Blame it on the Breastfeeding

As a mother I’ve got lots of advice from others, and breastfeeding is no exception. From the practical (wait and see what you need otherwise you will buy things you won’t need), to the profound (read your baby, not a book) to the downright painful (if you want to breastfeed use a nail-brush to toughen up your nipples). Yes, you read that right, and I ignored that nugget because I thought if I did it would most likely put me off breastfeeding altogether. A quick poll of the Can I Breastfeed in It UK members found plenty of gems that were actually land-mines on the breastfeeding journey.

1) Formula is the safe and healthy option, the benefits of breastfeeding in the developed world are far less.

It is true that formula is much better than it used to be, but lets face the bar was so low it would not take much to improve on it. Even today the manufacturers are struggling to put the same nutrients in the formula as there are in breast milk and in the way the baby needs them. Research has shown that even in affluent countries with progressive healthcare systems the use of formula is linked to a higher infant mortality than breastfed babies. I’ve regularly heard the comment ‘I bottle-fed mine and it didn’t cause any harm’. But then you probe a little further and they agree that little one had lots of little bouts of sickness which might have been prevented with the immunity provided by antibodies in breast milk. Also breastfeeding is now believed to help with allergies – a curiously western disease.


2) Babies go longer between feeds when on formula so not only do you get sleep they get more nutrition.

Formula fed babies don’t appear to get hungry quite so quickly, but this isn’t really a good thing. Current theoriesnewborn-220142_640s on the cause of cot death are linked to babies’ breathing patterns being interrupted during sleep. There is evidence that the artificially deep sleep caused by the hard to digest formula is a risk factor. Human milk changes all the time and has sleep
inducing ingredients to help baby sleep while mum gets a rush of oxytocin to calm and relax her. I can honestly say I get woken regularly, but I am back to sleep in a matter of minutes. I don’t have to make a bottle, fuss with colic relief or soothe either of us back to sleep. And my experience isn’t unique. Plus there are no arguments with hubby over whose turn it is while baby screams louder and louder. In fact sometimes I reckon I have boob in his mouth before he’s awake (my baby’s mouth, not my husband’s).

3) I’ve spent nine months tee total, watching what I eat and unable to take my usual medicines. I want my life back, and there is no way I am not wearing deodorant.

I for one am delighted to have my life changed forever, but you’d be surprised how much you can keep doing. Firstly, alcohol leaves your milk as quickly as it leaves your bloodstream. I’m not advocating heavy drinking or regular binges but if you’re safe to drive you are safe to nurse, and let’s face it, how often do you have the money or energy to go on an all-nighter in the early months. A recent advertising campaign about eating healthily while breastfeeding which seemed to suggest a burger goes straight from your lips to baby’s turns out to be indirectly sponsored by a leading formula manufacturer  and is misleading. While you need to eat an overall healthy diet, you can eat far greater variety than when pregnant, and for me at least baby quite literally sucked the fat out of me. I was eating guilt free desserts instead of calorie counting to lose the baby weight. As for medication, while many healthcare professionals are unsure and say no, most medical conditions are compatible with breastfeeding, you just need to get the right information and possibly be a bit flexible. Oh and deodorant is fine, if you can remember to put it on. You might struggle enough time to launder your clothes, shower or shave when you are a mother so let’s face it you need all the help you can get. That is nothing to do with breastfeeding, all mothers feel that way and I am told things get back to normal when the youngest leaves for university.

4) I want my partner to get the chance to bond with my baby.image1

Sometime this means exactly that, sometimes it means I want to share the chores. Firstly, you should see how my son interacts with his Uncle. No food has been passed between them (except for a little vomit but uncle was very apologetic) but they adore each other.  Here are 50 different ways Dad can bond with baby. Now because I feed my baby to sleep (including daytime naps) rather than risk waking him, hubby cooks, cleans and leaves us to snuggle. Plus there’s always ‘Oh honey, you need to spend time looking after your son so you can bond properly, so why don’t you change his nappy’. Yes, it does works.

5) I’m worried out feeding outside of the house.

I get this, it was really scary the first time, plus the actual mechanics of getting a tit out in public. All the media stories had me thinking that every trip would involve people making a scene andmeme-zombies-cell-phones just a load of unpleasantness. But we live in a generation of smart phones, tablets and a fear of making eye contact with strangers. People don’t notice or care.

But what about the practicalities of feeding a baby away from home? A boob doesn’t need to be sterilised, heated to the right temperature, cooled to the right temperature and thrown away after 2 hours if it isn’t completely drained. I don’t have to pre-measure the right amount of fluid or powder, or spend money on a pre-paid carton. No need to ask a surly waitress for a jug of water and hope she returns before the baby version of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. These points go double or triple for overnight trips.

6) It is so painful to breastfeed, it just seems so difficult you won’t last more than a week.

Yes, there were points when it was more painful than labour. I don’t care what those 50 shades books say I get no satisfaction from nipple pain, but there are ways around this. Breastfeeding is a learnt skill, for both you and baby and just as learning to ride a bike there are bumps and scrapes along the way. Sometimes the pain is more than just getting started and this is where breastfeeding support groups come in. A peer supporter or lactation consultant can check your latch, rule out tongue or lip tie, or suggest the right sized nipple shield. If you don’t have a La Leche League in your area there will be plenty of breastfeeding support groups. Most NHS trusts do at home support, but make sure you get specialist support as not all midwives and health visitors are equal.

7) You’ll get saggy boobs, in fact you need to get into an exercise regime as soon as you can or you’ll stay fat forever.

You can breastfeed and exercise, you may find your regime changes, not least of which because you need to be more careful of your joints, but I would power walk around the park and stop to cuddle and feed baby when we needed it. Susan O’Brien hit the news for drinking her own milk after getting lost in the wilderness but behind the headlines she is a personal trainer and was competing on a trailrun.

As for saggy boobs – Miranda Kerr’s continue to defy gravity so maybe breastfeeding isn’t as much of an influence as general lifestyle and good genes.

A post shared by Miranda (@mirandakerr) on

8) You can’t breastfeed with big boobs, small boobs, flat nipples, pale nipples.Perverted_thoughts_-)_(3067714590)

What? Your nipple colour defines your ability to breastfeed? People of every ethnicity and in every country on the planet breastfeed. Your cupsize has very little to do with your ability to nurse as this is based on the amount of fatty tissue between the milk glands. These glands barely change size from woman to woman. You may use different hold positions to help your baby latch depending on whether yours are more Gala or watermelon but this really is about finding what works for you.

9) When I expressed I produced a small amount of watery milk, no wonder baby was always hungry.

Human_Breastmilk_-_Foremilk_and_HindmilkYes, formula looks so creamy and nice, and your milk will look thin next to it. But that doesn’t mean formula is better, in fact all that fat is pretty difficult to digest.  Even the best breast pump is no match for your baby’s suction power which changes depending on whether the light foremilk or richer hindmilk is needed. There will be days when you have a bowling ball sized leech attached to your chest, but this won’t necessarily mean baby is unsatisfied. They could be building your supply for a growth spurt, or in need of some love.

10) Breastfeeding made my hair fall out and my skin became spot prone – I must have been deficient in some sort of nutrient and this would have affected my milk. You may not have noticed but when you were pregnant your everyday hair loss was reduced and your skin had a healthy glow – it wasn’t just all that sweat from an internal hot water bottle. Someone told me once this was evolution making you that little more attractive so your partner stayed invested during the relationship. The crazy mood swings, noxious gases being emitted from both ends of the digestive system, the inability to groom certain areas (if I could reach it I couldn’t see it, if I could see it I couldn’t reach it) are all outweighed by your thick and shiny hair. When your baby comes your hormones means your hair and skin goes back to their usual states, but of course human nature means you think it is worse than before. In fact, even during times of famine a mother’s milk has everything a baby needs.  Far better to get a new cut and facial, you deserve it, plus you want to look your best for all those mother and baby photos.


Your Body Created Life… So Why Don’t You Give It A Break?

by Gwen Aktinson

Duchess of CambridgeI won’t be the first person to talk about the mixed messages women receive, and I certainly won’t be the last. But when a woman decides to have a family, these messages come thick and fast. Let’s look at the world’s most famous mother right now: the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton. After giving birth to Prince George, she was both praised and lambasted for having the courage or audacity to actually look as she had recently given birth twenty four hours after she had actually given birth. Fast forward nearly two years later and the slightly differently stage managed introduction of Princess Charlotte to the world had Kate presenting a more figure flattering image. The criticism/praise still came thick and fast.

Fed up with the multiple celebrity look at me now photo shoots showing a flat stomach mere weeks after labour, I decided to photograph my post birth baby bump, to show what a reasonably fit and healthy, but mostly normal mum looks like (don’t laugh I said mostly normal). We naturally compare ourselves and I was sick of women feeling inadequate or even considering starting the diet before the baby has arrived. A combination of genes, luck, breastfeeding and really terrible hospital food meant I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight a week after giving birth and in normal jeans a week after that. I didn’t take any photographs; in my own special way I was disappointed my body didn’t behave as expected.


My own little prince took a long time to arrive, and I had a number of health issues during that time. I was simultaneously told I was selfish for not yet starting a family and selfish for trying to conceive in less than perfect health, as well as being selfish for wanting help to get healthy and to conceive. I was told my medication for depression would harm my baby, but without it the risk of post natal depression was another danger. When finally our miracle happened conventional wisdom told me I should be unhappy with changes in my body. But this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’d look at my expanding belly with awe and wonder knowing that something remarkable was happening inside me. Did you know that one of the first things you do is get thirstier than normal? This forces your body to make extra red blood cells so you can transport the additional oxygen your baby needs. Not even Steve Jobs could have designed something that simple to fix so complicated a problem.

Despite what the media would have you believe your body does some fantastic things in labour too. Oxytocin is the magical chemical that kicks off the contractions. It’s known as the love hormone and the huge amounts created helps you bond with your baby. But it also releases your milk and then with continued breastfeeding it helps your uterus shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. Recent studies have shown what women should already know, that successfully breastfeeding helps prevent post natal depression, by keeping the extra oxytocin in your life for as long as possible. I am also convinced breastfeeding, or the lack of having to prepare formula through the night has meant I get a good night’s sleep. And there is a reason the Nazis used sleep deprivation as torture.


The mixed messages continue throughout the breastfeeding journey. There is huge pressure to nurse, but very little practical support, and what little there is can actually undermine the new mother. I’d like to take the time to thank Milk Matters, La Leche League and The Breastfeeding Network for the fantastic assistance you gave me. But there were countless more: friends, family and complete strangers. Your ability to maintain eye contact and smile helped me more than you will ever know.

Next up is how long should you nurse for? Well as most commercial clothing is also a combination of nursing and maternity it seems to be about the two weeks it takes for your belly to stop looking pregnant. Or maybe for years it takes to work up the energy to do it all again. Six months appears to be a landmark that many mums aim for, but any less and you gave up too soon. Any more and you are ‘strange’. But breastfeeding is a journey and like all of them there is no fixed timescale or path. Whether it lasted minutes or years, every mouthful made a difference to your child. Whether you used formula, expressed, stayed true to the boob or combined any of the above. You are amazing, and you did so very, very well.

A common reason given for stopping nursing is ‘getting your body back’. This seems to be part of western society’s attitude that mums aren’t attractive. Thank god we no longer believe that having sex causes your milk to curdle, but women are known for multitasking. If we can do more than one thing at a time, why can’t we be more than one thing at a time and rock it too? The This Girl Can campaign which went viral through its wonderful message that women of all shapes and sizes be proud of what their bodies can do. I for one am struggling to think of something more empowering of first creating and then sustaining human life.

Where do clothes fit into this story? You don’t have to be a princess to feel pressure to look good. Even if you aren’t going to be photographed or beamed across the world, clothes send a message of how you want to be perceived. Can I Breastfeed in it? UK has followers who want to look and feel good for all sorts of different social occasions; we have business meetings, weddings, music festivals and heart-breakingly sad funerals. We are political, funny and fancy that cute one from The Wanted. We run races for charity and go on holiday to far flung places. We want and need clothes that reflect these situations and our personalities, as well as coping with the demands of our little muck magnet milk monsters. Too many of the retailers think of us as a one dimensional, one size fits all, narrow group of women. Our bodies have done and continue to do something amazing, surely our clothes should support and echo this message.

Breastfeeding in Public is more than a Radio Rant

By Gwen Atkinson

I almost feel sorry for Alex Dyke. Earlier this week he decided (alongside his Producer Alun Newman) to broach the subject of breastfeeding in public in his push-the-envelope radio phone-in show. While I disagree with what he said and how he said it wholeheartedly, I don’t think he realised that he was taking on such a large, passionate and well organised group of individuals. He will have plenty of time to reflect on this as he has been suspended from BBC Radio Solent, despite apologising on air.

I did contact Mr Dyke and he gave me the courtesy of a reply, even asking me to contact the phone in show, and was prepared to speak to me off air before to reassure me of how my on air reply would be handled. For a number of reasons I declined and out of respect I won’t publish the details of a private conversation. I also did listen to the beginning of the phone in before it became unavailable. I switched off early as it made me very angry, so again out of respect I will only comment on what I heard. My personal interpretation was that his comments were not necessarily his own but deliberately inflammatory to get a reaction. He may regret what he said now, but here is my take on it nonetheless.

A common question is where is a woman allowed to breastfeed? The answer in England is anywhere she is legally entitled to be. This covers private venues because restaurants and gyms etc provide a public service. In the rest of the UK the guidelines are similar, and the forward thinking Scots have also made it illegal to prevent a woman from nursing. The exceptions to this are as follows: A small club with less than 25 members that provides no public service can legally state no breastfeeding, male-only clubs/organisations that provide a service aimed at that gender and places where it is unsafe to feed, such as industrial areas. I think even the most passionate lactivist would agree that this is fair and reasonable.

I’ll let you into a little secret, babies can’t speak. When you become a mother you become very sensitive to your little person’s body language, and by default everybody else around you. You become conscious of the little sideways glances, stiffening of jaws and other tell tale signs of discomfort. Very few people react that way, but for those of you that get uncomfortable with me feeding in public, I don’t want to make your day awkward and you are entitled to your opinions and feelings. But here is secret number two; my baby’s hunger, fear and pain take a higher priority. Add into this the fact no-one wants to hear a baby scream for longer than is necessary, so please respect that what I am doing is actually aimed at making things better for my child and, because of your proximity to us, you as well.

Mr Dyke said he thought breastfeeding mothers should keep to a private nursery and to a certain extent I agree with him. Caring for your child is such a personal relationship I want to focus on my baby without the judgemental stares of strangers or the well intentioned but utterly frustrating comments from friends and family. At home I have a comfortable chair, a nursing pillow, a drink handy and no distractions. Unfortunately, life means I do have to leave the house. There are bills to pay, appointments to attend and sometimes a quick run out to the shops, pretending to be a human being, is what stops me from losing what little of my mind I have left. Our contributors travel across the world, attend sporting events both as spectators and participants, rock on at music festivals, or go on family outings. The thought that women stop having a life once they give birth ended a good generation ago. The suggestion that we should time our excursions to in between feeds shows a complete lack of understanding of a baby’s needs. I challenge Mr Dyke or anyone with his views to leave the house with a child, use public transport, run the errands expected of us and return home in the allotted time. Add to this that the gaps between feeds are often as little as an hour or two and are subject to change without notice (demanding little lovable so and so’s).

Nursing in Public

There are very few places out and about that provide a suitable private setting to breastfeed. Most mother and baby rooms are in toilets and I have no desire to spend twenty minutes smelling someone else’s excrement. The chairs have no armrests, and if you think that isn’t relevant, pick up a small animal weighing 15lbs and hold it to your chest for half and hour while it wriggles. Oh by the way, your stomach muscles are shot because of a recent pregnancy, so get someone to poke you to replicate the back ache most new mothers have. Whilst they’re at it, your non-nursing boob leaks, so create a few embarrassing wet patches. It takes more confidence than you would think to nurse in front of others and I would like to thank the many people, but mostly men, who encouraged me and supported me to do this. Many of you may not realise you did this, and you are now officially as cool as Keith Richards; in my eyes at least.

A common suggestion, often well meaning, is to cover up, either with a muslin or a purpose made cover. Firstly, lots of women do this and if they prefer it, wonderful, but it was something I never considered. You may find this shocking, but some of the covers marketed at mothers are dangerous, they are made from heavy material so it gets dangerously hot for baby. Some block eye contact and this means mum can’t keep checking baby is safe. It can also interfere with the early communication lessons a baby receives by interacting with their mother at feeding time. I regularly refer to breastfeeding as a relationship, this is because the baby is a key factor in the decisions women make. One contributor talked about the baby getting stressed under the cover and refusing to feed; the flailing arms and cries of discomfort actually drew more attention to her feeding than if she hadn’t used a cover. Others object to covers, purpose-made or draped muslins, on principle. It could be argued that attempt to hide breastfeeding stops it from being normalised and every effort to nurse in public makes it easier for the next mother.

Mr Dyke also asked why we don’t use formula. I can’t help thinking the reason why the original broadcast is not available is because any suggestion that formula is almost as good as breastmilk breaches numerous laws. I’ll let the people who know more than me on that subject pass judgement. Suffice to say formula isn’t as good; not even close. Many people believe that the differences are neglible in the western world and more significant to families living where the lack of access to clean water to make formula dangerous and health in general isn’t as good. Not true. A study published in Pediatrics (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) stated:

If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance).

To put this in context this is the same number of people who die each year in the USA from meningitis. Current advice on making formula from recently boiled water no less than 70 oC into a sterile bottle and disposing of it within 2 hours of making it up means it not that great when out and about either.

What about expressed breastmilk (EBM)? Surely putting that in a bottle is OK if formula isn’t? Well, some people (myself included) give EBM. It certainly means I can leave the house for non baby-related activities leaving him with a sitter. But again, this doesn’t work for everybody all the time. For example if I try to give mine EBM now, he refuses it point blank. For someone else to give him some, I have to leave the room and hide.  It also runs the risk of stopping the breastfeeding relationship altogether with the drying up of a mother’s milk or nipple confusion. The production of milk relies on the baby being attached to the nipple and the cues from the baby’s saliva and gulps guides the mother to making milk of the right combination of nutrients and antibodies to her child.  Mother’s milk changes morning, noon and night, throughout out the course of each feed to meet a child’s needs. This isn’t something out of the Stone Age, but evidence that we are highly evolved creatures.

Some of Mr Dykes more inflammatory comments were about what has been described to me elsewhere as ‘The cult of motherhood’; that only a certain type of mother breastfeeds. Maybe that is true, but this week David Beckham was criticised for his style of parenting when his four year old daughter was seen in public with a dummy. The rights and wrongs of either are irrelevant, his response to critics is:  “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts.” We don’t, I defend your right to parent how you see fit, and expect mine to have the same respect.

There were other comments about the attractiveness of mothers who chose to breastfeed; that a good looking women would be unlikely nurse a child (especially publicly). Well, the pictures published by Miranda Kerr, Giselle Bundchen and Angel Doutzen Kroes breastfeeding would contradict this. I’m not normally one for finding women attractive, but I’m assured that these women are. Certainly my American friends have commented their Victoria Secret catalogues going missing and appearing after a husband or other male relative has… ahem… perused them.

I will end my commentary with this thought: Underneath the comments from Mr Dyke and some of his callers seemed to be a theme that a woman’s primary role is to please a man. That their value is based on how they look and whether they have taken into account a man’s point of view when they make fundamental choices such as how they parent or dress. This is why a few throwaway remarks on a minor (sorry local radio fans) phone in show have relevance to women everywhere, why the story has started to trend on the internet and why Mr Dyke no doubt feels overwhelmed by the petitions, open letters and news stories. Again, the response is wider than just this blog and when looked at from that viewpoint has been given in another trending story this week:

Check out this slideshow to see what nursing in public really looks like:

How Do You Breastfeed In It?

When Natalie Halman started Can I Breastfeed in it UK? She didn’t really think it would take off the way it did. It seemed a little niche to be that popular, and certainly the selection of nursing wear out there confirms this point of view. But the attention of the Facebook group is gaining is gathering momentum, at the rate of over a thousand followers a month. There are also selling and off topic spin off groups to cope with the ever expanding traffic it generated. To put this into context another Facebook group for a mail order organic gardening company has about half as many members.
So what unites the followers? Well, we breastfeed and we wear clothes. Although I have to admit the lack of decent clothing, constant dirtying and therefore washing of what few clothes I have, means I am more than happy to spend my home alone days in my underwear. Once I forgot and the postman got the shock of his life when I answered the door. I did apologise, but he ran so fast down the hill I don’t think he heard me.

Like most parts of motherhood, deciding what clothes to wear when breastfeeding is really governed by the practicalities of how you get it done. There are four basic styles of getting your tits out, the over the top: the pull up; one up, one down; and the peek-a-boo. Some women have a favourite, some use all four, and it can change depending on the circumstances. There is no right or wrong here, just what suits each person, but each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

The over the top method involves wearing something with a loose or otherwise accessible neckline, such as buttons or zips, so you pull the hem down or to the side to allow access to the breasts. Simple and easy, it doesn’t require special clothing but it can expose more flesh than people are comfortable with. If mums want to, they can wear a nursing cover, or even a muslin draped across the chest can combat this. You can tuck a handkerchief under the bra strap, or even buy a clip to keep it in place. For me these are just more things to remember, and you’ve heard of baby brain, right? If someone other than a mum feels uncomfortable with the skin on display, they can close their eyes, turn their head, take a long walk off a short pier.

The pull up involves you wearing a not-too-fitted top and pulling it up to release the boobs. (That sounds great doesn’t it – I’m imaging a James Bond villain’s plot to take over the world and shouting it aloud to an orchestra playing in the background. You know I don’t get out much.) Again it’s simple and easy, but not advisable if you are wearing a dress. And having just said goodbye to cover-alls and tents, I wanted to be able to pretend I had a waist. Even without the changes that happen to your body with pregnancy, many women’s bellies don’t see the light of day. The child will cover much of it and it is possible to use the muslins tucked into the bottom of the bra to make you feel more comfortable. A few entrepreneurial mums created belly covers that can be worn under normal clothes.

The one up one down, combines the over the top and pull up by having two layers of clothing, typically a vest and a lose top, but the options are as creative as the women who ear them. This is a very popular option, but while this addresses some of the issues with both, it creates new problems. Firstly is requires twice as many clothes as before, twice as much to wash when your milk leaks, or baby returns the milk to you, either before or after fully digesting it (sometimes ducking is not an option). And it still isn’t a good idea to do this in a dress. Plus I must offer respect to all those mothers out there who actually have the time and patience to not only find two rather than one items of clothing that are clean, but get them to match. In some cases, clever combinations of colours, textures and lengths can do wonders to flatter your figure.

Then there is the final option – the peek-a-boo. This is usually a specifically designed piece of nursing wear, but some of us who can be trusted with scissors and needles will adapt high street clothes by adding button holes or flaps through which – yes you guessed it . This is my preferred option, but the limitations are that you have a much reduced amount of styles to choose from. I remember buying a red and white striped top for dual purpose maternity and nursing while pregnant. I wasn’t particularly enthralled with it, but parted with my hard earned cash simply because it was neither white, black nor navy. It was promptly christened my ‘Where’s Wally’ top by two separate people, and thrown in the back of my wardrobe. Luckily, there are some retailers (such as Milk & Mummy) out there with the intention to change this drab vision of nursing wear! Hurrah!

Top left and bottom right pictures feature clothing from Milk & Mummy clothing (link to shop at bottom of post)
More and more these days the items can only be bought online and the issues of buying clothes without trying them on multiplies post partum. Few of us are standard sizes to begin with (and few shops seem to agree what these are anyway). Our followers range in size from 4’10’’ to 5’11’ and from a size 8 (on a bloated day) to a size 26 but add in the fact we may be losing our all over pregnancy weight, the stomach muscles might bounce back soon, and will our breasts please pick a size and stick with it? The ease of home delivery is often tempered by having to guess or order multiple sizes. Imagine one contributor’s disappointment after ordering six dresses only to find not one fitted and she had lost £24 in postage for unsuitable clothing. 

You might be surprised to learn that it is my son is a big influence on what clothes I wear. Some babies like to hold on to something on the neck line so over the top is no use. Others will refuse a cover or any spare material around the neckline in any way shape or form. As with most other aspects of motherhood, even the decision over what you get to dress yourself in is vetoed by that adorable little tyrant. My red and white stripped top returned from exile to see if it was any use when nursing, but the peek a boo slit was far too small. My son doesn’t want a mouthful off breast, he wants a big face full. ‘Where’s Wally?’ ‘In the way of my boobie, now get lost.’

For me the most frustrating part of buying tops and dresses online is the way so few retailers actually show how you are expected to feed in the clothing. Is it really that hard to show a few extra photos showing which flap you move or strap you untie? I am lucky enough to live close to several big shopping centres went into one designer store to get a feel of the dresses I saw online. The feeling I got was short fat and ugly.

This is why Can I Breastfeed in it UK is so successful. Advertisers pay ‘real people’ to sell their products, but here are thousands of us doing the hard work for them. The photographs don’t use clever lighting or airbrushing. I can see it looks good on someone a similar size to me, so chances are it will look good on me as well. Plus, us mums are good problem solvers and canny buyers. We can look to see if something can be adapted or a find a voucher to stretch our buying power. We want to breastfeed, we want to look our best doing it, and the pennies we are saving on formula need to go somewhere.

Are you signed up to the Can I Breastfeed In It? UK Facebook group? If not, join here

You can find some more ideas on Dressing to Impress over on Another Bun’s blog along with another chance to gain some extra entry points to our grand prize giveaway.
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Blog written by Gwen Atkinson


Milk & Mummy Clothing
Belly Covers

Breast Vest 

What do breastfeeding women want from fashion?

I conducted a survey of 1000 breastfeeding women to find out their opinions about the clothing available to them both online and on the high street. This survey pointed out the following:

  • That 95.54% of breastfeeding women feel that nursing clothing (excluding maternity wear) available on the high street is inadequate.
  • That 76.76% of breastfeeding women feel that nursing clothing (excluding maternity wear) available online is inadequate.
  • That 68.89% of breastfeeding women are not happy purchasing clothing which is primarily designed as maternity and secondarily as nursing wear – 27.06% are sometimes happy with this.
  • Only 4.30% of breastfeeding women feel the prices of nursing specific clothing are reasonable.
  • That 53.08% of breastfeeding women feel that having easy breast access is the most important feature, followed by ability to feed discreetly at 29.82%.
  • 88.22% of breastfeeding women are happy to spend between £20-£70 on a good quality outfit, with the highest number happy to spend between £30-40 (28.29%).
  • 56.57% of breastfeeding women are happy to spend between £0-£20 on a casual everyday breastfeeding friendly outfit
  • That 81.12% are not happy with the selection of nursing bras available on the high street.
  • That over half of those surveyed (55.71%) found that high streets tend not to stock their bra size.

Link to full survey results: Breastfeeding fashion survey

An open letter to high street clothing retailers

I swear shopping never used to be this much of a chore. Before having a baby I could walk into the shop knowing all I needed to do was find something I liked the look of which was also flattering for my body (which at times could be a challenge in itself). Now that I’m a breastfeeding mother (who has trouble enough concentrating at the task on hand with that tricky baby brain and a potentially grumpy child to contend with), browsing a high street shop is becoming a chore rather than an enjoyable experience.

Many stores have a maternity section with nursing friendly maternity clothing. I’m sure your thought process goes something along the lines of: “well pregnant ladies will buy our maternity wear and have the additional feature of it being nursing friendly when baby is born”. Great, except I’m not currently pregnant. I have a 9 month old. I don’t want to wear maternity clothing. I want nice well fitting clothing which I can also get a boob out of when my baby is hungry. Colours which are forgiving on leaky boobs and baby drool are always a winner too!

I’m not asking that you create a new range of nursing wear (some of you already have a small selection of nursing wear already available), that would be asking too much. Many of us mothers like shopping online for our clothing. Then we can put our full focus onto finding the perfect outfit whilst baby is asleep.

So, what would be REALLY handy, and this is SO simple, within your online shops, is a search filter that tells us if the clothing item is ‘breastfeeding friendly’. To fall under this category a top or dress could potentially be easily (and discreetly as a bonus!) breastfed in without having to just ‘lift it up’ and give the world a sneak peak of our jelly bellies. Yes we could wear vests underneath all of our tops but not so practical when we get those hot days!

The first shop to adopt this feature will gain a LOT of business and support from the breastfeeding community. There are currently 3500+ UK women waiting for this feature to be implemented in the Can I Breastfeed In It? UK Facebook group alone.

So please, do a little more research on your breastfeeding customer base. It’ll pay off! It will not only be a positive for your sales and nursing mothers, but it would also be another (albeit small) step in normalising breastfeeding in our society. It would help mothers realise they don’t need to be wearing frumpy or boring/repetitive clothing!


Hi there! Chances are if you’re reading this, you are most probably in the Can I Breastfeed In It UK Facebook group. This would mean you are well aware of what this blog is about and already reaping the rewards the group has to offer within its community 😊

I’ll quickly introduce myself! My name is Natalie. I’m a first time mum to my 9 month old, Brandon Thor. Since becoming a mum, I have become quite the breastfeeding enthusiast/advocate and consider myself a lactivist. I’ve actually never been big on fashion – always just had a static unique style which revolved around finding clothing that flatters my voluptuous size 16 curves. Since starting the Facebook group I’ve learnt a lot about fashion and have developed quite an interest in it. 

If by some twist of fate you have happened to stumble across this blog randomly or you have clicked on a link someone has shared, here’s a quick explanation:

On the highstreet today, there is no such thing as ‘breastfeeding fashion’. We have maternity clothes which have practical features for nursing, we have nursing bras which can kill your libido as quickly as David Cameron (if you are lucky enough to find your size) and we have expensive same-y nursing tops dotted about in specialist shops such as Jojo Maman Bebe. A lot of high street retailers seem to think a nursing mother will be using her maternity wear for the few months she plans on breastfeeding. Ok so yes, the statistics aren’t exactly in our favour (1% of women in the UK exclusively breastfeeding by the time their baby is 6 months) and natural term (2 years +) breastfeeding is considered a bit of a taboo and not really talked about with the exception of negative press, which means a lot of high street retailers are blind to our needs. Note how I haven’t actually mentioned online retailers yet – I’ll get to that later. 

It’s not that we want our own specialist range of nursing clothing with special gaps and zips (although it couldn’t hurt). It’s not JUST about having easy boob access. Hell, we could just all start wearing button down shirts! It’s about going into a shop (whether it be on the highstreet or online) and not having to scour the store for the odd top or dress that answers ‘yes’ to the question that constantly goes through our minds: “Can I breastfeed in it?” 

It could be as simple as retailers adding a nursing friendly filter on their online shops to make the experience that bit more straightforward and quick. The first retailer to figure out that little tweak will gain a nice influx of new customers. There is nice practical BF clothing there on the net – it’s just finding it which can sometimes prove tricky. 

Since creating the Facebook group back in mid March, in the space of just 3 months, we are now counting over 3000 members. If this isn’t a sign of a gap in the market, I don’t know what is! A place where experience, clothing finds, reviews, accessories, new (relevant) businesses and more can be shared with each other! The group is truly a credit to its members. 

A great BF friendly find could consist of many things – it might mean you can easily get a boob out over the top, it might be a top which provides the necessary modesty a new mum might need as she gets to grips with nurturing her child, it might be a dress for a special occasion which whilst being flattering on the mum-tum is also practical for easy boob access or something as simple as a pretty nursing bra.  

This is just an experimental post to see whether this is a blog worth putting time into! If it goes down well then I will be on the lookout for guest bloggers, reviewers and I might ask to feature a photo or two from within the group (with permission of course!). Do leave a comment to let me know what you think and whether you’d be interested in reading more 🙂

Thanks for reading!