japanese Weekend's Nursing Maxi Dress, which retails for $82 at Figure 8 Maternity. Like the name implies, this is an actual nursing dress, and has a slight empire waist to help disguise the post-baby pooch. This dress also comes in a gorgeous jade color.
Starting with the dress at the top left, this little white Manhattan Mini Dress, $89 at A Mother's Boutique, is easily the sexiest nursing dress I've seen to date. While this dress might be a little too body-con for immediately after giving birth, the large amount of ruching will help to hide that slight poochiness that takes years to go away. Pssst – pregnant gals: this is actually a maternity/nursing dress!
Pictured top right is another maternity/nursing dress from A Mother's Boutique, the Banded Tunic Dress, $69. I'm so totally drawn to this shape because it is exactly the kind of t-shirt shape that I had to avoid for the two-plus years I nursed. This dress, however, has a center opening for easy access. LOVE.
The flirty yellow number, pictured above on the bottom left, is the Sunflower Nursing Tank Dress from Boob. If you haven't heard of Boob (and with a name like that you wouldn't forget), they are my current favorite brand for nursing apparel. The fit is great, and they make nursing in public a breeze. In past years, their dress offerings have been fairly dismal, but I'm very impressed with their most recent collection, this yellow dress in particular. This dress retails for $126 at Euphoria Maternity.
Lastly, the Fab Empire Dress, $12.50 at Forever21, is a very common silhouette, and one that works well for both nursing and post-baby belly hiding. A few words of warning, however: these dresses run short, and your bra will show, so wear a pretty one. If you are worried about arm flab, Target makes one with loose sleeves for $15, or if you'd prefer something longer (but still sleeveless), Old Navy makes a version in fun prints and colors.
While I agree with many of our reader's past comments on how hard it is to nurse in a traditional button-down shirt, I have had some success with soft Henley-style shirts. And therefore, I think a softer version of the shirtdress, like J.Crew's pictured above left, would work just fine. J.Crew's Drawstring Henley Shirtdress, $69.50, is made out of slub cotton, and it's drawstring waist is one of the most flattering post-baby silhouettes.
Alloy's 3/4 Sleeve Shirtdress, $30, will feel much like trying to nurse in a traditional button-down, but it was so crisp, cute, cheap and flattering that I'd probably suck it up. I love the darts just above the waistline, giving the dress an empire-waist, and I think you could easily layer this dress over a nursing cami for extra coverage. Or a swimsuit, for the cutest beach cover-up ever. Strategically button only the buttons you need.
Lastly, I'm loving C&C California's Desert Plaid Dress, $128 at piperlime.com. Between the scoop-neck, the buttons, and the overall loose fit, this dress would be a cinch to nurse in while hiding all kinds of post-baby belly poochiness. I can easily see this dress transition into the cooler months over a long-sleeve t-shirt and leggings…and, of course, a big scarf.
Pretty Day Dresses
Pictured in the top-left corner above is J.Crew's Jessie Cotton Dress, $69.50. I have (easily) nursed in this dress. The paperbag waistline hits just above the problem belly area, making this dress perfect for new moms.
Next, pictured above in the top-right corner, is the romantic Kate Dress, $89 at A Mother's Boutique. This dress is another maternity/nursing hybrid, with a neckline that easily pulls down for nursing. This dress also comes in a gorgeous pale pink.
Pictured above in the bottom-left corner is LOFT's Twist Waist V-Neck Dress, $69.50. This is such an elegant dress…I could actually see wearing it to a wedding or a party (and still being able to nurse!!).
Lastly is Boob's Singoalla Nursing Dress, $156 at Euphoria Nursing. I just adore the lines and the flow of this dress. It's demure without being dowdy, and it easily hides belly, arm or butt problem areas.
One Last Pick…
I was actually going to omit the above dress from Boob, since I thought it had long been sold out online…until I found it on sale for $48 at Nurturedfamily.com. Love this dress. It also comes in black-and-white.
ps. For more ideas on how to make a regular summer dress nursing friendly, see last year's post on Maxi Dresses for Nursing Moms.