- What should I wear when I’m nursing a baby?
- I just had a baby and my body has changed – how do I dress this new postpartum body?
- How do I dress for my job when my full time job is being a mom?
Since I’ve never had a baby, I don’t feel qualified to answer the first two. The last question I will address later on in the post. There are clothing principles that apply to every role we have through our lives (student, employee, parent, entrepreneur, leader, follower) and I can handle the principles of clothing fairly well. I try to keep my blog fairly principle-based, so whoever reads it can apply the ideas to their own clothes.
Honest confession – sometimes it is hard to handle mom-specific questions as a single woman. If the question comes at an emotional moment, it is easy to hear the question as a subtle rebuke (i.e. Fashion is easy for you, because you don’t have to worry about nursing / a constantly changing body / children) or it can feel like a defense or explanation disguised as a question (i.e. I exclusively wear leggings and t-shirts, because I’m chasing kids all the time and you don’t understand that, because you have an office job and don’t have to chase kids around all day). I’ll admit that every time I get a question that I can’t really answer, I feel insufficient and stupid. BUT I KNOW IT IS JUST IN MY HEAD.
Truth is, I sometimes envy moms, because I’d love to have a husband and kids. But I can still want a family without envying the women who already have them. So whenever I start imagining that moms are judging me and my “easy” single life, I need to stop it. Even if moms do think that my life is easy, I can’t control what they think – my attitude is the only thing I can control. Envy is never the answer. Envy makes everybody miserable. If you give envy any opportunities, you open the door to bitterness. I love you, moms. And I’m in awe of you. All the time. So this one is for you.
If you have ever asked me a question about how to dress when you’re nursing or about post-baby dressing and I didn’t answer you, I was too intimidated. I never feel like I have the ethos to answer those questions. So I brought in two women with all the ethos. They are my sisters and between the two of them, they have seven children under the age of seven. Laura has four children (her oldest is 7, her youngest is 2 1/2 months) and Steph has a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins. We had a great conversation last week and here is an incomplete and stream-of-consciousness record of that conversation, divided up into categories. I’m pretty slow at taking notes, so some of these things are either from Steph or Laura, but I can’t remember which.
On Nursing and Clothes:
Steph: Nursing twins is like its own THING, though. Nursing camisoles. That’s all I wore. But I also didn’t leave the house for a while. Nursing twins makes you REALLY feel like a fertility goddess. And now they feed themselves! It’s a miracle!
Laura: [she was actually nursing while we had our conversation, which felt very appropriate] …still nursing my fourth. He’s little and cute and I can’t say no! My other kids say, “Can he have crackers? No! He can just have milk, milk, and milk!”
Laura & Steph: NURSING CAMISOLES. You must have nursing camisoles.
Steph: Nursing bra, with a nursing camisole over it, and with a cardigan over that. Extra layers are helpful. You can pull up the shirt and pull down the nursing cami and not show all of your back or all of your midriff. Target has a great selection of maternity and nursing-friendly clothes.
Laura: Don’t wear side-zip dresses. Besides completely disrobing, there’s no way to nurse in a size-zip dress. If you really want to wear a sheath or shift dress, get one with a full length zipper in the back.
General nursing clothes advice:
Wrap dresses plus nursing camisoles work really well for the period where you change sizes quickly, because wrap dresses are made to be adjustable.
Go for swing tops that fit at the shoulders, then give plenty of room at the waist.
If you do button-up tops or shirt dresses, you might have to size up to keep them from gapping egregiously, but you can always wear a button-up shirt open over your nursing camisole if it doesn’t fit quite right yet.
Remember that kids get bored and they will unsnap all your snaps and unzip all the zippers and play with all the buttons, so take that into consideration.
On Dressing a Postpartum Body:
Laura: I think it gets easier after the first baby, because your body changes irrevocably after the first one….but it’s physically and emotionally hard every time.
Steph: With my first, a couple of months afterwards, I could fit back into my pants. But after the twins, it’s been a year to two years before I can fit back into clothes – I’m still not fitting into some things.
Laura: At some point you have to make the decision – I’m tired of my clothes not fitting. I’m getting NEW CLOTHES. For a year or two after you have kids, you can be in the position of having tons of clothes and NOTHING that fits.
Steph: I had to tell myself, “I may never be the same size as I was in college and that’s OK.” BUT I USED TO BE SKINNY AND NOW I’M NOT. Hormones don’t help those emotions either. While there’s a baby in your tummy, there’s a reason for the roundness and now it’s out and you can grab two handfuls of your own stomach.
Laura: Even if you COULD get back into those clothes, they’re out of date now. The hard thing is that you’re learning to dress a completely different body and you want to dress your OLD body.
General thoughts on post-childbirth dressing:
If you want to spruce up your wardrobe, choose things that are stretchy and versatile. Your size is changing a lot, so this isn’t the best time to invest in tailored pieces.
Shop for outfits, because it can get frustrating if you have a top that fits, but no pants. Shop for the size you are, not the size you want to be. A couple of good outfits can get you through a period of transition. A pair of pants, a skirt with a stretchy waistband, and three tops – that’s a solid little wardrobe right there.
When you have multiple kids, keeping your clothes clean is almost impossible. Go for washable fabrics. [Laura: When I drop food, it usually falls on the baby. Baby napkin.]
Kids are more important than clothes. [Steph: If my kid spits up on my dress and I get upset, it’s not a kid issue, it’s a heart issue.]
When you go shopping, hire a babysitter or ask your mom or your husband to watch the kids. It will make the process go much quicker and you can focus on finding clothes.
Both Laura and Steph: I like having some kind of pattern on my shirt – a plain t-shirt shows all the bra deficiencies and any rolls you have.
Choose tops that have an interesting pattern or texture. Draping is nice. Thicker materials are great.
If leggings or yoga pants or athletic shorts are your favorites, wear them! Cute, active “I’m getting things done” clothes can be helpful. If you wear them out of the house, put on a cute top or little dress over the top and then you’ll feel put together.
You can change habits and setting goals can really help with that. It can be helpful to make a goal to get dressed before your husband leaves the house, so you feel ready for the day.
You can be content where you are, while hoping to go somewhere else.
Remember, you are pouring out your body for other people. (When you’re nursing, you’re LITERALLY pouring yourself out.)
Be realistic about sizing. Don’t buy things in the size you want, buy things in the size you are. If you really want to change sizes, invest in a couple of outfits for now and start working hard towards your future size.
On Motherhood as a Job:
Being a mom is a full time job. It’s important and difficult and beyond full time. So it isn’t accurate to say that moms don’t have to dress for a job, but how should moms dress for their job? Laura and Steph requested that I bring back the four questions for intentional dressing that I wrote for my first blog post. If you answer these questions, you can start understanding your role and how your clothes will support you in that role.
- What time is it? [examples: Daytime / Evening / August / December]
- Where am I? [examples: Home / Work / School / Vacation / Jury Duty]
- Who do I need to respect? [examples: Kids / Coworkers / Parents / Spouse / Bride]
- What are my responsibilities? [examples: Playing Duck-Duck-Goose / Computer Programming / Taking Blood Pressure / Teaching Classes]
Once you answer all those questions, answer the last question. It’s still important, but it rests on all the other questions. Ready for the last question?
- DO I LIKE THESE CLOTHES?
Answer those five questions and you’ll be all right. And if you have trouble working through stuff, I’m here. Ask away. I might bring in outside expertise, but I’m here.