Who We Are: Sewing While Breastfeeding

Post partum bodies are strange new landscapes, full of bumps, lumps (ouch blocked ducts I am looking at you) and leaks! Every new parent’s journey will be different, and for some this will include dealing with fundamental changes in their bodies and how they sew for them. However post partum life looks for you, be kind to yourself! Sewing time will be reduced, pre-pregnancy measurements will be wildly different, and fitting challenges will be new and varied — and that is all OK!

These brilliant sewists are sharing their own journey as new parents who are also breastfeeding.

igotsewl says:

The black and white photograph shows a mother lying back on a sofa, staring at the camera while her newborn baby sleeps on her shoulder.

There is no postpartum sewing without sacrifice. Sitting down at the sewing machine means I’m not feeding the baby, burping the baby, comforting the baby, sleeping, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, doing the shopping, making a meal, or playing with my toddler. So in order to sew, and likewise tend to my mental health, I have to let something go: let the messes pile up, skip an opportunity for a shower, set down my baby instead of cuddling her as she naps. And as much as I love sewing, these tradeoffs are hard to make. In fact, it took a month or so before I let myself make any. The best thing I did was to make myself a few nursing tops before my pregnancy was over and save them for later… It gave me fun and new me-mades to wear after baby arrived, and somewhat satisfied my whole not being able to sew.

But return to the machine I must! And as I try to make it all work, I’ve noted some strategies:

The first is to learn to sew in 10-minute increments. One seam here. One press there. Because slow progress is, at least, progress. 

The second is about being thoughtful on fit and style since the shape of my body changes every day. My stomach shrinks, but also sags. This means fun circle skirts to hide weird tummy skin. The size of my boobs changes by the hour. That calls for loose-fitting tops in natural fibers to resist the breast milk stains. But as my body continues to change, alterations will be inevitable, and that feels daunting already, which brings me to the last bit…

My third, more recently acquired and perhaps most important strategy, is to not talk myself out of sewing, for fear of my changing body, interrupted schedule, or neglect of chores. Since I want to sew, I can’t let myself surrender before I start. Optimism, flexibility, and a bit of forgiveness are the rules now, as I figure out how to balance my new life. 

The author posts all makes on Instagram as @igotsewl

Becky says:

A woman wearing a space print t-shirt and a purple shirt stands with one hand on her hip. Her face is turned slightly away and she is smiling at the camera.

Hi, this is Becky! Sewing through pregnancy and nursing has been a major consideration for me for several years running now. I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and as I write this, I’m about a month away from giving birth to our third baby and starting the nursing process all over again! My experience is as a mostly stay at home mom, with occasional pumping for when I was teaching music lessons or needed to leave the baby with my husband or a grandparent. So considerations are likely different for a mom who’s returning to full-time work, but here are some things that helped me when learning to sew while breastfeeding.

  • I was fortunate to not have major cup size changes throughout the day with either of my boys, but it was more comfortable to size up in the bust for the things I made. I’m in the process now of cutting out some nursing-friendly tops to sew as my kids allow, after the baby is born, and I’m using my current pregnancy measurements as a guide for the bust because I haven’t gotten any bigger than that while nursing.
  • Nursing camisoles! I refashioned a couple of RTW ones by cutting off the straps and sewing them into loops that could hook over my nursing bra clasps, and made a couple from scratch. I could feel free to wear my looser knit tops that weren’t necessarily designed to have nursing access, when I wanted to think beyond the bust openings and button-up shirts, and that felt great to be able to start using more of my wardrobe again after the limited outfits I could put together with maternity clothes. I also had some fun getting creative with how to create nursing access in other things — one of my favorites was an invisible zipper in the underbust seam of a maternity dress that I made, to allow me to extend its lifespan past pregnancy.
  • My love of funky, colorful prints came in handy, because leaking milk is inevitable and that camouflaged things much better than a solid. (Though nursing pads help too, and are a great scrapbuster.)
  • When I knew that the baby was getting ready to finish nursing and go fully on solids (both of my kids pretty much weaned themselves around the year old mark), I made sure to plan a fun sewing project for myself that was completely breastfeeding unfriendly! It was the perfect way to celebrate that transition.

When Becky’s kids actually allow her some sewing time, she documents her slow project progress on Instagram at @sewadagio, and sporadically blogs at sewadagio.wordpress.com.

Eleanor says:

I have two daughters aged 9 and 12, and have been making my own clothes on and off for about 20 years. I’m also a breastfeeding counsellor. We live on the edge of Leeds, in northern England.

When my girls were very young I stopped sewing my clothes and only started again towards the end of my time breastfeeding the younger one. I found separates easier to manage than dresses and would sometimes wear a tank top under a loose shirt for ‘one up, one down’ feeding to minimise exposure, especially in cooler weather. Once we got to a stage of only feeding at home, it was easier to wear other clothes again.

I wish that dungarees and pinafores/ jumpers had been popular then, as they are ideal for breastfeeding, over a button down shirt, blouse or top that can be opened or lifted easily. I never got on well with tops designed for breastfeeding and found them fiddly, but have adapted two dresses for a friend, which had convenient diagonal bodice seams that could be opened out, and a placket and snap fasteners added for easy feeding.

Eleanor blogs on https://nelnanandnora.wordpress.com and posts her makes on @nelnanandnora.

Siona says:

A woman with her hair swept to one side is smiling into the camera while holding her baby. Her baby has their mouth wide open and is staring away from the camera.

Hi, my name is Siona, and I’m currently breastfeeding my little boy, Teddy. I love to use social media, especially Instagram, to follow and search hashtags for sewing inspiration, but found there was very little on sewing for a breastfeeding wardrobe. I decided to change that, so created the hashtag #sewbreastfeeding to allow for us breastfeeding sewing mums to share makes and inspiration.

I’ve found that I’ve gained so much inspiration, not just about specific pattern or hack ideas, but also some help with the reality of sewing with a baby. It’s been lovely to hear from other mums that sewing sometimes takes a back seat given how difficult it can be to fit in some time for sewing around naps, nappies and feeding. It’s given me the freedom to allow myself to take my time and sew only when I want to.

Sewing whilst breastfeeding has given me the ability to navigate the ready to wear clothing market, which is frankly frumpy, boring and badly fitted. I now have a mum uniform of well fitting leggings and jersey tops that are long enough to cover my tummy, easy to feed in and generally have allowed me to regain my body confidence while nuturing my little boy, without feeling forced to lose weight quickly to fit an aesthetic. I still feel like me, essentially! Now in reality I’ve made 3 or 4 garments in the last 6 months, but that’s ok. It’s an organic process which is allowing me to be flexible with my variable sized bust and waist, and will continue to allow me to evolve my style with my shape as it continues to change. Sewing gives us confidence and individuality at all times of life, the postpartum and breastfeeding period too, and thank goodness for that!

Hi I’m Siona (pronounced Shona), a 36 year old new mum to Teddy, born in April. Born and bred in Scotland, when I’m not on maternity leave I work in the busy NHS. I find sewing provides me a creative outlet to allow me to relax and express my individuality. I share all my makes on Instagram as @sewcialitea.

Thank you for reading all of our stories! Sewing while breastfeeding involves juggling time, seemingly sentient boobs and ever changing emotions! As always with Who We Are posts, I hope that reading gives you insight into other people’s lives, and also confidence to talk about your own experiences. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!