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My Cups Runneth Over: How To Dress for Breastfeeding with a Large Bust

Finding great breastfeeding-friendly outfits when you have a large bust can be tricky. And lonely. Before my first was born, many people, blogs, pins, and Instagram posts cheerily shared, “Just pull your shirt down!” or, “This shirt can totally work for nursing or pumping – just lift it up!”

If you’re like me and have a large bust, a lot of recommendations and advice for nursing clothing just don’t work very well. For reference: I think I was 13 the last time I wore a shirt without a bra even inside my house. My girls need serious support 24/7. I’m a DDD (or a *G* in Europe… ouch, thanks, guys) normally and those letters went up up UP during pregnancy and postpartum.   

The bottom line is whether you’re at home or in the middle of a crowded restaurant, wear what you want.

This is my advice for feeling comfortable both physically and emotionally while nursing with a large bust. This nursing clothing information is what I wish I’d found during my travels ‘round and ‘round the internet when my first daughter was born. I felt alone with my particular situation.

At best, I felt like I was the only one who didn’t want to, “Just wear loose shirts.”  At worst, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t breastfeed with the ease and confidence of others I knew. Thankfully, those times were few and far between and I quickly realized that judging myself was unnecessary. I was lucky to have a good supply and breastfeeding came relatively easily with both of my children. Who cares how I want to dress to be physically comfortable to feed my kid?Plus size woman standing against pink wall

The truth is that it IS physically very different for a mom with larger breasts to nurse than it is for a mom with a smaller cup size.

I’ve never been able to nurse comfortably while my daughter is in a carrier (though lord have I tried). There’s no such thing as just *popping* my breast out the top of my shirt to feed my hungry daughter. I’d need a boob crane to help. Hold on… Did I just think of a million dollar idea? The Boob Crane! It’s a device you strap to your body to help you heave your breast up to get it positioned well for your baby. Never mind, that sounds a little crazy. And probably dangerous. No wonder I haven’t seen one on Kickstarter…

When I was just a few hours postpartum, blissed out and holding my first child, a grumpy nurse said to me,

Just because your boobs are big, doesn’t mean you’ll do well with breastfeeding.

…What?! First of all, I didn’t even think of that. Secondly, there is NOT a war going on between the A-cups and the DDD+-cups, no matter how much you try, lady. We might have to approach things slightly differently, but we’re all just trying our best for our babies. Go take your comment and stuff it. 

Anyway…

If you’re on the (much) larger side up top like me or if you’re just looking for some functional nursing clothing solutions, unbuttoning henley shirts or pulling down looser tops might not be practical. Or comfortable. Or even possible!

I am thankful for how emotionally comfortable I am breastfeeding. I know my legal rights in the state of Vermont to feed my baby wherever and however I want. BUT it’s nice to walk out my door and in my postpartum haze, feel confident that what I’m wearing will make it easy for me to breastfeed whenever and wherever I need to. I’m probably also wearing leftover breakfast and spit-up. Let’s conquer one thing at a time, though.

There are three things I’m going to cover in the rest of this post – (1) my formula that helps me use existing wardrobe AND breastfeed anywhere, (2) mindful purchases and tried-and-true nursing friendly brands and styles I love and (3) bras, bras, bras.

First, The Formula.

Nursing bra +  tank top + shirt or sweater

…Ta-da! Just lift up the top shirt, pull down your nursing bra (and/or tank) and you’ve got a discreet, easy and comfortable gap to pull your nipple out and breastfeed your sweet babe anywhere. I found that a lot of the layering tanks I already owned – mostly ancient GAP and Old Navy purchases, to be honest – were stretchy enough to pull down without needing them to be nursing-specific.

I am able to wear a lot of my pre-pregnancy shirts using this method, too, which is great for those of us trying to cut back on unnecessary shopping. I’m certainly not the first person to write about this wardrobe formula, but I think another reminder of this option is a good thing for nursing mamas!

I’ve never used a nursing cover but I do like feeling less exposed. Being a little sneaky – my baby’s head and body cover my barely-exposed breast/nipple – makes me feel secure. I’ve even had a face to face conversation with a friend at a coffee shop and they didn’t notice my daughter was nursing. Maybe it’s because of our wonderfully engaging conversation, or maybe it’s because my nursing get-up makes it easy to be subtle. 

AGAIN, you do you. I am in no way saying that YOU can’t nurse your baby however you want, exposing or not exposing whatever you want. 

woman wearing a nursing friendly shirt

Courtesy of BoobDesign.com

Next, I do recommend investing in a couple nursing-specific shirts. There are lots of options out there from the typical mall culprits to online stores. I’ve tried a lot of so-called “nursing friendly” clothing and there’s only one style that’s stood the test of time for me through two babies. Others have worked once or twice in a pinch but always somehow end up misshapen. Or I got confused by the fabric origami and end up just lifting the whole shirt up. Which is literally the opposite of the point.

You want to look for shirts/dresses/sweaters etc that have a big overlapping section across the front.

Boob Design makes my favorites by far. Their nursing-friendly clothes are high quality, don’t scream “nursing shirt!” and are made with non-toxic fabrics. Also extremely easy to pump in! Their clothes are pricey and if you shop directly from the Swedish-based company the shipping is exorbitant. I’ve found good specials on Boob Design at US-based Figure8Maternity.com and also on good ol’ Amazon. For maximum versatility, pick out a t-shirt or 3/4 sleeve length. It can be worn in warmer weather. Also great for cooler weather when paired with a cardigan. Up the versatility even more and choose one of their styles that works during pregnancy. I got a lot of use out of my shirts during both of my pregnancies and after while nursing. Latched Mama makes some pieces with a similar design but I haven’t tried the brand personally.

Last stop: nursing bras. I have a lot and also very little to say on this subject. Basically, you can’t trust anyone but yourself. Your boobs and body will know better than any blogger or friend or Facebook ad. But you do need more than one. First, get a bra you can sleep in. Also get a bra you can go out of the house or see people in. Maybe it has underwire, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s stretchy and neon purple or maybe it’s black. Or beige.

But for goodness sakes, your giant, sometimes sore, milk-producing magical breasts deserve comfort and a lot of support! If you have a large bust, you need a few bras that fit well, period.

I like Bravado especially since their nursing bras typically come with a kit to make the strap wider and then convert to a regular bra if you want. I’m all about the fact that I can potentially use the item afterward. I also like underwire which a lot of other people might say are a no-no. Again, trust your body. I like underwire because it is supportive and I can kind of prop my breast up on it to breastfeed easily with a Boob Design shirt. For exercise, I swear by Moving Comfort brand. I even wore one of mine as a “bikini” top with a swim bottom for a nursing-friendly swimsuit this summer.

Go to a store if you can to try bras on. When you’re 9 months pregnant or recently had a baby, you might not be up for a nursing clothing and bra fashion show. So, order online. Conduct your fashion show in the comfort of home. Return what you don’t like. Keep what you do. Now that I’m almost 9 months postpartum, I can look back and track how often I flip-flopped between different favorite styles. I typically came back to my classic lightly-lined underwire style but all of my nursing bras got their day in the sun. Er, day on the boob? Bottom line: I’m glad I had a nice little menu to choose from. 

However you feed your child, and however you dress to do so, I warmly wish you all the best. 

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