Can I Breastfeed In It: An Open Letter To High Street Clothing Retailers

I swear shopping never used to be this much of a chore. Before having a baby I could walk into the shop knowing all I needed to do was find something I liked the look of which was also flattering for my body (which at times could be a challenge in itself). Now that I’m a breastfeeding mother (who has trouble enough concentrating at the task on hand with that tricky baby brain and a potentially grumpy child to contend with), browsing a high street shop is becoming a chore rather than an enjoyable experience.

Many stores have a maternity section with nursing friendly maternity clothing. I’m sure your thought process goes something along the lines of: “well pregnant ladies will buy our maternity wear and have the additional feature of it being nursing friendly when baby is born”. Great, except I’m not currently pregnant. I have a 9 month old. I don’t want to wear maternity clothing. I want nice well fitting clothing which I can also get a boob out of when my baby is hungry. Colours which are forgiving on leaky boobs and baby drool are always a winner too!

I’m not asking that you create a new range of nursing wear (some of you already have a small selection of nursing wear already available), that would be asking too much. Many of us mothers like shopping online for our clothing. Then we can put our full focus onto finding the perfect outfit whilst baby is asleep.

So, what would be REALLY handy, and this is SO simple, within your online shops, is a search filter that tells us if the clothing item is ‘breastfeeding friendly’. To fall under this category a top or dress could potentially be easily (and discreetly as a bonus!) breastfed in without having to just ‘lift it up’ and give the world a sneak peak of our jelly bellies. Yes we could wear vests underneath all of our tops but not so practical when we get those hot days! It would be lovely to see a boob friendly selection in shops but I’m not going to get ahead of myself at this point!

The first shop to adopt this feature will gain a LOT of business and support from the breastfeeding community. There are currently 3500+ 18,000 UK women waiting for this feature to be implemented in the Can I Breastfeed In It? UK Facebook group alone.

So please, do a little more research on your breastfeeding customer base. It’ll pay off! It will not only be a positive for your sales and nursing mothers, but it would also be another (albeit small) step in normalising breastfeeding in our society. It would help mothers realise they don’t need to be wearing frumpy or boring/repetitive clothing!

Update as of April 2016:

So the group has been going a year now and expanded massively (as well as going international!). We’ve had success with one major online retailer, Closet London, whom, if you search for ‘breastfeeding’, you get a nice selection of clothing that you could breastfeed in. So it may not be a search filter, but you know what? It’s a big step forward in the right direction. It’s time for the other retailers to follow suit!

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  1. Lucy Wootten June 29, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    I think this letter is really really good and well worded . It’s brilliant that you have written this as I think it’s about time the shops made shopping easier for breast feeding mums! I really hope they take this serious lye and make the suggested changes!

  2. gruffalogirl July 1, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I really really hope some retailers take you up on this! It would make shopping a million times easier for us breastfeeding mums! X

    • Jo July 22, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Well said! Breastfeeding friendly clothes are so needed especially ones that’s aren’t frumpy or made for pregnant mummies. Let’s hope they listen ((.))((.))

  3. Val July 22, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Fantastic article! I feel restricted to the few shops that sell nursing wear and would love to get back to high street shopping! I will be looking out for the breastfeeding friendly filters!

  4. Sarah Pearce July 22, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I really hope the clothes retailers take notice of this, as it would make such a difference, we would feel like ‘normal’ shoppers again! The retailers would massively increase their revenue too as us breastfeeding mums would find things to buy in their shops so much more easily!!

  5. A J July 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Have you any idea how spoiled this sounds? I breastfeed both of my babies 20 years ago. As a penniless young mother most of my clothes were from charity shops. My advice is to suck it up.

    • shell July 24, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      Why should we ‘suck it up’ just because I’m breast feeding my baby don’t mean I have to wear boring mumsy clothes. This isn’t 20 years ago and I’m not a penniless mum….so if this makes it easier to spend my money and have nice clothes to wear…..then yay! You go ‘suck it up’ elsewhere. …….

      • Roxi July 24, 2015 at 1:56 pm

        Why ‘suck it up’ though? We’re not asking for a specific range of clothes just the opportunity to know which ones are easy to get a boob out of!

    • Ginger July 24, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Spoiled? It’s not a request for free clothes. It’s a simple request for retailers to state if the item of clothing is booby accessible. That’s all. Great idea!

    • Tillytoo July 24, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Do you have any idea how bitter this makes you sound?! My advise – if you don’t have anything constructive to say .. Don’t bother!!

    • Rosie July 24, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      It may sound spoilt, however times have changed and us mums still want to look and feel nice, just like any other woman out there. Some of us do buy clothes from charity shops, but that doesn’t mean that online retailers can’t add this option to their websites, the same as they have categories for petit or specific items that you’re looking for

    • wilburhuxley July 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Spoiled? I’m confused? By that reasoning anyone who wants to buy new clothes is spoiled. Are you saying that all mothers who buy new clothes for themselves are spoiled? I genuinely don’t understand how offering a suggestion to stores makes someone spoiled? Are you suggesting that all mothers should be sacrificing themselves on the altar of motherhood? Perhaps just breastfeeding ones? Maybe they should all subsist on bread and dripping too? I wonder how long you breastfed for? Many of these women are feeding toddlers, and spending on some flattering clothes that might make them feel good about themselves, is an investment which will see them through years of breastfeeding. Building self-esteem also helps to combat postnatal depression, which I’m assuming is also something only spoiled women suffer from , perhaps they should “suck it up” too?

    • Vicky July 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      So what if I am spoiled? (which I’m not) why can’t we ask The clothing industry to cater for us? If you don’t ask you don’t get? You sound very bitter, I’m sorry that life was difficult for you, but just because you don’t have all you wanted doesn’t mean everyone else can’t have what they want, which is just a few nice clothes.

    • Kim July 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Wow. Have YOU any idea how bitter and ridiculous YOU sound?
      Luckily for us mums who are currently breastfeeding our babies, it’s not 20 years ago, it’s today… We have the Internet. Which you also seem to be using.
      You should be proud to pass on the breastfeeding torch, that young women are speaking out for BF friendly services, and that women want to feel even more confident and empowered whilst we nourish our little ones…

    • kath speller July 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      Why are you following this blog if you breastfed 20years ago? I don’t think it’s spoiled at all. People breastfeed a lot longer these days and often go back to work sooner whilst continuing to express or feed. If you think this blog is “spoiled” maybe you should stop reading it? Just a thought…

    • Samantha July 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      It’s hardly about being spoiled. A lot has changed in 20yrs. If so much else has changed, why not clothes for breastfeeding in. I’ve made do without all this as have many others, but if people want to try to make a change, let them try. They’re being a lot more productive than your negativity is and there are groups of women banding together to support each other through this crazy stage of life. That can only be a good thing.

    • Tonia July 24, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      I’m sorry you feel the article makes us appear spoiled. There is currently a lot of negativity around breastfeeding and particularly around breastfeeding in public. We are simply asking for a little help in finding clothes that are suitable for feeding in out in public and which may encourage more women to breastfeed instead of go down the formula route; something that is also a problem.
      I’m personally lucky enough to be in a position to be able to afford clothes as are many other new mums. Mainly because I work hard in my full time job and I don’t see why becoming a mum should mean I have to ‘suck it up’. Nice clothes that make me feel good means I’m more confident and happier which in turn means I have a confident happy baby!!
      The ultimate purpose of an article and plea like this is to encourage and promote breastfeeding in a society that makes it difficult!!

    • Holly July 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Did you read the same article I did? The letter specifically states there is no need to create a different range, just add it as a search function or an advertised feature. None of my clothes are maternity or specially designed but I need to check each one to see if there is ‘boob’ access (eg. does it pull down enough). This isn’t too hard at home but impossible when shopping on line (many companies charge for delivery and returns) and pretty difficult in store whilst entertaining a small child (especially if said small child is in a sling!). The additional tag/line of text is an easy and relatively cost free advertising feature. I’m sure it would benefit store and consumer alike.

    • Susan July 24, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      just because you were happy in other peoples hand me downs, doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for wanting to look nice and feminine without having pulled necklines, or baggy parts of our clothing from where we have been constantly pulling up, down, out etc

    • Turtle girl July 24, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      What? Are you for real? This does not sound spoiled it sounds like something that should of been implemented a long time ago. You just sound jealous. Shame for you if all you could afford is charity shop clothing. Many women are happy to pay full price for brand new clothing and I think this is a great idea for those wishing to do so.Nobody asked for your advise so why don’t you “shut up” and “suck it up” yourself.

    • xanthe July 24, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      we’re spoiled for wanting online retailers to allow us to easily see the clothes that we can buy? as stated in the post, we’re not even asking companies to create new clothes for us breastfeeding mums; the clothes are already there. we just want a search option. on many clothing websites you can refine a search to only include casual/occasion/sports wear – we would like an option to search for nursing friendly clothing.

      it is entirely up to each person how to spend their money. telling us to “suck it up” because you shopped in charity shops makes you sound rather bitter.

    • Vicky Foy July 24, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      You don’t ask you don’t get, simple as that! Don’t be a hater just because you didn’t think to ask 20 years ago. What a crappy comment!!

  6. Alice July 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Most of my clothes are second hand, hand me ons etc but when trying to find a dress for my baby’s christening it was so hard to find something to breastfeed in! I wanted to look and feel good, and not stuck it up in my mat clothes. I don’t think its spoiled to ask to be able to search for items which we can breastfeed in.

  7. Kathryn Carr July 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    The idea of this group in my eyes is to offer ladies who are breastfeeding the opportunity to share ideas about clothes that make breastfeeding a little easier. No matter a person’s budget, this group serves up ideas about the kind of clothes that work. It doesn’t matter what your budget is, whether you’ll be shopping in charity shops, on the high street or in designer boutiques, what this group does really well is demonstrate the kind of clothes that will make life at this important time a little easier. None of us are spoiled, we are simply coming together to share tips and advice and provide support. You can buy from the websites suggested or look out for similar outfits within your own budget – it’s all about helping each other out and using the information to suit. Hoorah for this website – suck it up!

  8. sam July 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I struggle to see what relevance someone’s financial situation 20 years ago has to this article? BF friendly clothing on the high street is a definite gap in the market and like the and article says these clothes don’t have to be anything special, just somehow grouped together so they are easier to identify and sort through. Maternity, petite, tall and plus sie ranges exist, so why not add feed friendly to the list

  9. Ellie Sullivan July 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Fantastic idea, my daughter is nearly 8 months, I’ve been looking online for something to wear for my daughters christening and really struggling as not sure if BF friendly, this would be soooo handy to state if it Is or not xx

  10. Emma July 24, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Dear A J
    I’m very sorry you didn’t have much money when you fed your babies but well done for giving them a great start in life. Breastfeeding mothers, like mothers in general, come from all walks of life. Some have loads of money to spend and some don’t. Some drink coffee and some don’t. Some watch Eastenders and some don’t. The point being that we’re not all the same and as mums we generally like a choice when choosing how to spend our time or money. We’re just asking shops to consider giving us a bit more choice and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  11. Ellie July 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Umm, if you were breastfeeding 20 years ago what on earth are you doing posting on a site about breastfeeding in today’s world? :/ troll off!

  12. angie July 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Are you always this rude? As a penniless not so young mother myself, I also frequent charity shops to buy myself new clothes, as the maternity pay doesn’t stretch that far. However, when I return to work and need to find clothes suitable for my job that I can express in, or when I need something reasonably priced but that makes me feel less of a frump for a special occasion, then I have the right to find those items easily – this is consumer choice, not being ‘spoilt’. A breastfeeding mother has as much right as any other person has to find clothing suiting their personal circumstances. For example, you may wish to consider a search for clothing suited to making pointless and ill thought out comments on blog posts whilst maintaining a suitably grouchy facial expression.

  13. Sian July 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    No different than the ‘petite’ filter which I use. Am I being spoilt in doing so?

  14. K July 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    AJ what you have said has no relevance to the blog post and is clearly you just trying to provoke a response.

    Obvious troll is obvious!

  15. Fiona Close July 24, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    So you managed to get by 20 years ago? You know what? Times change – and thank goodness they do! I know a woman that breastfed her babies 35 years ago. Public feeding wasn’t acceptable, so she rarely left the house, and if even family visited she was expected to leave the room to feed. She was my mother – and she’s as glad as I am that things are easier now. What would make it even easier is it being easier to find the highly suitable clothes that are already out there. A small change, and one that would be very welcome!

  16. barrnichols July 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Well said! Given the word of mouth success of recommendations on the #canibfinit facebook group, I would imagine online sales of particular items have soared, and the shops might have no idea why! Hopefully this letter will open their eyes to the possibilities, and the untapped wallets of mums who don’t wish to become mumsy! I know I’m not the only one who has spent the night feed shopping! This simple filter would help me find suitable clothes more quickly and spend more money…. wait, why am I supporting this?!

  17. Nina July 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Great idea about this letter. It can be a very hard and sad experience trying to go out shopping for clothing for me. I’m a bfer and mum of 2 so Internet shopping is easy and alot less hassel for me.
    AJ how is offering retailers a way for them to relatively easily earn more money spoiled? I’m sorry that you had a hard time, I’m sure many of mum’s today also find it hard getting the money to last as long as they are needed. This is possibly why we would prefer to buy clothing there are trendy/stylish “accessible” but we are also happy to use when our breastfeeding time comes to an end.

  18. Nadia July 24, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Having a breastfeeding filter is no different to being able to search for clothes of a particular colour or style or a ‘tall’ or ‘plus sized’ range. Being able to find clothes that fit and serve a function is not spoilt it’s sensible and retailers would be stupid not to cash in on giving their customers what they want. Do you still wear second hand clothes that neither fit nor serve a function 20 years later for fear of being ‘spoilt’? I thought not. Personally I am extremely insulted that most of nursing vest, top and dresses double up as maternity clothes- why would I want to wear something that fitted me when I was 2 stone heavier and a completely different shape?

  19. Mumof2 July 24, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    This is a fantastic idea and I can’t believe how something so small can make a huge difference to so many bf mummies out there. I refuse to buy the maternity/bf clothes as they are all made for pregnant women (why on earth would manufacturers think this is a suitable combination) and look enormous when you wear them any more than a month postpartum. To the negative poster, we are not spoiled just would like to be able to find suitable clothes more easily which we can continue to wear when our bf days are behind us thus not wasting the precious little money we do have! When you were a penniless bf mummy 20 years ago I very much doubt that there were any online retailers to voice this opinion to and if you had been in our shoes I am sure this filter would have made things a little easier for you too.

  20. Jo July 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    It’s spoiled to ask for a button LMAO

  21. Jenny March 31, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Off topic slightly but ensuring shops are buggy friendly would be a bonus too! I am always knocking into things with my pushchair and I can’t blame L-Plates as I have been using the same pushchair on and off for over 4 years!

  22. MumMe April 22, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    It gives smaller retailers like us at a chance to compete. We offer affordable and stylish maternity and nursing wear for mother. Our clothes are designed to flatter the changing shape of the female form from pregnancy to motherhood. I hope we can help.

  23. Katherine August 14, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I find it annoying that most nursing dresses are clingy at the tummy. Surely I’m not the only new mum who isn’t a fan of their tummy?!

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