The Clothes and Accessories That Helped Me Through Breastfeeding
Table of Contents Of the many things that cause me to wince when remembering the…
Table of Contents
Of the many things that cause me to wince when remembering the first days of motherhood (the pain of recovery! the sleep deprivation! the fear of killing the baby!) the struggles of early breastfeeding are most definitely on top of the list. The memories come back in a sequence of phantasmagoria, one more daunting than the next. There was the latching learning curve, resulting in weeks of sore, bruised nipples with texture akin to a piece of rubber. There was the absentee colostrum situation, which was mitigated by an emergency trip to the pediatrician, who awarded us with a bottle of formula and a tip to relax. (I still supplement with formula–no shame in that game.) There were the first experiences of breastfeeding in public, which resulted in me crouching underneath a swaddle in the middle of the Santa Monica Boardwalk with tears of exhaustion streaming down my face. I can go on, but we might be here all day.
Eight months later, I am happy to report that my daughter and I are now a seasoned breastfeeding duo that can easily get the task done anywhere we need, be it in a restaurant, an airplane, or in the middle of the street. (In fact, I recently found myself back in Santa Monica, breastfeeding while standing in the middle of the parking lot without a qualm.) My breasts, a subject of a love-hate relationship for almost two decades, have now been proudly displayed for half the state of California to see.
And yet, I still occasionally look back at those first weeks and wonder what could have made it all slightly easier. Are there any clothing items I should have invested in to prepare myself for weeks of feeling like a stranger in my newly-changed body? Any practical or emotional advice I could have benefitted from during this massive transition? I decided to poll a few fellow mothers to see what got them through those first months of breastfeeding, and what lessons they learned along the way.
The first thing I learned was that my experience was not unique. Most nursing moms find the initiation period of breastfeeding to be an extremely difficult time, flush with tears, hormones, and a constant desire to pull the trigger and call the whole thing off. “I think most women set out with high aspirations, picturing that breastfeeding will come naturally, when really, it is a learned skill with loads of variables,” says Elizabeth Myer, whose hurdles with early breastfeeding inspired her to launch Swehl, a subscription kit for breastfeeding that combines expert-led video content and a supportive community. “It hurt way more than the movies make it seem, at least at first,” seconds plus-size model Maxey Green, adding that it took time and patience for her to get into a breastfeeding rhythm with her baby. “I feel really fortunate to be able to have this bond with my son, but it is the most time consuming, exhausting and all-encompassing thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Given the hurdles of the first weeks, having the right accessories is an imperative starting point. “I believe a few things are true about those early days: accessories really do help, and new nursing moms will do just about anything to make breastfeeding work,” says Myer, recalling her days of never leaving the house without her nursing pillow. (On Swehl’s agenda for 2022: a Latch Kit that fits into your hospital bag and includes a colostrum collector and self-inflating breastfeeding pillow!) Her own go-to accessories included nipple shields, Mini Bloom Nipple Balm, My Brest Friend nursing pillow and the Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump, which was helpful for collecting milk in the early days without dealing with the many parts of the pump. Speaking of pumping, a hospital grade pump such as the Medela or the Spectra are indispensable in establishing milk supply, while a wearable pump such as an Elvie is an excellent option for a working mom on the go.
Mini Bloom Hallelujah nipple balm
$22.00, MINI BLOOM
Haakaa Generation 2 silicone breast pump with suction base
My Brest Friend original nursing posture pillow
The Nursing Bra (or lack thereof)
If the bra fits…it most definitely won’t soon. (In fact, I remember waking up two weeks after giving birth and waking up my fiancé to proudly show him my brand new D-cup.) While my own nursing bra go-to is the Lively maternity bralette, Myer swears by Negative Underwear for all things postpartum. “Their nursing bra in particular is so soft, well designed and honestly, simple,” she says, rightfully noting that the too-technical gear just exacerbates the fact that you’re not feeling like yourself in those early days.
“I had to buy a ton of new bras. I wish they were a bit prettier, but the nursing bra market in larger sizes is seriously lacking,” says Greene. Despite her frustration with the sartorial selection, she found that the experience completely changed her view on her body and her breasts. “I appreciate my body so much now for what it can do for my son,” she says. Founder and Co-CEO of Sakara Life Danielle DuBoise, who breastfeeds both her three-year-old and seven-month-old, feels similarly. “To have two humans adore a part of your body in the way that they do has made me look at my breasts differently, with more respect and love than I had in the past.” This newfound love for her body galvanized a sense of freedom that she never had previously—in fact, she now often skips wearing a bra, which she never dared to do before having children. “Breastfeeding has helped me feel proud of my breasts in a way I didn’t before babies; feeling no shame is so liberating.” As somebody who used to feel shy in the women’s locker room and can now whip out her breasts in the middle of the street, I can’t help but agree.
Negative Underwear silky nursing bra
$65.00, NEGATIVE UNDERWEAR
Wear Lively busty maternity bralette
$45.00, WEAR LIVELY
The criteria for selecting a top during the early days of breastfeeding is simple: it must be washable and easily removable. Rather than investing in nursing tees and tops, most of the women I spoke with opt for low cut pieces that stand the test of time. “I basically live in Joah Brown tanks these days; they are so stretchy and soft and don’t lose their shape—plus, they are easy to pull a boob out of!” says Myer, adding that she usually layers them under easy button downs, which provides options for coverage when breastfeeding on the go. “You can leave it on and pop the baby on your boob, or take it off and rig up a nursing cover, if you crave a bit of privacy.”
Greene also swears by oversized button-downs, her go-to being the Storq Easy Button-Up from her pregnancy days for its excellent quality and fit. And yet, she finds herself having a harder time breastfeeding in public than she expected, admitting there is always a part of her that feels awkward, uncomfortable, and judged. “It really sucks that our society makes women feel this way. Especially women with a larger chest,” she says, adding that she continues to do it, if only to do her part in normalizing it for other women. “It’s wild to me that there are still so many barriers to normalizing breastfeeding,” says Meyer, noting that it has only been legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states for three years. She believes that it will take time, education, and integration of community to shift the narrative, and advises mothers to ignore the public scrutiny in the meantime. “Keep doing what is best for you and your family – side-glance be damned!”
Everlane Pima micro-rib tank
An important thing to remember about those early days of breastfeeding is that your pants most likely won’t fit—and you’ll be willing to sell your soul to the devil rather than don another pair of stretchy leggings in public. Enter the ultimate lifesaver: the dress. “I’ve always been drawn to easy, oversized garments. I was largely able to live in non-maternity flowy dresses throughout my pregnancy, which translated seamlessly into the postpartum realm,” says Myer, who spent her postpartum year in her beloved styles from brands like Ciao Lucia, DÔEN and Johanna Ortiz. DuBoise loves a slip dress by Aurora Sage and Hatch, which offers easy access for feeding and pumping and can be layered in chillier months. Greene’s go-to is the Oasis MIDI from Sotela, as well as other cleavage-baring styles. “I’m not flaunting my breasts on purpose, but they need to be easily accessible when I’m out and about. So, the more cleavage, the easier my life is!” On that note, she adds that it has been quite a relief to separate from the societal stigma of breasts as sexual objects that exist solely for the male gaze. “Now that I’m experiencing what their true purpose is, it has totally changed my own view on them. That’s not to say breasts aren’t beautiful – they are! But for many more reasons than society makes us believe.”
Sotela Mariposa dress
If you’ve recently noticed every cool mom on Instagram sporting a particularly chic accessory, it’s because they are all wearing Artipoppe carriers. “My favorite thing about them is that they feel like an adult wardrobe piece rather than a baby accessory,” says DuBoise, who has a few of them as her children practically live in them up until two years old. She also finds them to be an excellent way to ease into breastfeeding in public. “You have a little private nook and for someone to see your breasts, they’d have to really stare. In that case, shame on them.” After over three years of breastfeeding, she has abandoned any notion of discomfort or shame around public breastfeeding and encourages other women to do the same. “Motherhood has helped me abandon the notion that it’s my job to make others feel comfortable. It’s my job to feed and love my child and no one’s discomfort will get in the way of that,” she says. Now those are words to live by.
Artipoppe Zeitgeist in baby argus oat
Originally Appeared on Vogue