A Comprehensive Guide to Nursing Dresses
Hi there, mama!
Here at the Main Street Exchange, we want you to feel modest, beautiful, and confident in all your clothing, including nursing-friendly clothing that isn’t frumpy or unaffordable.
Our goal is to empower and affirm you in every stage of life!
For us, this means providing quality clothing that enables you to embrace your unique style with confidence - including while you’re feeding your baby.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about finding the perfect nursing dress!
Nursing Dresses vs. Nursing Friendly Dresses
Let’s start with a few clarifications just to make sure we’re all on the same page.
In advertisements and listings for dresses (including ours), you may see some items described as “nursing dresses” while others are described as “nursing-friendly.”
What’s the difference?
Not much, actually. Nursing dresses are dresses that were specially designed for moms who are breastfeeding or pumping regularly. These are more likely to be made with designs like hidden zippers, overlays, and hidden slits.
Nursing-friendly dresses (and tops) are made for anyone but include features that make them work well for a nursing mom. Examples of nursing-friendly options are wrap dresses and anything with buttons or a quarter-zip neckline.
Maternity Dress vs. Nursing Dress
Are maternity dresses and nursing dresses interchangeable?
Some designs, like those made with stretchy fabrics or roomy waistlines, work great for both, particularly if we're talking about dresses created for the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. An example of this type of design is our Kate dress.
A maternity dress with a simple bodice that doesn’t include any nursing-friendly features (e.g., buttons, hidden zippers), or one that is designed for late-term pregnancy wouldn’t work very well for nursing.
If you can find a few dresses that work for pregnancy and nursing, that’s great! Not only does it mean a simplified wardrobe, but it also increases the amount of wear you can get from items, therefore making them more cost-effective. We’ll talk more about this later.
But first, let’s talk about nursing dress designs.
There are many designs out there for nursing dresses - enough to fit whatever your style may be!
Nursing dresses with buttons generally have them down the center of the bodice. Buttons are a very popular nursing design for several reasons. First, buttons provide easy access for your baby, while also giving you a lot of security fit-wise. As a bonus, they add simple, lovely detail to your dress! Many dresses that aren’t designed especially for nursing moms also have functional buttons, making this a very versatile option.
2 - Wrap Front
Simple and popular, this design is created by overlapping two pieces of fabric in the bodice. If it's a true wrap dress, the front closure will be created by wrapping one side over the other and tying it at the side or back. This is also a versatile design - it can be worn whether you are in the nursing stage or not. It can also be dressed up or down depending on the dress fabric and the accessories you choose.
3 - Hidden Zippers or Snaps
One way to design a dress specifically for nursing is to include hidden zippers or snaps at opportune locations. Hidden zippers are usually located on each side of the bodice and worked into the natural design. For example, they are often placed under a ruffle or pleat. Hidden snaps can be used to secure an overlay design or an opening at the bottom of the bodice. One very important aspect of snap closures is their strength. Make sure the snaps are strong enough that they won’t burst open under normal movement or pressure.
4 - Overlay/Tiered
Another common design for nursing dresses is the overlay or tiered design. The bodice of the dress includes an extra layer of fabric that offers coverage while still providing nursing access. This design is cute and discrete, an easy win for mom and baby.
5 - Quarter-zip neckline
While this design is probably more common in sweaters and tops, it is also found in dresses. This design is very versatile but is probably not a great choice for the early toddler stage when babies tend to pull on everything.
6 - Stretchy neckline
A simple, versatile option, a stretchy neckline is a great option if you don’t want to be bothered with hidden openings or fastenings. The one downside to using a neckline this way is that it could stretch it out causing the dress to wear out more quickly.
There are other designs that didn’t make our list, but these are some that you are more likely to come across. The design is a significant part of what makes a good nursing dress, but not all of it. So, what should you consider when searching for the best nursing dress for you?
The Best Nursing Dress
We all have different tastes and lifestyles and that affects what we are looking for in a nursing dress. One person may love something completely different from the next, and that is okay!
However, there are at least six key elements to look for when choosing the best nursing dress for you!
1 - Functionality
If the dress doesn’t function as you need it to, it wastes your time and money. Make sure the openings are the right size for you and that you can easily open and close them. For example, if the buttonholes on a dress are too small, it causes difficulty and extra stress. Does the design give you the level of coverage you want? Do the wash instructions match the amount of time you want/have to invest in cleaning it?
2 - Versatility
Versatility is a huge asset in any dress, but especially for you as a nursing mom. As we mentioned earlier, finding a dress that works for both pregnancy and breastfeeding/ pumping is almost like getting two dresses for the price of one. This diminishes the problem of needing to purchase a new wardrobe for each stage of motherhood. Styling versatility is another thing to look for in a good nursing dress. Not only does this simplify your wardrobe, but it also means you choose your dresses more intentionally. In the end, you are more likely to love your wardrobe!
A good nursing dress will fit well. What does that mean? With a good fit, you get the coverage you want and feel secure in your dress. For example, a poorly fitted wrap neckline is more likely to gape than one that fits well. A fabric with some stretch also plays into how well the dress fits!
3 - Length
It's important that your dress is a comfortable length. If it’s too short, you’ll need to be conscious of your hemline while nursing, which simply adds stress. You also want to be careful about wearing long dresses that could be a tripping hazard.
4 - Fabric
As we already mentioned, stretchier fabrics mean you can move more comfortably. They are also more forgiving and maintain a good fit even as your bust size goes through changes.
5 - Comfort
Choose a dress that you feel comfortable in and that matches your style. Being a mom doesn’t mean you need to dress in a way that you don’t like! There are beautiful, comfortable dresses out there, so there’s no need to settle!
Why should I invest in nursing dresses?
This is a really important question for at least two reasons.
First, changing your wardrobe to fit your stage of life can be expensive. If you already bought a new wardrobe for your pregnancy, it may feel discouraging to buy lots of new clothes once again. This is where investing in versatile dresses is a great choice.
Second, it's good to set some expectations for your wardrobe. If you know why you’re investing, you’ll feel more comfortable with your decision to do so.
So why should you invest?
- It simplifies the nursing process. When you wear a dress that’s designed so you can feed your baby with ease and comfort, it means less stress for you.
- Dresses are simple to wear. This is true no matter what stage of life you’re in. Dresses are wonderful because not only are they beautiful, they are simple, one-piece outfits.
- It’s discreet. Wearing a nursing dress generally means you can feed your baby more discreetly. This allows you to feed your baby in a wider range of locations without feeling vulnerable or exposed.
- You’ll feel more confident. Let’s face it. You feel confident when you’re dressed for the occasion - whether it’s the office, Sunday morning, heading to the gym, or feeding your baby!
Styling a Nursing Dress
As a mom, your energy is absorbed in caring for your baby and it's easy to feel like you can’t look elegant or beautiful. But no worries! You can remain elegant by implementing the same styling rules you've always used. Here are a few, in particular, to keep in mind:
1 - Everyday
Knit-type materials make great everyday dresses! They can be stand-alone pieces in the summer and paired with sandals or sneakers. A comfy cardigan is a great option to complete the look on cooler days.
2 - Out and About
Going out for coffee with friends or doing some shopping? Dress it up a bit with a hat and some comfortable flats or mules!
3 - Church
As you probably know, dresses are a great option for church! Try styling your dress with a pair of flats or sandals. A cardigan or lace vest is a lovely option to complete your Sunday morning outfit.
Formal nursing dresses do exist! If you’ll be carrying your baby, styling your formal dress with square heels is a great way to remain classy without risking a tripping hazard.
A Few Nursing Dress Pro Tips
Now that we’ve discussed different designs of nursing dresses and how to find the best one for you, let’s talk about a few pro tips for finding and wearing nursing dresses!
1 - Simple Alterations to Nursing Dresses
A common problem, if you’re concerned about modesty, is the depth of the neckline. In wrap-front dresses, this is often a recurring issue. When there is plenty of fabric in the neckline, it is very simple to add a few stitches at one or two points to raise the neckline. Sewing in a snap is another great option!
2 - The Knotted Blouse
If a dress is too revealing for your comfort, try layering with a button-up blouse and knotting it at the front. The buttons give you easy access without needing to compromise your modesty standards.
3 - Darker Colors for the Win!
Concerned about leaking through your dress? Choose darker colors! Darker color dresses are much more discreet, and if it does happen, it won’t be as noticeable.
4 - Leggings Compensate for Length Issues
Did you find a dress you love but are uncomfortable with the length? Slip on pair of leggings! While you might think of this as a cool weather option, shorter leggings can address the same concern for warmer months.
5 - Check the clearance room
Are you concerned about the cost of nursing dresses? Don’t forget to check the clearance room! If you live near our brick-and-mortar location, don’t forget to check for preloved and in-store-only dresses as well. Investing in modest nursing dresses doesn’t need to break the bank. While quality clothing isn’t cheap, knowing where to shop and how to shop will allow you to build your wardrobe with confidence.
If finding a beautiful nursing dress has been a challenge for you, you’ve come to the right place.
At the Main Street Exchange, we want to provide you with clothing that is flattering, functional, and modest for every stage of your life! Browse our Mama section, which includes dresses, skirts, and tops that are maternity and nursing friendly.
And we offer more than clothing for mamas! Stop in with your friends of all ages to browse our wide selection of beautiful, modest clothing options including
- Athletic skorts
- Layering tops and leggings
- Tops and cardigans
- Plus sizes
- Girls items
- And more!
Behind the clothing, we desire to create a space where women like you feel understood, valued, and empowered. We believe that when women are confident and fulfilled, they are better equipped to step into the dreams God has placed in their hearts.
Visit us online at our website, in person at 3000 Lincoln Hwy East Gordonville, PA 17529, or speak to us by phone at 717-598-8309.
We look forward to hearing from you soon!
The Main Street Exchange