Reader Request: Post-partum Style

Reader Homa dropped this one in the suggestion box:

My problem is that I still wear maternity shirts 6 months after my second baby. My old stuff is just short somehow. So my big plan is that I want anything new I get to be the start of a new style for me. But where to begin? Chasing kids in skirts won’t work but maybe my jeans + tee routine must go? I would love to start shopping for clothes online but don’t know where to start. I also know I need to pay more but can’t bring myself to buy a shirt over $10. I just feel frumpy and unpretty. I star your posts in google reader but want to really implement your ideas but I feel like I’m starting from scratch.

I’m going to keep this a bit more general and talk about post-partum style and body image. I’m also going to give you a crapload of caveats:

I’m not a parent. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with a post-partum body or the accompanying emotions. But many of my very close friends are parents, many of my wonderful readers are parents, and I consulted them all while assembling the advice that has gone into this post. I realize that the post-partum period is intense and challenging and – perhaps more importantly – different for every woman. So, as always, take everything here with a grain of salt. I trust you to use your judgment, take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

Now, let’s dig in! You’ve brought home your darling infant, spent a few months recovering and adjusting to this immense and amazing change in your life and family structure, and are starting to feel like it’s time to leave the PJs behind. How do you proceed?

WHAT TO AVOID

Gnashing teeth, moaning, beating chest with fists, etc.: This will be a trying time, no question about it. You will be tired, feel frustrated by your body, and wonder if you’ll ever feel normal again. Do your best to ask for help when you need it, remember to breathe, and cut yourself some slack. Also cut your body some slack.

Crash diets and insane exercise routines: Your physical systems are in serious flux, even after you’ve given birth. Punishing your body with unreasonable food restrictions or loads of strenuous exercise will just tax your system further. Be patient, be gentle, be reasonable with your body.

Setting a time limit for getting back into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe: Every woman is different, every woman’s post-partum period is different. If you give yourself nine months to fit into your old clothes and don’t make that goal, you’ve just manufactured an unnecessary failure. Let your body change organically.

WHAT TO EMBRACE

The knowledge that your body has changed to accommodate its new role: You may feel like a stranger in your own body for a while. But as you become familiar with this new terrain, remember that any changes to your body have happened to make parenting, mothering, nurturing easier for you and for your baby. Your body is now the body of a mother.

The fact that every woman’s body takes a different amount of time to recover from pregnancy: Do not compare your recovery, weight loss, or body bounce-back time to anyone else’s. I know that sounds impossible, but TRY. You are a unique organism with unique chemistry and genes. What happens to the bodies of your peers is irrelevant to you. Period.

The possibility that your body is now a totally different shape: Some bodies return to their pre-pregnancy state, some change forever. You may look and feel differently, but try to remember that anything new about your physical form is natural, and will help you be a fabulous parent.

Cotton, spandex, and flat shoes: More on that in a moment.

STYLE TIPS FOR WOMEN WHO ARE NURSING

Invest in nursing tanks: Regardless of season, good cotton nursing tanks make great underlayers. Wear them with a short-sleeved camp shirt in summer, with a cozy cardigan in winter. Tanks offer coverage but easy access, and are the easiest nursing pieces to layer in multiple ways.

Seek out one-button cardigans: They’re rare beasts, but well worth hunting. One-button cardis add style and structure without impeding access.

Avoid synthetic fabrics: They may irritate the baby’s skin, not to mention yours. Stick to soft, natural fibers as much as possible.

Beware of scarves and jewelry: Nursing necklaces aside, most around-the-neck adornments are tough during the nursing stage. They get messy, they get pulled on, they get broken. Adorn in other ways.

TIPS THAT APPLY REGARDLESS OF NURSING

Utilize your second trimester maternity clothes: You probably want to set ALL of your maternity clothing on fire, but try to restrain yourself. While you’re deep in body-limbo, buying new duds may be frustrating. Spring for a few fun shoes and accent pieces, but use your second trimester duds as base layers.

Use – or if you don’t have one, buy – a belly band: Here you go.

Hit up thrift stores: Again, now is NOT the time to spring for a spendy new wardrobe. Scour thrift and consignment stores for trendy and seasonal accents on the cheap.

Play with patterns, especially on top: Even if you’re a solids girl at heart, now might be the time to start exploring florals, geometrics, and abstracts. Your body is in flux and may have a few lumps and bumps in unexpected places. Instead of squeezing into shapewear or beating yourself up, try not worrying about it. Patterned tops and dresses distract and downplay.

Consider your figure-flattery priorities:

  • Empire-waist tops and dresses will mask your midsection, but may also make your torso appear short.
    Best for: Gals who want to downplay their bellies and aren’t as worried about proportional balance, tall women
  • Blouson-style tops with elastic bottom bands will give your belly some room, but may also draw attention to your hips.
    Best for: Athletic and boyish figures, gals who want attention drawn to hips and bum
  • Wide-legged pants are often comfy, but may make you look big all over.
    Best for: Days when comfort is top priority

Embrace the tunic/legging formula: Leggings and jeggings offer comfort and sleekness, tunics offer comfort and style. That’s a double dose of comfort, people!

Cultivate a wardrobe of flat shoes: Ballet flats, sandals, and boots. Make sure you’ve got every category covered. And be sure to invest in a couple of high-quality, sinfully comfortable pairs. Don’t get your entire post-partum shoe wardrobe from Target. Promise me.

Consider a stylish, easy-to-care-for haircut: Your hair may be going through some changes right now, too, so this may be impossible. But if your locks are relatively stable, now may be the time to chop them. You will have limited time and energy resources for the foreseeable future. A wash-and-go ‘do will give you more time for other, potentially more important tasks.

MORE STYLE RESOURCES

Again, not a parent. But here are some amazing resources from bloggers who ARE!

The Mom Edit: The whole site is amazing, but check the postpartum style posts specifically.

You Look Fab’s forum thread on postpartum dressing (older, but still relevant): Always chock full of suggestions from Angie’s readers

Wardobe Oxygen on dressing your postpartum body: Allie has guest posted for me on pregnancy style, and writes with great frankness about her post-partum style explorations.

Image is the Bravado! Design Original Nursing Tank, available at Target.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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  • Cristina

    I had the same baffling postpartum experience — my pre-baby shirts were all too short! I didn’t feel like my body had changed THAT drastically, but I guess it had. When I reached the point where I was ready to put away ALL my maternity clothes, I decided to ditch all my old stuff and spring for a new inexpensive and transient wardrobe. Even though I wanted to lose more weight, I wanted to feel good in my current body. Old Navy was great for me during that period, though I don’t usually shop there. JCPenney also has crazy sales all the time and I can find some gems. My local Sears outlet has a big Land’s End section with insane prices. I love LE pieces for layering while nursing. I also relied on thin, fitted, long Shade layering tops, and sometimes cut slits in the sides for easier access if I wore another layer over it — that way my belly always stayed covered.

    Even when I reached my pre-baby weight, my hips were permanently wider so my old jeans/pants never fit again. I loved having a “real” reason to start over with my wardrobe — I just wish I’d found your blog first! 🙂

  • Just wanted to disagree on the recommendation for short hair. Hair long enough to throw up in a bun is easy to manage, even when you don’t have the time to wash it every day.

    • Miss T

      I had a similar reaction: while short hair is definitely easy to care for on a daily basis, it grows out quickly, requiring salon visits to keep it looking good. With a baby to care for, it’s really tough to get out to a salon on a regular basis. Also, I think the anxiety of new radical hairstyle is also a lot to process at this time in a woman’s life (unless it was something she really wanted to do anyway). That being said, there is something nice about taking EXTRA care of your hair at that time: buying some luxury shampoo/conditioners/treatments, etc.

    • I’m with Emily on this one. I’ve never had a baby; but I’ve had many years of experience with very short hair and very long hair, and without a doubt the easiest, most carefree and most inexpensive style was when I let it grow really long.

      For reference, I have curly hair and when it’s short, I have to style it to control all the curly bits that can stick out. When it’s long, it has more weight and behaves perfectly fine with nothing but a simple comb-through in the shower. And nobody can tell that you haven’t been to the salon lately.

      I realize that everyone’s hair behaves differently, but that’s kind of my point– don’t assume that a particular style or length is going to work better than what you currently have.

      • Sal

        Interesting to hear. I guess it just depends on where you want your hairstyle ease to come in!

        • Your advice should be “Make it REALLY short”. Most women think of short as a bob, but in reality that’s the most awful post baby style, as you can’t pull it away into a ponytail, and the baby tugs the crud out of it! But the length you have now is actually really good if done by a good hairdresser.
          Oh, and my kids are 2 and 4, so I’ve tried long to very short and everything in between. I did keep it long with the second one though, since short just doesn’t look good, even if it is highly functional

      • Anna

        I thought the same thing, and my advice is to grow your hair out! I started growing out my pixie cut when I got pregnant, and it’s sooooo much easier to throw my hair in a pony tail than to have to worry about washing and styling it every day (my stylist even agrees!).

    • I went with short hair bc I did a lot of baby wearing and my kids loved to pull my hair.

    • Kellie

      I chopped off my hair right before the baby was born, and I LOVE it! It takes about 7 minutes for me to go from soaking wet to styled and cute. It helps me feel less self conscious about my baby body when my face has makeup (minimal) and my hair is done.

  • Lori

    Good post – I recently found out I’m pregnant so I’ll file this away for 8 months down the line. Also a note: the ladies at Academic Chic have closed up shop and will not be posting any more, but are keeping the site archived for reference.

    • Jen

      Also, S. is still posting on her blog, Simply Bike. She has had the baby, and has adorable pics up there. The listing is on their bloglist if you want to check it out.

  • Amy

    Thanks! I’m pregnant right now so this will come in handy in the future!

    A note about academichic – they shut down their blog at the beginning of August. The archives are all still there, but they won’t be updating anymore. Still, it’s a GREAT resource.

  • Amy

    This is a great list, Sal! Even though The Pup is 18 months old, I still feel like I’m dressing my postpartum body, to some degree. One of the major reasons I started my own blog was to chronicle that journey. Although my body is more stable now (albeit a size larger than I’d hoped), there are DEFINITE differences–low-rise jeans aren’t just unflattering, but they actually hurt. My chest shape has changed, even while the size didn’t, which meant investing in some new underthings. I lived in nursing tanks (quite literally) for 13 months while we were breastfeeding, and I’ve found since then that I’m happier with a tank under most of my outfits. Even I, who swore she NEVER would, have cut my hair (and it looks awesome!).

    It’s just a strange period, and one that none of the books prepare you for. You have this idea that your body will just bounce back–and it will!–but the reality is far different. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, your body still isn’t exactly your own. Your metabolism and hormones are different. And because of all of this, it’s more important than ever to feel confidant and comfortable in your clothing. Don’t just show off the baby–show off yourself! Thanks for this, Sal. It’s practical and easy to follow, and I know I would have liked a list like this!

  • Wow. I’m really impressed at this list!

    I’ve had to live with a postpartum body 4 times, and this is really great advice. (Except I never could bring myself to wear maternity clothes after my baby was 6 weeks old, except for the pricey maternity denim. It was a psychological thing!)

    The belly band (I loved my Target $16 version much more than my $32 BellaBand) was a lifesaver for me. I cannot say enough wonderful things about it! And nursing tanks were a close second for wardrobe versatility.

    One button cardis are great, but they don’t offer the coverage of a cardi that buttons up from hem to neckline. I was able to nurse modestly in public by wearing a nursing cami and a cardi, and just unbuttoning the cardigan enough to give the baby access. I think this is, hands-down, the easiest way to nurse discreetly.

    I’d like to put in a word for borrowing. Kind friends lent me denim when I was in my personal postpartum-sizing limbo between 2 and 6 months, when most of the baby weight had come off, but not enough for me to fit in my regular bottoms. (Yeah, it’s always taken the whole 6 months for me!)

    And shopping for bottoms was miserable for me postpartum–nothing fit the way I expected or wanted it too, and my postpartum decision-making capacity is not great. But shopping for accessories was fun, and tops weren’t too painful to find. So I concentrated my efforts there.

    This post is a great resource!!

  • Kristina

    After my first child was born, it did take some time to get used to my body,which had real hips for the first time ever. I disagree about not buying new clothes, though While I wouldn’t recommend a whole wardrobe, I did find that buying just one relatively inexpensive well-fitting outfit was a relief — to have something that I really felt good in. A few months later it was too big, but that was OK. It was nice to have something to put on when I wanted to look nice.

    I have stick straight hair, and chopping it off would have been the wrong choice if I was looking for ease of styling. It takes way more work for me to keep a short style looking nice. That said, I did cut off quite a few inches when my baby’s fingers kept getting wound up in it while I was nursing her.

  • T.

    About 2 months postpartum I bought a pair of jeans that fit me so I didn’t have to wear maternity jeans any more (huge mood booster). I also bought two or three cute shirts that worked for nursing (what works for nursing for you may be different than my own preference of a t-shirt with a blouse layered over it). Just having a few cute clothes that fit my then-body made me feel more positive about my changing body.

  • Jaclyn

    This is a good list, but I disagree on a few things. If you’re used to wearing heels then flat shoes aren’t always a good idea after baby. They caused me a lot of pain in the foot and back, especially on my hips to wear flats after baby (even flats with good arch support). Instead I’ve found that a new heel height is best. 2-2.5 inches with no platform or 3-3.5 inches with a 1 inch platform are the most comfortable for me.
    I also think that anything that adds visual weight, such as flowy layers and wide pants, is a confidence killer. I had a brief uniform of tunics and leggings and I always felt sloppy. So, I went and bought a few staples (a pencil skirt, a white shirt, a patterned blouse, a sweater, trousers, and a pair of khakis) in my new size. Even though I wasn’t happy with the size on the tag I felt better about myself because I was wearing clothing that fit properly.
    I really do think it’s important to spend a little bit of money on your new shape and size, even if it’s just a brief body. Good fitting clothing is always more flattering and confidence boosting than trying to hide behind oversize or floaty layers.
    As for nursing, I always just wore a camisole under everything, that way I could just lift up my top layer (be it a sweater, a blouse, or a T) and pull the cami down under my breast. I hated nursing tanks, the hook things always dug into my flesh.

  • Kelsey

    I have to say that my boobs have been ginormous during nursing & a nursing tank is not supportive enough AT ALL for me to wear during a work day (at home, maybe….but only maybe). I invested in four good bras which is worth it to me b/c I plan on nursing for a minimum of a year. For clothing, I bought a handful of $8 or $9 tanks at Target & I wear those under everything. So now I can actually wear a handful of too-short-shirts because I have a longer layer underneath. Bonus: tanks transform any shirt into a nursing shirt b/c they provide coverage. I also bought a few nursing-specific shirts from motherwear.com (and a cute dress) because nothing on that site screams “lactation alert!” The other thing I did recently was buy a very relaxed body shaper. It has helped me feel more confident wearing my pre-pregnancy skirts (which have fit me sooner than my pants). I just needed the tiniest little tuck & the smoothing that garment gave me was just enough. And I must agree with the short hair cut commentators. I think that while my son does pull on my long hair a lot, I can much more easily pull off “I made an effort” with pulling my hair back into a tidy pony tail or what have you. I think if I had short hair I would need to use product (and thus wash more often) and I would definitely need more salon visits.
    The other change I made postpartum was taking the TINIEST amount of time in the morning to wear a little makeup. It totally helps you pull off more casual looks because you made more of an effort overall. Plus, basic make up always works – you won’t grow out of it when your body changes. A little color on the cheek/lips, neutral eyeshadow, and a quick brush with mascara & you’re done. I will confess to watching Lisa Eldridge tutorials during the long, long cluster feedings back in the early days just to learn basics from a pro.

    • this. nursing tanks (alone) didn’t really work for me either. i was busty post and pre-baby (and i still am, proportionately). i think that investing in a few really good, supportive nursing bras is a VERY good idea, particularly for those large of boob.

      i was, on the whole, not overly concerned with modesty when nursing my daughter. i wore accessible (read: long, somewhat loose) tops and tanks with a jacket/cardigan over but generally just did what i had to do and if someone caught a momentary peek of my stomach or a sliver of breast then so be it, feeding my daughter and keeping her from being upset took precedence over any other concerns, mine, or other people’s. i suppose one way to alleviate any concerns of modesty in my case (and perhaps in the case of others who don’t wear nursing tanks) would be to wear a belly band or some other thing underneath their shirt below the bra, but it just seemed like a hassle/uncomfortable to me.

      you gotta do what works for you. this advice above is a great guideline, but sometimes i think you gotta play around until you find what works and feels right.

      good luck new moms!

  • This list was pretty good, Sal!

    I disagree on the haircut, as my hair was pretty easy to take care of when it was very long. I just put it up with hairsticks, and I didn’t even need to comb it LOL!

    I have several “nice” nursing shirts that I had for when I went out in public. I actually had to nurse my daughter at noon for a month when I started back at work since she wouldn’t take the bottle at daycare, all the while pumping, too. It is great to have clothes that are work appropriate that you can still nurse with. The camis and cardis are a must when it comes to that. Cross-front shirts are also wonderful when it comes to nursing. They are easy to pull down over the boob and you don’t need to get all undressed. Just make sure they have a lot of lycra in the material so they spring back. I’ve gotten some from CAbi that have ruching at the waist and are longer, so they help with concealing the tummy.

    After I was done with having kids I gave my considerable pregnancy and post-pregnancy wardrobe to a friend, who then gave it to her cousin and I think it went through two of her pregnancies. It definitely got enough mileage for what I paid for everything!

  • I have two kids and I wear skirts all the time! What you want to avoid in skirts is *short* skirts or *tight* skirts. Wear a peasant skirt. Women for millenia have chased toddlers therein.

    Elastic waists and feminine details are your friends (or whatever details make you feel most pretty). Wear a comfy skirt and a loose blouse (and sorry, Sal – not necklaces or scarves with a nurseling – they grab them/get tangled) and make your hair pretty but durable and go! Chunky bracelets can be fun and double as chewtoys – mind your bead size and durability.

    What you want to burn is anything that looks even remotely like gym clothes that you are wearing to do other than work out. And give back your husband’s tshirts. I know they fit. Give them back.

    You don’t have to spend a ton to look cute – hit deep department store sales, discount stores, etc etc … you aren’t looking for classic wardrobe staples to last decades right now, but you want to get out of the post-partum funk and feel like yourself again. Box up your pre-pregancy clothes and put them away for a few more months. You know what size they are, and you can pull them out (or donate them) just as easily in a year as you can now. Don’t torture yourself.

    Colors! Comfy! Not-Gym-Clothes. Your husband and baby (and you!) are worth looking just as cute as your local grocer. 🙂

  • Tip on the nursing tanks: get Target ones. They are comfy, long enough, and come in lots of colors online. I wore them under everything for 10 months (until my daughter chose not to nurse.) I still wear them occasionally, too as camis. They are awesome. The GlamourMom ones I had shrunk horribly and I threw them away (regrettably, because they were pricey!)

    I agree on nursing tanks + cardigans and jackets. Also button up shirts over a nursing tank were great. I hated stretching out my knit tops by raising them. And using a belly band as a belly cover when you need to nurse was wonderful, and it visually lengthened too-short shirts.

    Skirts can still work chasing kids if they are long enough. I like A-line ones, especially comfy jersey ones, with a t shirt. As long as they are long enough to play on the floor in, you don’t need to abandon them. 🙂

  • Veronica

    Love these suggestions! I’ve had a postpartum body 4 times and each time has been a little different. I’m just now at my pre-pregnancy weight and my son is 15 1/2 months. I’ve got a few things I’ve kept from pre-pregnancy are now fitting me decently. Now I’ve just gotta hit the gym to tone some of this jiggly stuff up. lol It’ll also help me feel better about myself. Longer hair is definitely better for me, I tried short and it was just too high maintenance for me.

  • Bubu

    quick comment in favor of the one-button cardi over nursing shirts or camis – that was great for my winter baby. I had good luck finding these at J. Jill.

  • Anne

    Boy this post makes me feel old. My last “Baby” is almost ten. With my first baby I bought two transition outfits. They were too big with in about three weeks. With baby number two, it took about three years to get back to pre-baby weight. I really loved gap maternity clothes (The came out with maternity clothes after I had my first baby). They were fairly reasonable and they could be adjusted to wear post -partum. I dressed differently for baby number two. We had moved back to where our families lived and we had many more people visiting us and we went out and about more. I bought a core wardrobe of a few shorts, a few cropped pants, some light weight cardies, and what really worked for me, wrap style shirts.

    About five months after baby number two, it became obvious that I wasn’t popping back as quickly as before so I did go out and splurge on a new post baby wardrobe. I went to a personal shopper at Nordstroms and she patched together a wardrobe for me. I know it sounds extravagant, but I feel it was worth it. I sat in a nice comfy fitting room and nursed my baby why she did all the leg work. Also she was able to figure out my size in various brands saving me tears of frustration about not being my former size. For the next few very hectic years it was a great relief to know that I had a decent, current wardrobe. I know I had the cost per wear on those items down to pennies by the time I was done with them.

    I also advocate cutting your hair at least up to about shoulder length if you like it long. With baby number two my hair started to thin out when he was about 4-5 months old. Keeping my hair a bit shorter made it look less straggly and it kept baby fingers from getting stuck in it. It also gave me the excuse to say to my husband, “No, I can’t just throw it back in a ponytail and go. You will have to watch the boys for a few minutes while I do my hair.” I have noticed that super long hair and an exhausted mommy face don’t usually complement one another.

    Last bit: find a great tube of lipstick or gloss. The right shade of lipstick can have magical restorative properties. Lipstick is never too tight and it makes you look put together when it feels like everything around you is coming apart.

  • I still want to know why the shirts are too short! And they are!!! Even when I drop down to the same size/weight that I was before, the dang things are too short! And it’s not the chest size either, I went back to what I was prebabies.

    • Anne

      It’s your boobs honey

      • LE

        My ribs are permanently bigger, could that have happened to you? And even at a similar weight, my motherhood body is a different shape. My waist is much thicker, ribs wider, breasts larger and lower.(Even my feet are a half size larger!) Also in some cases my pants’ waists are lower than what I used to wear (because I have more belly) and require a longer top. Finally, I have also changed mentally: whereas I used to be fine with shirts that hit JUST at the top of my pants, now I require a significant overlap– so the same length of shirt I used to wear feels too short to me now.

  • LinB

    If you are nursing, buy button-front tops and dresses. Opt for natural fibers, that will absorb any leakage. Opt for darkish, patterned fabrics — they hide spots better (both spots from you and spots that baby will leave on you). As for hair length: I had long hair, but chopped it off after baby kept yanking it out of my head — what she couldn’t reach, she couldn’t pull. Ditto earrings and necklaces. I resigned myself to no jewelry until she was able to understand that she was hurting me when she pulled. Which was three years.

  • GingerR

    A haircut immediately after delivery is a morale boost. Let your hair go in the last month and plan on a new cut the week after you deliver. Someone else can watch baby. But don’t go for a totally new style right then. You’ll lose hair post-delivery, if you nurse it won’t be until you stop nursing, otherwise it’ll be sooner. A short cut with your hair falling out may end up being shorter thinner than you’d imagined.

    I think after one or two weeks put your second trimester clothes away. Go out, someplace in your budget, and buy real clothes (the kind with waistbands) in the size you are now. Don’t buy a lot of them, but get yourself a couple of outfits. As you lose weight you’ll notice they’re getting too big and that’s a boost.

  • I think its a good idea to buy some clothes. Not a lot but you need shirts that cover you belly and pants that don’t give you a huge muffin top. It helped me feel better about myself to not spend most of my day feeling fat. I’d go with nothing that binds anywhere for a while. I also recommend a hooter hider or whatever brand you like if you plan on nursing out and about. That way you can feel comfortably just pulling your shirt up or down. I like to wear shirts with shirring at the top then I could just pull them under my boobs when I nursed.

    Oh and my body was changed forever. I was overweight when I got pregnant both times and the second was so sick that I actually lost weight. Now I’m the same size and weight that I was in high school but my hips are wider and my tummy is squishier then it ever was before.

    • LinB

      “Hooter hider.” LOL. I never heard them called that. Mostly I just shoved the baby up under my sweater and let her root away.

  • Anna

    I lived in my nursing tanks when my son was little, and I still wear them around the house sometimes (what? they’re comfortable). Buy a couple that will fit right away and a couple that will once you start to lose weight. You can throw them under ANYTHING – I like layers, so I often wore them under t-shirts.

    I also disagree about buying new clothes. It took me almost 9 months to get into some of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and there is NO reason for anyone to wear maternity clothes for that long. My philosophy was, who knows how long this is going to take or even if I’ll ever wear my old clothes again. You don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe, but do invest in a few pieces that make you feel good about the body you have right now.

    I have gone through some similar feelings since my son was born. A few months back, I really felt like I needed a change – my wardrobe was boring and I felt in a rut. Here are some things that worked for me:

    Embrace the stuff that’s good about your postpartum body, whether you have new boobs or curves, or a new appreciation for your ankles. There is something good there, so find it and dress to show it off.

    You have a new body, so try a new style. I had never worn skinny jeans until after I had a baby. Now they are my go-to silhouette! You never know what’s going to work until you try it. Now is a great time to experiment.

    Figure out what works for your lifestyle. I can’t wear skirts anymore – anything short enough to keep me from tripping is also short enough for my toddler to flash my undies to anyone in view. So, um, no more skirts. This summer, I’ve turned to shorts more and more because they’re so practical. Bermudas are especially nice because they can be rolled up for a different look.

    Find something that makes clothes feel like “you.” For me, that was seeking out styles with baby-safe embellishments (no sequins or beads, please). These are also easy to DIY. A ruffle or a bit of lace can make a regular t feel special and even dressy without sacrificing comfort or practicality. The same goes for patterns.

    Consider a color palette when shopping. There are some colors I just don’t wear, and there are some that I wear all the time. That awareness makes those colors feel like mine, even if it’s just a plain shirt.

  • larissa

    Wow, great post! I’m 4 months out from the birth of my 3rd child and I know how she feels. Most women have a mommy uniform of some sort, whether it’s cute tees and good fitting jeans or easy, over the head dresses that come past the knees, you have to find what works for you and embrace it. This post by Dana of Made always helps center me when I get too caught up in feeling bad about my mommy clothes.
    http://www.dana-made-it.com/2011/05/what-i-wear-everyday.html

  • Leslie

    My go-to shoes for pregnancy and post-partum are clogs. Dansko fits my foot really well and 6pm.com frequently has them on sale.

    Things that are too loose and flowing can make you look pregnant all over again. I tend to wear things that are more close-fitting–long tanks that cover my belly without showing every lump with semi-fitted t-shirts or button front shirts. Jeans that fit are well worth the investment; I’ve found that mid-rise is most comfortable (I don’t like things on my waist anymore).

    For work, gored skirts can be nice–a sleeker look than a gathered skirt, but easier to fit than a pencil skirt.

    Everything has to be washable. I won’t buy things anymore that require dry-cleaning.

  • S.

    The postpartum time is so hard, but it was the catalyst I needed to get serious about updating my style. Sal is right on with this post, but the only thing I would as is this: this is the PERFECT time to buy Sal’s mini-makeover PDF! Sal released her mini-makeover PDF just as I was itching to completely “remake” myself, and working through her questions was a great way for me to figure out what I really wanted from my style and to stave of the desire to just BUY. It was really what tided me over until my body stabilized.

    • Sal

      My gosh, thanks for the endorsement, S.! I’m THRILLED to hear the mini makeover was beneficial to you during your post-partum period.

  • Dear Sal, I loved this post, not least because I’m expecting at the moment. I also loved it because you’ve made such an effort for your readers by considering, researching (very well) and approaching a topic that you yourself are perhaps not so heavily involved in personally. That, for me, is why I keep returning to your blog.

    The haircut topic is an interesting one. My hairdresser recommended not to change anything about my hair until my body (and everything else!) has settled down after the birth. I mean, we are under-going so many rapid, uncontrolled changes why add an intentional change to the list? The risk is that we may not like the cut together with our ‘new’ figures and lifestyles; that we cut our hair off to prevent the baby pulling at it to find that he/she never pulls the long hair of our friends and family, or that we spend ages growing it out to find that we look drab… I’m planning to wait a few months after the birth before deciding on anything to do with my hair.

  • Jen

    I’m not a parent, but I have a prominent belly and I work with young kids . . . so take it as you will . . .

    Shiny jewelry seems to get pulled on more than colored jewelry.

    There are some beaded necklaces a mom came up with that are supposed to be kid proof. I can’t remember the name right now, but I think it could be googled. She was on the Martha Stewart show.

    I had a friend who actually constantly wore a long shawl-like scarf as her “hide the breast-feeding” layer.

    I don’t buy work clothes that aren’t washable–cotton with a little stretch or spandex is awesome. As is jersey, but you have to be careful because it can cling.

    I can wear trousers, skirts, dresses, and pants while working with children. What I can’t wear are skirts/dresses not knee length or longer, tight pencil skirts, tops that gap or stretch to show the boobs. You’re either bending over or bending down constantly. Also look out for embellishments on tops–ribbons, sequins, glitter, 3-D flowers could be a problem with infants.

    I dig either the empire waist, tops that float away from the body, or ones with a band at the very bottom (not drop waist) to hide and camoflage a belly.

    I prefer the high-waisted (yes, mom jean) jean, but in a dark wash that hides stains and slight flare leg that looks polished.

  • Helen

    This post comes at a great time. Thanks so much for it, Sal. This summer, a black nursing tank (the ones from Glamourmom are high quality, supportive and structured) and a colorful cotton wrap skirt has been my go-to outfit. Add some cute, soft-soled gladiator sandals, and I actually feel pretty gosh darn cute, even if I still have a ever-so-slight belly. I really can’t endorse the Glamourmom tops enough; they really suck you in and give your boobies a nice shape.

    These tips will be especially helpful as we head into fall– when my pile of non-maternity jeans start calling my name. Four months post-partum, those jeans are still just a tad snug, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself– the weight loss has been sloooow but steady.

    Just to underscore one of your points, Sal: Pregnant ladies, wear the heck out of your cute long necklaces and dangly earrings. I’m not much of jewelry wearer, and I look at mine longingly now. The only jewelry I don these days is a long necklace that doubles as a teething toy. They exist and I own one. Sad but true. (Not too sad, actually– they’re sort of nifty).

    • Jen

      I have to say, as a jewelry maker and lover, I worked two years in an infant-toddler room as a teacher assistant and wore necklaces and dangly earrings. I simply gave the infants a teething toy instead of my necklace or earrings and the toddler understood “no-no”. Yes, they may try to grab them, but I never had a necklace or earrings break.

      • LE

        Sure, but when I am nursing my son it is not possible to prevent him from grabbing my necklace.

        • LinB

          Agreed. Each mother-infant nursing pair is different, and some infants just like to grab and pull — hair, jewelry, the cat’s tail, other children’s toys. My daughter was very fond of snatching at my earrings. I stopped wearing them to prevent torn earlobes.

  • I liked the nursing tank plus cardigan or button-front shirt combo. I also liked lightweight scarves – both to make me feel prettier, and to cover up a little more skin when nursing in public.

    I bought several pairs of pants in in-between sizes at a thrift store – since I didn’t spend much on them, it didn’t matter that they only fit for a month or two.

    And long hair that could be put in a ponytail or bun was definitely easiest when my son was an infant.

  • Sarah

    I agree with giving yourself time with your body. I find that it takes me a year post-partum to feel human again. There’s also the post-nursing changes, too; for me, I seem to take another year to stabilize after that.
    I also love skirts, even chasing my very fast 2 year old. They seem much more forgiving in fitting my hips and waist than pants, and cooler, too, for the summer. I’ve been wearing “sporty” cargo styles, or a-line jersey types.

  • Monika

    My first baby is 4½ months, and my favourite thing to wear is a shirtdress, with a skirt that is long and wide enough to move in, and pockets. And it needs to be patterned, to camouflage the lighter stains. It’s comfortable, easy nursing access, I feel cute, and it won’t matter if it’s a little looser through the bust and waist next summer. I only have two, but I’m planning to get more! Getting a great nursing bra was a good decision, too.

  • Mrs.M in MI

    I can’t offer any practical advice here, but I did think of the recent article I read in Lucky about Jessica Alba, where she gave the first honest description of the diet and exercise plan used by postpartum actresses that I think I’ve ever seen.

    She basically said that she eats 1200 calories a day and exercises up to five hours a day to lose the baby weight. She did not say whether she nurses or not, but even if she doesn’t it seems to me like that is really crazy.

  • LE

    I have been either pregnant or nursing for the past 3.75 years, and my advice is: dress to feel like yourself. I always wore jeans and t-shirts before, and so I bought myself some really nice jeans and t-shirts. The jeans are current cuts, nice washes, with enough stretch to be comfortable and most importantly they do not cut into my belly fat. The t-shirts (great colors, designs, with embellishments or whathaveyou) have to be long and loose enough that they don’t highlight the inevitable small amount of muffin top. Cardigans instead of sweatshirts or pullovers. Small earrings are always fine, some sturdy necklaces, and make-up always helps me feel fabulous. Mascara and lip-color give you the most bang for the least time investment. I also recommend awesome shoes that you can wear to the park, especially boots, flats, and cool sneakers.
    For online shopping, I buy stuff from Gap and Old Navy because I know my size in those stores, there are always sales, they have free shipping with a minimum order, and it is easy to return stuff to the store (I HATE paying return shipping! So! Much!).

    I also want to add that it really varies what nursing wear works. I personally don’t wear button-fronts because I hate fumbling with buttons one-handed while my baby screams (and then trying to button them up while juggling a sleeping infant!) and I feel like I am exposing half my torso.

  • maya

    1. Jersey skirts, preferably w. foldover yoga type top. I have some from American Apparel, Target.

    2. Longer tanks/camis to layer under your suddenly short t-shirts.

    3. V-necks and crossover necklines. I never liked pulling up the shirt to nurse, I felt my belly was too exposed, but pulling down is excellent.

    4. Leggings. Under the skirts. If it’s chilly.

    5. Fabulous tall (flat) boots. You can get away with all sorts of things with some hot boots propping you up.

    These things are totally my uniform post-partum. It feels like I’m wearing pajamas!

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