Well, little miss or little mister has finally arrived! Hoorah! The time is finally here to return to work. Boo, hiss. (Unless you’re me, after six weeks of bedrest and nearly 16 weeks of maternity leave and THREE infants, I was ready to return to adult conversation and grown-up clothes).
It’s Saturday before you go back and you slip into your closet to figure out what works, particularly if you, like me, are nursing on top of it all. Well………turns out your pre-baby wardrobe isn’t welcoming you back as you’d hoped. The pants won’t button and the shirts are not going to accommodate either your increased chest-line or that double breast pump. Ugh. Who has the money to buy a brand new wardrobe for the six months to a year it’s going to take you to wind down breastfeeding and get your pre-baby body back? NOT ME!
So my friends are asking about professional maternity/postpartum/nursing wear and what to do! Plus, if you’re in a conservative environment like an old firm or the legislature, then there’s much less flexibility.
Here are some options if you’re looking to “suit up” post maternity leave:
- Buy a handful of things. On sale. Or borrow. That’s what I did. There was a huge Ann Taylor sale, like 70% off, and I bought two pair of neutral pants, a few colorful shells, one blazer and one cardigan. I accessorized and incorporated a few things from my closet that worked and that got me largely from February to August. I know, a lot of dry cleaning, but I refused to buy a wardrobe.
- Use your maternity clothes – they can be repurposed. I used a pair of black maternity pants for three or so months after I went back to work, they stretched (largely) back so I could use them, and I had a skirt I also could use. Plus several of my early second trimester blouses worked for me during the nursing phase too (remember, I had triplets, I started showing at NINE weeks!). Those blouses were more accommodating for nursing than non-maternity wear. Also, some companies, like Motherhood, have maternity to breastfeeding clothes including dresses, and there are a couple of good dark color dresses that can work with you in professional settings (though that may mean stockings which is brutal if you had a c-section).
- Find a private spot to pump at work. I know everyone does not have the advantage I had with an office door I could close when I pumped every three hours, but find A spot, and hopefully many of your employers will accommodate you. If you have privacy, then you have more flexibility with your work wear. I could wear a pull over shell (excuse the graphic explanation coming, but if you’re reading this you probably have boobs) that I could just slide up, set on top of my double electric breast pump that hooked into my double breast pump handsfree bra (if you do not have one of these, BUY ONE NOW, it saved me – you can get them at Motherhood and I emailed people and edited docs while I pumped at work because it was a handsfree bra).
- Invest in a great cover-up. I pumped on my commute into work and driving home. I could throw my cover-up over my clothes and connected the pump to the car power source and no one saw anything they shouldn’t. That allows you more time in the office to escape pumping. (Mine was from bebeaulait.)
I know that NONE of these solutions is optimum but keep in mind it’s for a short time. Also, see if there is some acceptance at work that you may not be quite as formal (read pinstripe suit) for the few months you nurse. Regardless, you should have a dark blazer and dark pair of pants that you can wear when you must be “suited up” even if it’s not actually a suit. Because truthfully, a suit isn’t that hard to manage with breastfeeding since you just throw a basic shell underneath it and take the blazer off to pump (even if it’s in the ladies room for 10 minutes). But on the days that you can escape with wearing a cardigan or an accessible dress rather than a jacket, they tend to be more accommodating. Here’s some of my ideas that I incorporated into my wardrobe postpartum – from sweaters and dresses to blouses and suits: