Ask Allie – Pregnancy and Beyond

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After giving birth to my daughter in the beginning of 2009, I have received many requests from readers of Wardrobe Oxygen to share my tips for living a stylish life during pregnancy and beyond. Below I share my recommendations for nursing bras, bodycare to help with the transition through pregnancy, and my favorite nursing pads.

What is a good nursing bra for large busts?

I really don’t get it – your chest grows with pregnancy and breastfeeding, why is it so darn hard to find a decent nursing bra over a size C? As with sports bras, it seems that all nursing tanks and bras either provide monoboob or no support. I tried many of the suggested brands and had to return them because they gave quad-boob, monoboob, were indecent (too exposed to wear the tank out of the house), or had me sag to my belly button. However, I had some success:

bravado body silk nursing bra
The Bravado Body Silk Nursing Bra

Bravado Body Silk Nursing Bra: This wire-free comfy bra is not as bad as most because it has removable soft cups. With the cups inserted, your breasts have a bit of shape; remove them for a comfy sleep bra. Now this bra won’t give you a nice enough shape for work, but it’s a great weekend/sleep bra. Bravado knows how to make quality nursing apparel – the bra washes well (I have only put it in the washer once, but I hand wash at least once a week), the clasps are easy to hook and unhook with one hand, it doesn’t stretch out. I have it in black; the neckline looks like a cami so it’s not so bad if it peeks out of a scoop-necked tee when a certain little one decides to grab onto Mommy’s shirt and pull with all her might.

Anita Nursing Bras: I have tried two underwire styles and have returned for more. FINALLY a company that has created a nursing bra that lifts, supports, separates, is easy to hook and unhook AND doesn’t look atrocious. Anita bras look like regular bras, but have easy-use strap clasps and even little loops (helps with rehooking and also good if you use a little marker to remember which side was last nursed). I find they run pretty true to size, hold their shape well, the wires stay in place even after many openings and closings and I feel feminine in them (a rarity in the nursing attire world).

Bravado Nursing Tanks: These were constantly recommended to me, but when I tried them on, I found that they made me look like a porn star. My size hardly covered my breasts and I totally poured out of the neckline and underarms. Not only that, the bodice was skin tight (even the maternity version) on my postpartum tummy.

Then I read online that one should not only order a cup size (or two) bigger, but even a band size bigger. So I did, purchasing a band size and two cup sizes larger and hooray – a nursing tank that covers, supports and gets the job done! Now this isn’t the prettiest bra in the world – the rouching in the front is a bit strange and I feel a telltale sign that it is a nursing bra. However, it’s a great piece to have for the summertime, yoga class and weekends with a cardigan or hoodie (or with the shrug that Bravado also manufactures).

For the first-time mothers, a word of advice: do not purchase a nursing tank in white. It seems like a nice basic color, but it will quickly get poop, puke and plenty of milk leakage on it. It will constantly be in the laundry and will require plenty of Oxiclean or bleach to keep it wearable. I have black and dark red and they are far more wearable. The white one I received as a gift is now only worn at night because it has turned a light shade of gray and has perma-spots on both breasts.

Bravado Plus Original Nursing Bra: Okay, these are NOT flattering. They give you monoboob, they don’t lift very much, they don’t separate, and they look like a deformed sports bra. I hate them, but if you’re leaky like me, you will find that you need to wear some sort of bra 24/7 and you won’t be comfortable in your synthetic or underwire bras while sleeping. Also, Bravado offers Plus and Double Plus styles specifically for larger busted women. This way the cup grows without having a too-big and unsupportive band. These larger sizes also are constructed differently to assist in separating the breasts. I found a Medium Plus Plus bra was perfect for my size.

What is the best product to prevent stretch marks?

Stretch marks are based more on genetics than lack of moisturizer. That being said, I did slather on plenty of products in hopes that it could help (and also to minimize the itching from the stretching belly skin). I used Neutrogena Body Oilir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001E96MRG and Body Shop’s Coconut Body Butter (in the last two trimesters, I used both – oil first, then butter once the oil dried).

The stuff kept my skin nice and soft, but I still got many stretch marks (and new ones post-pregnancy as well). I still use the Neutrogena Body Oilir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001E96MRG and occasionally the Body Butter as well to keep the skin supple. Two months postpartum, I do see the stretch marks slightly fading, and the skin changing/tightening.

My husband calls my belly stretch marks my “flames” (a-la the flames people put on cars and motorcycles); I see them as a badge of honor, a battle scar and a reminder of the intensity of pregnancy and labor. It’s something I stressed about a lot before my daughter was born, and now something I hardly care about. My mind has other more important things (like my daughter) to worry about. I already wore tankinis or one pieces to the beach so the stretch marks really haven’t affected my wardrobe choices.

What are the best nursing pads?

Before I got pregnant, I had no clue that mothers needed things like nursing pads. Wait, you leak between feedings? Some women do more than others, but I have yet to meet a woman who didn’t need to invest in at least one box or set of nursing pads.

I really didn’t want to go with disposables. Just as with disposable diapers or sanitary napkins (both items I do not use), it is so much landfill waste. However, a friend of mine had to stop breastfeeding so she gave me two boxes that she already owned – Medelair?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00006FWVR and First Yearsir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000096PG0.

First Years were completely invisible under clothing, but were plasticy and I feared would cause thrush or clogged milk ducts. The Medelair?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00006FWVR were really bulky and showed under thin knits. Luckily I went through these two boxes before I had to go back to work and worry about show-through and absorption.

I then ordered some washable nursing pads – one pair from a Work at Home Mom via Etsy, one pair from Lansinohir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001EPQ1RQ. Both work equally well (It’s wonderful to support small businesses and working moms and they usually have equal or better quality, so check out Etsy before you go with a brand name) but both really show under thinner knits. I now use these at night, at-home weekend days, and days I work from home. I figure at least using them at these times I am reducing some of my waste…

But this meant I had to purchase some disposable nursing pads. I received free samples from Avent and found them to be way too bulky; reading online reviews I decided to try out Lansinohir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001EPQ1SK. Lansinohir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001EPQ1SKh is known for great breastfeeding products. Their pads are fine – they are large, they are absorbent, yet thin and invisible under all clothing. However, if they shift, they do bunch up and if pressed against, have a papery sound.

I went through my whole box without a single issue with leaking, and I didn’t find that they shifted very often (though if I forgot to remove it when nursing, I found it would crease so much that it had to be replaced or else be very visible under clothing). When this box ran out, I went online to read more reviews and decided this time to try the pads from Johnson'sir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000YFY6D8. These are cheaper, they aren’t individually wrapped (which means less waste), they have an indent for the nipple (which is a nice feature), and I read that they are less likely to itch than Lansinoh. I didn’t even think about it – itching I thought was a side effect from nursing. But hey, if Johnson'sir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000YFY6D8 can minimize that… works for me!

Okay, I love these nursing pads. They are far thicker than Lansinoh and will show with a white or light colored tee shirt, but otherwise are perfect. The mild itching I experienced is completely gone. These babies soak up so much I need to use far fewer (less waste and a box goes a long way). They are very cushy and comfy, they don’t shift at all for me. Johnson'sir?t=whaevewomneei 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000YFY6D8 are not as big in circumference as Lansinoh, but I haven’t had any issues with shape or leakage. Best part? They are usually cheaper than any other brand. Score!

Who sells the most stylish clothes for breastfeeding moms?

Ugh, the majority of nursing clothing is hideous. Dowdy silhouettes, boring colors, cheap fabrics. As with maternity clothing, most nursing clothing designers seem to think that mothers want to look like their children. They use way too many bows, ruffles and calico prints for any decent adult woman.

A nursing friendly bodycon dress from Boob Maternity, recommended by Wardrobe Oxygen
A bodycon dress from Boob Maternity

The only company I have found that regularly offers stylish nursing clothing is Boob Maternity. I have two of their dresses – one maternity (which has a surplice neckline that works well for nursing) and one nursing. Boob's quality is excellent, the styles are simple yet chic, and the customer service is phenomenal. Yes, the prices are not cheap but the maternity dress I own has been worn since the beginning of my second trimester and I still wear it today. It has been washed dozens of times and even went through the dryer a few times when my husband did the laundry.

The style is so simple, I have worn it with tall boots, with pumps, with tights and even with jeans and it has looked great for work, for evening or the weekend. If you consider cost per wearing, my dress from boob maternity is a better bargain than anything on the clearance rack at the mall.

Most of my nursing clothing (and pumping clothing – I pump at work) is not exactly nursing attire. I wear lots of separates, knits that can handle being shoved around to accommodate the activity and items that button in the front. However the best nursing attire I have found are matte jersey wrap dresses and tops. Wrap dresses are an item that look good on almost any woman’s figure. Matte jersey washes easily, doesn’t wrinkle and it a touch water-resistant (I usually can blot away a drop of milk before it sinks into the fabric).

The wrap neckline is easy to push to the side (I usually hold the neckline closed with a safety pin when not nursing or pumping) and the fabric makes it perfect for work, weekend or even a wedding or special event. Best of all, matte jersey is a pretty timeless fabric, works year round, and wrap dresses have been stylish for years and aren’t planning to go out of favor any time soon.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. 1. For a nursing tank, I just layered a stretchy cami under my shirts and was able to pull the neckline of the cami down for feedings. It was great too for making sure my tummy bulge was covered while nursing in public.

    2. Nursing pads that DON’T show through clothing and are reusable – Lily Padz., best invention EVER.

  2. I found a brand called Lovable – excellent nursing tanks for fuller boobs. Also the Elle Macpherson line of bras, really excellent.

    Yes, I loved Boob Maternity – they do a nursing tank too, but it is not a bra as well 🙁

  3. I too was a Bravado fan and used the Lansinoh nursing pads. Generally by the third or fourth month, my leaking was under control… but only sometimes! 😉

    I also love the disposable nursing pads (I know, I know, not eco cool), and would only use them on the one breast not in “use,” just because my milk only let down when I was nursing.

    Great post Allie, wish I would have you as a reference while having all my little ones! Best to you always and happy nursing!

  4. A recommendation here: when my daughter gained a lot of weight when she was 9 (before she suddenly grew taller), she developed stretch marks on her upper thighs – dark red ones! Anyway, she began using emu oil on the stretch marks, and continued to use it for a year – they are gone now. Just in case anyone has the same trouble with stretch marks. I had seen emu oil recommended for them, and now I know it works!
    Kathy F.

  5. Hi, Allie,
    It’s been a while since I’ve visited your blog and it’s great to see that you’re doing well.

    My magic formula was Bravado nursing bra+ Lansinoh nursing pads. Oh, those days!! 🙂

    I’ve had some success with for nursing clothes. I bought a black sheath that I wore for church and formal occasions and some tops. They seem to be a small company, but their customer service is WORLD CLASS. I can’t say enough about how prompt and curteous they are.

    Best wishes….

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