Which are the best nursing clothes to wear to work? If you’ve got a daycare at your office, or a daycare near your office, you don’t need to fuss with a breast pump — but finding nursing clothes to wear to work can be tricky. Can you look professional in comfortable, accessible, washable clothes? Reader E, who is lucky enough to have a daycare at her office, asks:
I’ve come back from maternity leave and can’t find any clothes that are both work appropriate and nursing friendly. I’m lucky enough to have a daycare at work, so I nurse her at lunch time, and pump in the afternoon, so I need versatile outfits. So far, I’ve been relying on ponte skirts (easy to wash if she spits up on it…), and a couple of motherhood nursing tops that look professional-ish, on Fridays I also wear nursing tanks from Nordstrom that have wide straps so I feel I can get away with it on casual days.
I don’t want to spend a lot of money as I still have a lot of weight to lose, and will stop nursing her in 3 months when she turns one. However, it’s getting really boring …. so I’d love to have some more tops that I could use that don’t scream “I used to wear this when pregnant,” but are still user-friendly.
Interesting question — and one that I can see a lot of women struggling with as daycares at work get more and more popular. I have a few thoughts, but am curious to see what other people say:
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Psst: foundations matter! These are some of our favorite nursing bras:
Above, some of the best bras for nursing and pumping as of 2022: 1) Bravado 2) Cake 3) Natori 4) Wacoal (not pictured but also: Elomi and Kindred Bravely!)
Hadley Stilwell specializes in “effortless elegance for breastfeeding mothers.” — I drooled over the brand’s pieces frequently when I was nursing, but never pulled the trigger. Pictured above: their Signature Jacket, only $67 — it’s machine washable, and coordinates with a number of their other items to make a suit, a twinset, and more. (2020 update: The brand is now available on Amazon and sometimes on Zulily!)
Get thee a nursing tank! I was a huge fan of the Undercover Mama nursing tank, which readers mentioned in our discussion about pump-friendly work clothes. It basically meant I could wear any top I wanted because my belly and back were always covered, even if my boobs weren’t.
Looking for the best nursing camisoles and tanks? These are great for adding coverage for your belly if you lift your shirt up to nurse…
(I also liked that the version I got had a bit of control but was more comfortable than a lot of shapewear — I never had that dreaded “rolling-up-and-yanking-down-all-dang-day” problem.) Wear your regular, pre-pregnancy tops and blouses — push ’em up, pull ’em down, unbutton it — anything works because the nursing tank has you covered.
(If you’re looking mostly for coverage from the top, do consider a nursing scarf or poncho — even just a regular scarf can work.)
Focus on pants + tops (or skirts + tops), unless you’re really a dress girl. There are a ton of nursing-friendly dresses, but this is going to be cost prohibitive. You can always stalk eBay or ThredUp, but with a mere three months to go, I wouldn’t spend the energy. A lot of the best dresses are good for both maternity and nursing, so for readers who are still pregnant and plan to nurse when they come back to work, they’re good to consider.
Layer with cardigans. I think it was a combination of nursing and working from home that led me to my waterfall-cardigan obsession — at one point I had them in literally every color. They’re generally washable and soft (for you and the baby!), they add color and an added dose of privacy, and they’ll fit regardless of what size you are.
Some nice “home” cardigan options to elevate your every day (that are also great for nursing) include these (2020 update!):
Psst: here are some of our favorite comfortable cardigans for nursing or lounging as of 2022… we look for ones that are easy care, soft, and without zippers or other details that could poke baby…
A more polished look, of course, is a sweater blazer — these are some of our latest favorites!
Pictured above, great sweater jackets for the office: gray / gray / green / navy with pockets / cropped navy (not pictured but also!)
Consider accessorizing for the office only. Blazers and statement necklaces aren’t very baby-friendly (at least, they weren’t with my babies), but they ARE easy to remove before you head down to the daycare. Look for flattering colors for both — they’ll help to make that “black t-shirt and gray trousers” combo feel fresh.
Stick with washable workwear. We’ve rounded up the best brands for washable workwear — so you can find them! Some of our favorites are below:
Some of our favorite brands of washable workwear: green / black / black / navy
Ladies who nurse during working hours, what are your favorite things to wear? Which nursing clothes are best for work?
Psst: Here’s my favorite underwire nursing bra, as well as my favorite nursing sleep bra (also great for those first few weeks with baby).
Updated images (2020) via Deposit Photos / IgorVetushko.
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I thought I needed actual official nursing tops at work, but discovered that it was easiest just to wear normal shirts that I could push up or unbutton. No need to go overboard, just figure out something that works for you in your existing wardrobe.
I found button down shirts to be the easiest items for nursing and pumping, and even invested in some casual ones to wear while at home. These worked even better for me than actual “nursing” tops. My daughter generally drooled on the nursing tops, which left stains, but I could unbutton enough buttons to get the button down shirts thoroughly out of the way. And since many of these are designed to be a bit looser fitting, they should be relatively forgiving of your changing size
Not sure this addresses the OP’s exact situation since this may be a temporary wardrobe. I had a similar daycare setup, though, with a daycare at my office. I nursed in the morning at drop off, pumped 2-3x a day and then nursed when we got home. I found jersey wrap dresses in prints to be my favorite. I wore a dress almost every day with a nursing cami underneath. To nurse, I just unzipped the dress and stripped it down to the waist or pushed the top aside with a wrap dress. Wearing the cami, I was still covered. I used a pashmina and/or coat for warmth if needed. In general, I think prints work well and mask the unavoidable milk dribbles and snot streaks.
I bought a black Isabella oliver “Bella” dress and wore it to death — it was a great investment. We brought baby to several parties, including various celebrations for her, when she was small and it always worked and was easy to pop out and nurse her in. Then when I went back to work I wore it at least once a week under a cardigan or blazer.
The Karen Kane faux wrap dress that Kat has featured is great for nursing, pumping with Freemies, and has a higher neckline than most wraps. I also washed them by machine.
Dresses – These are more for the casual office (and beware – some dresses are a bit thin and best worn with tights), but Milk Nursingwear has a decent selection of nursing dresses.
I’m in the same situation; I nurse at daycare once a day and work-and-pump from home the rest of the time, but often have client interviews, meetings, et.c. (Semi-thredjack: how do you deal with a day of pumping offsite or at conferences where you have no fridge access? I lug the whole shebang around, mini cooler and all, and rinse out the pump flanges, but am wondering if there is a better way.)
That’s what I do – I make sure to have hand sanitizer and Medela wipes in my tote bag as well.
The Pleione wrap tops at Nordstrom at good for both nursing and pumping, come in a wide range of colors and prints, are often on sale, and are machine washable.
This was my childcare situation for a few months. Every day I wore a nursing cami (actually I am so small chested that even a regular stretchy cami with no bra is fine for me!) with a cardigan or button up shirt over it, and any skirt or pants that fit. I stocked up on Charming cardigans during Talbots’ sale.
M in LA says
Agree – regular tops. Button shirts or tops that I just push up with pants/skirts. I find that in the daycare-at-work setting, no one cares. No one is staring, everyone is polite, no one is going to harass you for nursing in public, everyone is thinking, good job mama for making it work! (OR AT LEAST THEY SHOULD BE.) So wear whatever. I like the fun prints from Boden’s “The Shirt” or the Ravello top. (Prints also hide drips and minor spits!)
Anne Marie says
Separates and layering on top with a camisole – layer a cami under your top, whether it’s a blouse, tunic, knit top, pullover sweater, whatever. You can then wear a cardi or blazer on top as needed. The top gets pulled up (or unbuttoned if it’s a button-down) but the cami still covers your stomach. Then the top of the cami gets pulled down together with the nursing bra cup. I have a bunch of the Nordys halogen camis, the ones with skinny straps, and they have held up very well to being repeatedly pulled down under the boob, even though they are not nursing camis. (I’m a 34D normally and DD/DDD while nursing for reference.)
Most regular sweaters and blouses work fine with this approach unless they are very fitted and not stretchy or particularly prone to wrinkling. When you’re done just straighten up and if needed pop into the bathroom to tuck in.
It’s nice not to have to modify your work wardrobe much or buy a bunch of new clothes. Unfortunately dresses are usually not practical for pumping or nursing and as Kat said you’d have to spend a lot of money to get a whole wardrobe of nursing dresses, which for me was just not practical for the relatively short period of time I would have used them. (Plus a lot of the nursing dresses out there are either too casual, or rather frumpy or funny looking.) But I was very excited to be able to wear dresses again after I stopped pumping!
Personally I think the best nursing clothes by far come from a brand called Momzelle. Their tops look amazing on the postpartum body (seriously they’re magic) and they have very clever openings for pumping and nursing. For a longer review of them I’ve done look here: