During my pregnancy I spent a lot of time ‘dressing’ my bump. Clothes have always been my passion and I took great pride in showing off my emerging baby belly and embracing my new figure.
I loved being pregnant but towards the end you do inevitably start to get a little bored and look forward to after the birth when you can wear your normal clothes again that were months earlier relegated to the back of the wardrobe. Or so I thought…
I’d read articles where people said that you’d still look six months pregnant afterwards and can’t immediately get back into your clothes. This was true, despite having been fortunate to have a fairly neat bump, but there are many other things that nobody tells you. What literally nobody tells you is how difficult it is to dress when you’re breast feeding and how inappropriate most pre-pregnancy clothes are for a brand new baby.
For starters, any top that has embellishments is out as that little one will writhe and wiggle around on you so much they’d be covered in scratches with the slightest hint of a sequin or stud. This also rules out most jewellery except earrings (goodbye long strands of pearls). Same goes for irritating materials – that brand new skin is paper-thin and sensitive so you want to be wearing natural fibres.
Which is just as well, as your own skin will breathe easier through them with all the sweating. Let’s not beat around the bush with this one. Your body needs to get rid of excess fluid and so you start to sweat like a teenager. It only lasts a few days but once that’s done you’re constantly running around after that little one or holding them to your chest like the world’s most efficient hot water bottle and sometimes, just for shits and giggles, you’re putting them in a sling just to encase the heat even more. My baby was born in February and pre-baby I was a ‘wearing-thermals-always-cold’ kind of girl – respect to all the mummies whose babies were born in the height of summer is all I can say.
I am a dress girl and pretty much all dresses (wrap around and shirt dresses are the exceptions) are also out for the foreseeable future when you’re feeding unless you want to flash your knickers as well as your boobs to strangers in public.
Add to this something else that I guarantee nobody has told you – you will end up drenched fairly often from a combination of leakage and hungry baby eating messily so any woollen or heavy materials are just going to keep your chest wetter for longer. Light colours are also really going to show off that wet stain.
And don’t even get me started on shoes. There is a reason that Converse and Uggs are a mum’s uniform of choice. Comfortable, flat and easy to put on with one hand (usually while balancing a baby off your boob with the other to save time in the getting out of the house mission). I tried to wear cute little ankle boots with heels one day (grateful that my pregnancy clown feet had deflated) and nearly toppled right over while trying to carry the baby in the car seat, that I can only imagine is weighed down with rocks to make it so heavy (because early motherhood isn’t challenging enough)!
As if we aren’t narrowing the wardrobe down enough, let’s go back to still looking pregnant. In my case, it was like someone had let the air out of a beach ball and all of the material was left just gaping around my midriff – so I was about the size of a six-months pregnant lady but actually just looked like I was carrying puppy fat. So I was a little reluctant to start wearing the clothes I had worn so proudly to flaunt my bump.
And finally the other delight we can’t forget is the post-labour fog. All this is happening to you while you don’t have the ability to form a coherent thought. You’re still wondering how you will ever get out of the house and thinking it would be easier to stay in and remain topless forever (my husband couldn’t understand why that was a problem of course). I actually described myself as looking like Lynette Scavo from Desperate Housewives to friends one day as I got back from the chemist and saw I’d been running round wearing an oversized man shirt with baby sick on it. Having always considered myself to be a Gabby Solis right down to the pristine make up and nails, this was quite a transformation.
I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard anyone talk about any of this beforehand and the frantic Google searches I did threw up only a handful of results (thank you to Sugar Laws, Making it Lovely, Mom 365 and Disney Baby for your advice on what to wear).
This all might sound pretty vain of me, but being able to get dressed in a morning is pretty fundamental and with a new baby to look after you don’t really want to be faced with the daily dilemma of literally having nothing to wear (I don’t say that lightly as those who know me will know that the clothes I don’t own aren’t worth knowing about – there’s literally half of the high street from the last 10 years stashed around my house). I needed to get my inner Gabby back!!
So, pregnant ladies, my advice to you to help you remain a Gabby is to start your maternity leave by getting prepared for this as follows:
1. Spend some time going through your wardrobe and analysing carefully what will work (more below) and what fit you at six months gone. Make sure they go well with comfortable flats. Maybe even have a practice at pulling them up / down / opening them with one hand (if you can hold a massive plate of jelly still in the other hand at the same time this is the highest level of practice I can think of to set you on the right track).
2. Make sure said items are washed and ironed as unless you have a husband willing to do all the washing (luckily mine is a bit of a dab hand at the washing), you’ll be going through Febreeze like you do toilet roll afterwards. Ideally make sure you have plenty of items that don’t need ironing. Failing that, just accept your standards will change and embrace the creases.
3. Put the workable items right at the front in reach and bury away those that definitely won’t work. It won’t do you any good to keep staring at the forbidden fruit longingly. This also goes for your pre-pregnancy jeans – just don’t even contemplate them as even if your bump goes down quite quickly like mine did, it’s probably still going to take some time for the wibble not to wobble.
4. What to wear? Thick leggings are your friends. Also your friends – tops that button down or (even better) press stud down so you can whip them open easily or tops with a bit of space in them so you can easily lift up and down (e.g. Breton tops). I would also stock up on some basic vests and camis to go underneath so that you don’t expose your wibble (or if you used a bump band then this is really handy). The tank vests with wide arm holes are ideal as you can actually fairly discretely move that to the side to feed (and this helps if you have a baby like mine who loves to unexpectedly pop off the boob a lot just to keep you on your toes). Wrap around is also good and long scarves and cardigans will be your saviours to dress outfits up or down and for comfortable and discrete feeding. If you’re really averse to living in leggings, a denim skirt is a good investment. I also recommend a jacket with a hood (it’s physically impossible to carry an umbrella and push a pram at the same time) and a few pairs of lounge pants for those early days at home.
5. Buy nursing bras. I nearly didn’t buy these until after the baby came and my mum talked me into it literally a week before he arrived. The day your milk comes in is not the time for shopping (incidentally there are a lot of things you shouldn’t do the day your milk comes in but that’s another story). Go somewhere like Mothercare a few weeks before you’re due to get properly fitted and buy at least four and some separate night bras. They get soaked so often they’re a good investment and normal bras can cause blocked ducts if you’re hitching them up all the time.
While I haven’t yet quite found my inner Gabby, I’ve probably transitioned to a Susan for now. The Gabby glam might no longer be attainable in this new life, but perhaps a Charlotte York would be a good post breast feeding goal.