When you’re pregnant, nobody mentions the three dirty little secrets of pregnancy and childbirth:
- The timer doesn’t magically go “ding!” on your due date, and you could very likely go past your due date.
- The definition of “sleeping through the night” – that holy grail every parent dreams of – is when your baby sleeps 6 hours in a row, not 8.
- After the baby comes, your uterus is empty but you still look REAL DANG PREGNANT. For weeks.
You can’t do much about #1 and 2 besides just get through the hard times. But for #3, you don’t have to suffer. All you need are the right postpartum clothes.
The Other Belly
When you’re newly pregnant, the first signs of a baby pooch can make you feel a little giddy. And for good reason – it’s an outward confirmation that a sweet baby is, in fact, growing inside you. Every week you tick off, your belly grows and your baby grows and it’s all very sweet and exciting.
But after the baby’s born and your belly still looks 6 months pregnant?
Not so sweet and exciting.
On top of that, you have milk leaking out of a lot more holes than you realized even existed, you’re recovering from trying to push a bowling ball out of your potty spot and/or from major abdominal surgery, and you’re tired as BALLS.
The jiggly baby belly sans baby can be the straw that broke the tired mama camel’s back.
A Painful Walk
The day after my daughter was born – another C-section I didn’t plan on – the postpartum nurse encouraged me to take a walk around the hospital to help the healing process along. Ty and I left the baby in the room with family and decided to head to the hospital cafeteria. I was wearing a super fashionable hospital gown, and I threw another one around my shoulders like a robe to avoid flashing everyone with my sexy, hospital-issued, post-surgery mesh undies.
It was my first walk after the surgery, and probably a little over-ambitious, but the cafeteria had a molten chocolate cake with my name on it.
Down a few hallways, an elevator ride, down some more hallways. Our progress was SLOW.
When we got on the elevator, a nurse was already on it and smiled at us. The ride was quiet, and I soaked up the break from physical exertion.
The elevator door opened, and I shuffled forward.
The nurse followed us off and flashed an oh-so-understanding smile as she passed us. “Walking to get baby out, huh?”
My mouth gaped open, and my cheeks flushed. “Uh, baby’s already out.”
I laughed an uncomfortable laugh, and the nurse scurried off.
The number one goal of postpartum clothes: Avoid questions like: When are you due and Are you going to find out the sex and Is this your first.
A few years back, I worked as a stylist for a large personal styling service. Using that firsthand experience helping postpartum moms and after talking to everyone I know about how they solved the problem of a postpartum wardrobe, I pulled together a few of the best tips for what you can wear postpartum.
Keep in mind that it took 9 months (or more!) for your body to get to where it is, so be patient while it finds its way back – and it may settle in a different spot than where it started. Some doctors estimate it takes 6-10 weeks just for your uterus to get back to pre-pregnancy size, let alone the rest of your bits and pieces.
In the meantime, it’s important to feel good about yourself. You’re sleep-deprived, everything you do takes twice as long as it used to, and you’ve got some wicked hormones running rampant through your postpartum body. If you can get dressed in the morning (even if it’s at 11:59 am) and feel good about how you look, tackling the day will be much easier.
Disclaimer: A few of these postpartum fashion tips assume you will be breastfeeding and/or pumping. That’s what I know so that’s what I shared, but if it doesn’t apply to your situation I hope the other tips will be helpful!
1. Repurpose Your Maternity Clothes
Don’t go boxing up your maternity clothes as soon as you get home from the hospital. My all-time favorite Paige maternity jeans† were a go-to staple during the postpartum stage whenever I needed to leave the house and didn’t want to look like I was wearing pajamas.
Any maternity bottoms with an elastic waist will be your friend after baby comes. (Confession: I wore this foldover skirt every day for two weeks after my summer baby was born, and they have oodles of colors to choose from.)
One more piece of maternity wear that was absolutely essential to me during the postpartum period? This very specific brand and style of postpartum underwear. They come in lots of pretty colors, they were kind to my healing C-section incision, and I didn’t feel like I was wearing granny panties. (This was of course after the glamorous mesh panties phase of postpartum. Although if you’re not into the mesh panties, you can always get something more supportive like these maternity boyshort undies for that first phase.)
2. Get Some Stretchy Basics
If you don’t have any maternity clothes that fit the bill, pick up some cheap basics with a stretchy waistband that you can pair with cute tops. Yoga pants are the go-to postpartum pants for many moms, but pants won’t cut it for me in the Texas summer.
I hit the jackpot at H&M with some cute skirts for just $12.95 each, so I got a couple different colors.
Leggings are another good option, paired with tunics or short dresses. However, I tried on several different brands of leggings and joggers but struggled to find a good fit. If they fit me length-wise and weren’t too baggy in the legs, they were too tight on the tummy. What finally worked was a pair of high-waist leggings, but maternity leggings will work too.
3. Give the Girls a Break With the Right Nursing Bras
For the first couple weeks after your baby’s born, your boobs are going to be a MESS. Huge, leaky, aching. Forget about trying to stuff yourself into your pre-pregnancy bras.
Get a good quality sleep bra and wear that for those early weeks. Actually, get two or three. Remember the leaky bit? You’ll want a backup when your bra is in the wash.
I’ve tried a few different brands, and the Majamas Organic Easy Bra is my favorite. They’re soft and comfy, but they have enough support to get you by until your body stabilizes and you can get a real bra.
4. Feel Sexy From the Inside Out With a Fun Bra, Too
The MINUTE you feel like your breast size has settled – usually after a couple weeks once your body figures out how many babies you’re nursing – get yourself a real nursing bra.
I tried on bra after bra after bra from Motherhood Maternity, Pea in the Pod, Target, Gap, and several other brands available at a local maternity boutique. Here is what I learned:
- Most nursing bras fit like crap. They smush you together into a single amorphous blob, or they pinch your back fat, or they don’t even perform the basic bra function of you know, HOLDING YOUR BOOBS UP.
- Most nursing bras are frumpy. They look like something your great-grandma would have worn. Forget demi cups. But hey, good news – the cups can double as a neck warmer!
- Most nursing bras are boring. Nude or black. That’s pretty much it. If you do happen to find a bra with a cute pattern or some lace? See #1 and #2.
But I kept looking and finally found a brand that fits awesome AND looks like something you might have worn before you had a kid – Belabumbum.
As it turns out, you CAN feel pretty while wearing a nursing bra. The day my Belabumbum bras arrived in the mail, I ran to try them on. So, so pretty.
And I was so happy to not feel like a lactating cow that I walked around the house the rest of the day, lounging around in nothing but my pretty new bra and my black H&M skirt with the stretchy waistband.
Sorry about that, neighbors!
5. Go for Function With Basic Nursing Tops
Nursing tops have a lot of the same issues as nursing bras. Not to mention they can be outrageously priced.
But you can find some simple, affordable nursing tops at places like Gap, Old Navy, and H&M. When you’re out running errands and baby gets hungry, a nursing top is awfully convenient for getting the job done.
Pick up a few basic staples that you can mix and match with pre-pregnancy clothes. Pair a black nursing tank with a cute cardigan, or get a bright nursing t-shirt to go with the black yoga postpartum pants you find yourself wearing 24-7. (This flowy 2-in-1 top is my favorite pick-up from my last pregnancy. Pair it with jeans, and you’ll look awesome!)
If you can’t find any nursing tops you like, look for regular tops with a crossover bodice or an elastic neckline, or buy one size up for a flowy look so you can easily lift up the top to nurse.
A quick warning: You might want to avoid banded tops – that is, blouson-style tops with a fitted hem but loose up above. I wasn’t alone in thinking that they’re the perfect trick for hiding your poochy little belly. But for me, all they did is call attention to my belly where it pushes out the fabric. Banded tops hide nothing on me and make me look even bigger. Which is totally not the goal for postpartum clothes!
6. Splurge on Something Fun
You were busting out of your pregnancy clothes in those last few weeks, feeling like a morbidly obese penguin. Now you’re in this purgatory where those clothes won’t work AND your pre-pregnancy wardrobe definitely won’t work.
Comfort is important, but you also deserve to have fun. So during this in-between time, treat yourself to a couple fun items.
Here are a few fun ideas for how you might complete your postpartum outfit:
- A pretty dress that’s nursing friendly so you don’t have to lift up from the bottom to nurse when you’re out and about,
- A flowy cardigan to mix and match with basic nursing tanks, or
- That simple but elegant necklace you’ve been eying on Etsy for a while? (Seriously. Why don’t I just buy it already?!)
7. Avoid the Tent Look With Nursing Covers
Nursing covers come in all kinds of pretty fabrics nowadays. But when you put the cover on, it can feel like a cross between a 4-person tent and your grandma’s apron.
Some might say to just use a blanket. For me, blankets have a tendency to fall off my shoulder at the worst time. And here in Texas, the baby doesn’t take too kindly to a blanket over her face, trapping in the heat.
I’m a fan of the scarf-style nursing covers because you can nurse (mostly) hands-free. Look for one with thin, breathable fabric to keep baby happy too.
For more tips on stylish postpartum clothes, check out The Perfect Postpartum Wardobe, Postpartum Mommy Makeover: Dressing for the Fourth Trimester, and Postpartum Survival Kit.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
What’s your best tip for postpartum clothes that won’t make you look pregnant? Share in a comment below!