Heading back to work after baby isn't all bad -- you also get to head back to wearing real (fashionable!) clothes, after spending much of your maternity leave in sweats and t-shirts. But if you're a nursing mom and you're planning on pumping at work, you may have to also do some forward planning on what you're going to wear. As you probably already realized, your body has gone through a few changes, plus you're going to need pretty steady access to your boobs.
You don't have to restrict yourself to pumping-specific clothes, although there are a few brands that are really making an effort to help you look good. If you're looking in a "normal" store, look for dresses and tops that will allow you to somewhat comfortably expose your boobs without taking the garment off or pulling it up around your neck (even if you are at work and your office door locks, you don't want to be sitting around in your underwear…do you?). Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Cowl-necks. Enough said. Cowl-neck Top at Shop Bu Ru, $30
2. The crossover/overlapping V-neck. Wrap dresses are a good option, too, except they can make a post-baby tummy even more noticeable, so think about Spanx if you care about that sort of thing. DVF Jeanne dress, $345
3. Button downs. Don't forget the "henley" shirt, too – not a true button-down, but it has a few buttons at the top. Yumi Kim top at Bump Brooklyn, $146
4. Scoop and V-necks. But these have to be pretty deep scoops or Vs to work, or you'll end up stretching the hell out of them, so try these out with very full (aka big) boobs to make sure they are work appropriate. If they're not, you're back in camisole territory. Unless you work at Hooters, in which case, go deep V all the way. Ivana Helsinki Dress at ASOS, $114.82
5. The camisole with something else on top. This allows you to pull your shirt up but not have an exposed belly. In general, you will find yourself wearing a lot of camisoles. But beware the nursing-camisole-at-work idea: We like to tell ourselves this just looks like a tank top, but it doesn't. Those gigantic plastic snaps just above each boob to allow you to open up and nurse? Everyone sees them snaps, and no one thinks this is a normal tank top. Topshop Strappy Cami Top, $12
After picking up a few fashion basics, you may want to think about your underthings as well, like a pumping bra, which is a truly medieval device that is basically a tube bra with two nipple holes in it. Some women just find a way to stick their pump horns into their actual bra cups. Either way, you want an option that holds the pump horns for you, rather than having to hold them to your chest while you are pump.
It's also worth investing in a “hooter hider" or nursing cover. Even if this isn't your taste, you may want to get it for work, home when company is over, and being out and about. While some babies simply won't tolerate being covered up, you can use it while they're still little and helpless to defend themselves. And at work, having an extra barrier between your boobs and your co-workers is never a bad thing.
Whatever you do, don't despair that your fashion is not where it used to be. This is a temporary situation, and one in which you at least get to enjoy a temporary boob job. And keep your non-nursing friendly clothes in the closet and out of storage (those that fit) -- you can always wear them on date night, as a reprieve from all of those cowl necks.