NIP: Tools of the Trade — Clothing

Clothing is not really something I’m generally very into.  I’m not very stylish, and I generally wear items way past when they should probably be retired.  That being said, I kind of looked forward to nursing clothes as a way to branch out a little bit, and see about expanding my comfort zone, stylistically.  I do, however, also live in a cold climate.  Even more than that, I live in a cold house.  We keep the heat pretty low in the winter (57 degrees, Fahrenheit when we’re home and awake, a few degrees colder when we’re out or asleep).

Pretty much everything I could find on nursing clothes, in terms of what people actually wear was pointing me in the direction of nursing tanks, alone (for those in warmer climates/households, presumably) or layered under something with longer sleeves.  My mother-in-law very kindly bought me some clothes from Motherwear, which were helpful, but not something I could really outfit myself in 100% of the time due to cost (and they’re definitely one of the more affordable makers of nursing clothing).

Nursing TurtleneckEnter my fabulous sister-in-law, and her wonderful sewing machine.  See, the thing I really, really wanted were turtlenecks.  I live in turtlenecks in the winter because of my affinity for wool sweaters (and aforementioned cold house).  Turtlenecks are not very nursing-friendly, but Darlene happened upon this great tutorial for how to make your own simple nursing shirt, using pretty much any shirt pattern.  Off we went to the fabric store, and she made me a whole week’s worth of wonderful nursing turtlenecks.  I’m wearing one right now, since the overlapped opening is also hugely helpful for pumping without having to take off your shirt or bare lots of skin.

My husband, a crafty guy who was getting a little burned out on all the math in his dissertation, made me three dresses as well — you can’t even see the overlap line on this one:

Nursing Dress

and this one, where you can see the elastic:

With warmer weather came easier nursing, no matter what clothes I was wearing — lower necklines that can just be pulled aside are by far the ultimate in nursing convenience,  but one thing that I did have to adjust to is that pull-aside necklines definitely expose more skin.  I got used to it, but as a pretty modest person, I also appreciate the added cover these overlap styles give when nursing in public.

What have you found most useful for nursing on the go?

NIP: Tools of the trade — Baby Carriers

One of the things I love about breastfeeding is that it is pretty light in the gear department.  Mostly, I’ve already got what I need built in, although I do have an electric pump for when I’m at work, but when I’m with my son, there isn’t really much gear I need. One of the things I hope to teach Jesse as he gets older (and, at 11 months, I’m starting to now) is the difference between a need and a want.  I think the NIP gear I describe below definitely falls into the latter category, although it is very, very, useful.

NIP at Sergei's Bar Mitzvah

NIP at my cousin's Bar Mitzvah.

A Baby Carrier
My life totally changed when I learned how to nurse in a carrier.  I was all about the baby wearing right from the start, especially once winter really set in and a stroller wasn’t very practical on city streets, but I kept trying and failing to nurse in a carrier.  It made it much more difficult to nurse on the go, because I had to gauge how much time was left in a bus ride or train ride (to make sure I had time to get the carrier off, nurse, and get Jesse back in securely), or find some place to sit down.  Most of the instructions I found online (and in my Moby instruction book) suggested shifting the baby into a cradle hold to nurse, which involved loosening the carrier and, well, shifting the baby, which I found to be a huge pain.

My husband, who fed Jesse bottles of expressed milk while I was at work, took to carrying him in a pouch sling, with a bottle propped against his chest as a way to get some hands-free time.  Jesse just sat up straight and held the bottle, with help from friction, and ate.  I was totally jealous that I couldn’t feed him so easily in a carrier, until one day, I saw a friend nursing her daughter in her Ergo at a Boston Babywearers meeting.  Baby R was sitting up, and my friend had just moved her breast to bring it up to R’s mouth level — there was no shifting, and very minor loosening!  It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, and when she showed me how she did it, my life changed.  I could now nurse while walking down the street, while running for a bus, when there wasn’t a place to sit.

I definitely learned a very valuable lesson that day:  there are multiple ways to nurse in a carrier, and what works best for you will vary depending on how much of the work your baby can do (older babies need less help getting set up and staying latched) and how your body is shaped.  Another friend, whose breasts are shaped differently, said she could never nurse her babe sitting up like I do, but finds a cradle hold in a carrier to be what’s easiest for her.

Now, I do have a bit of a carrier addiction — in our house, we currently have a Moby (stretchy wrap), ring sling, two pouch slings (one sized for me, one for my husband), a mei tai, a Beco Gemini, a Boba, and a Vatanai woven wrap (my husband’s favorite).  As I said before, this is by no means a necessity. You can definitely nurse in public successfully, and discreetly, without a carrier, but boy oh boy does a carrier make it easier.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of my favorite parts about baby wearing!!