Breastfeeding eight-month-old twin boys around the clock is no mean feat. It’s exhausting, demanding and often a logistical nightmare. But it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’m fiercely proud of what my baby boys and I have achieved together. I didn’t set out to keep going this long but, with the support of my family, friends and some pretty fantastic online support groups, I’m going strong with no plan to quit any time soon. One amazing resource I found online was the Can I Breastfeed In It (CIBII) Facebook group. Each day, breastfeeding mums share the little gems they’ve found on the high street and reveal the reality of what they look like on real women and how they can work for breastfeeding mums.
One reason I’ve managed to keep breastfeeding for so long is that I’ve not compromised on what I wear. What we wear is such a large part of our identity; it gives us confidence when we’re feeling down, it reminds us of the person we used to be before every minute of our day and night was taken up by caring for babies.
To be clear, I’m no fashion guru. I don’t have a model’s figure or looks – I’m just a very busy, often exhausted, mum of three trying to feel a little more like her old self and look half decent when, the vast majority of the time, I feel like a complete mess. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be a chore or a bore, you can still occasionally feel like the person you were. Over the last few months, I’ve picked up some great tips and inspiration from the CIBII mums – here is a selection of essential items that allow me to not only feed my babies at a moment’s notice, but help retain my identity and express my personality.
THE DENIM DRESS – Primark, £12
This was one of my first purchases upon joining the group after it was recommended by so many other breastfeeding mums. And I wasn’t disappointed. At just £12, it’s an absolute bargain and extremely versatile. I love wearing mine with a classic white and navy stripy top or a colourful vest top on warmer days, with my favourite teething necklace (see below). The zip goes all the way down the front, making it perfect for quick and easy access to feed your little one. I’m hardly ever out of mine and I plan to continue wearing it through the winter, perhaps with a fitted roll neck jumper, tights and ankle boots.
TEETHING/FIDDLE NECKLACE – Pebbles and Lace, £10
Before joining this group, I hadn’t even heard of teething necklaces. Now, of course, I know it’s a genius invention to keep wandering hands and drooling mouths away from our precious jewellery and hair (ouch!). I purchased mine online from Pebbles and Lace. I opted for soft pastel shades but there is a vast array of designs and colours to choose from. I wear mine every day and my babies love to play with it (with the occasional battle over who gets it!). There is also a handy safety clasp, which comes apart should the necklace be pulled tight. CIBII members get an exclusive 10% off all Pebbles and Lace orders online, just use the code CIBII10 at the checkout. It’s worth pointing out that this is a necklace for the mother and should never be left unattended with a baby.
THE JUMPSUIT – New Look, £22.99
This jumpsuit is by Cameo Rose at New Look. I love the romantic, feminine design and flattering culottes shape. The thin tie belt makes the most of your waist and it’s not too fitted so doesn’t highlight a mum tum. The buttons at the front are not real, which I actually quite like as I hate the gaping that usually happens when I wear anything with buttons. Instead, there is a discrete zip under one arm and the thin straps – which are adjustable – can easily be pulled down to feed. I wear an M and S bralet with mine as their thin straps are perfect. I’ve worn this dressed down with flip flops and a denim jacket for a day at the seaside, or glammed-up with high heels for a night out with the girls. No matter how I wear it, I always feel amazing in it and is a steal at £22.99.
THE DINOSAUR SHIRT – eBay, £15.69
Love it or hate it, there’s a reason this shirt crops up on the CIBII group time and time again. When I first saw people raving about it, I thought they were mad and that it really wasn’t my style. Well, now I’m a complete convert and I love, love, love it! I took the plunge and ordered it from eBay after so many breastfeeding mums took to Facebook to share their delight. And it didn’t disappoint. For just over £15 with free delivery from China (online orders from China have been more miss than hit for me), it’s really good value for money. The shirt is well made and the appliques are secure and good quality. I ordered a medium, which is a size 10-12 I’d say, it’s not too fitted and has room to spare. The babies and their elder sister absolutely love it and are fascinated by the dinosaur shapes and sparkly sequins. It’s a really fun piece of clothing to wear if you don’t take yourself too seriously. I heard somewhere that Topshop did a much more expensive version, so snap up this one at a fraction of the cost; you won’t regret it and you might even raise a few smiles, even if it’s just with your kids. Hand wash this shirt, or wash in a pillowcase, to keep the delicate sequins at their best.
PRETTY UNDERWEAR – Marks and Spencer, £9.50 (including the DD+ range), New Look, £9.99
Looking back, I think traditional nursing bras were a big reason why I stopped breastfeeding my firstborn at just four months. I was simply sick and tired of wearing ugly, unflattering and uncomfortable underwear. My bras were more suited to a dowdy old lady, not a 29-year-old woman used to wearing pretty and supportive undies. This time around, it’s been so different, thanks to the women on the CIBII page.
One of my first investments were several bralets from M and S that so many breastfeeding woman have raved about. I always assumed bralets were for the smaller-breasted women who don’t need the support of a wired bra and for that reason, I thought they were out of the question for me. Not so. The M and S bralets are absolutely beautiful; a variety of lacy designs with a surprising amount of support. There are no clips to undo when you need to feed, you simply pull down a strap and voila. I love mine, though it wasn’t until after I parted with my cash that I discovered M and S do a DD+ range, so consider this instead of sizing up like I did (I bought size 14 bralets instead of my usual 12 for a fuller cup size). At £9.50, it’s an absolute bargain. Online stock is not great, but I found they had a huge amount to choose from in store. I also have to mention this black lace nursing bra from New Look. It’s absolutely gorgeous and perhaps my favourite of the bras I’ve bought. For a bra with no wire, it has a huge amount of support and in no way looks like feeding bra – you wouldn’t find this one in Mothercare, that’s for sure. It’s sold out elsewhere online but the New Look website has some sizes left.
THE DATE NIGHT DRESS – BooHoo, £18
Date nights are a rarity for me now, almost extinct in fact. So when my husband and I do get to go out on our own, I want to make the most of it and dress up to the nines. This dress from Boo Hoo was also a recommendation on the CIBII page and is so flattering. The gathered waist hides any mum tum issues and the capped sleeves are not only pretty, but gives cover to those who don’t like to show too much upper-arm. The slit is pretty high, but can be controlled with a small safety pin if you prefer. Breastfeeding access is super-easy for those who feed right up to leaving for a night out and those who have to feed as soon as they get in. I bought it in deep red but it’s available in a few different colours, including black and navy. I felt a million dollars wearing it, teamed with lashings of black mascara and red lips, red nails and sky-high black stilettos. Not so mumsy after-all!
So many women praised the wrap body suits from Boo Hoo that I had to give them a go, particularly at just £12 each. The body suits have a popper fastening at the crotch and have deep wrap plunge at the front and back. Many women report that they add a popper to the front to protect their modesty and allow access to breastfeed. Teamed with this pretty, full skirt, also from Boo Hoo, it’s the perfect ensemble for a breastfeeding mum with a special date in the calendar. I bought this combo for my twin boys’ christening. I plan to wear it with these simple nude heels (see below) and a little blush jacket for an elegant look.
NUDE HEELS – New Look, £22.99
I recently bought these heels from New Look and absolutely love them. They go with absolutely everything and are just the right size heel that allow you to wear them all day and all night with ease. The nude colour and barely-there design also means your legs are instantly lengthened, which is fantastic for short and stumpies like me! They’re advertised as wide fit, but I have little size four feet and they’re fine on me. At £22.99, they were a bargain and are a staple to anyone’s wardrobe.
SHAPEWEAR – eBay, £44.99
Most of us experience a change in shape after giving birth. It is a totally normal, natural part of motherhood! After delivering twin boys via c section, my tummy was decidedly softer than it had been before, so I wanted some support under clothing to increase my confidence and provide a sleek silhouette. I came across this support vest on eBay for £44.99 and it’s fantastic. I found it great for post-natal support due to the boning around the front. It has hook and eyes all the way down the front, so it’s very secure, and has two fastenings options, one tighter than the other. It’s surprisingly comfortable and very effective. I use mine when wearing something very fitted and perhaps a little unforgiving. The vest has a full back, so it smooths out any unsightly bra bulge at the back and it stays put for hours without you having to constantly readjust it or yank it down. It has very comfortable thick straps, but they’re not detachable, so be mindful that it’s no good if you’re wearing a strapless number or anything with very thin straps. But please don’t feel like your new figure is ‘wrong’ in anyway! Your body has birthed a baby and is beautiful.
So there you have it, the items that are currently allowing me to feel a little more like me while giving round-the-clock access to the boob monsters. Many of these items have been suggested by the women on the CIBII group, so I must thank them for the inspiration. Having someone already tried and tested these fun, practical and often beautiful, garments is invaluable and goes a large way towards giving us mums some much-needed self-confidence during the most tiring and demanding time in our lives.
By Helen Hall