Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Easy Access: Nursing Nightgowns That Double As Dresses?

With only 6-10 weeks to go, I'm nearly done with maternity sewing. Once I finish my shirred reversible skirt and chartreuse cardigan jacket this weekend (which are both intended for post-preggo wear as well)--it's full speed ahead for breastfeeding wear!

My plan is to start with a few nursing nightgowns that can pass as dresses. I'm going to be feeding Cartoonist Baby every 2 hours in the beginning, and trying to nap as much as possible. It seems unnecessarily complicated to have to change my clothes every hour--but I want to look at least somewhat presentable for visitors.

And really, what is the difference between a dress and a nightgown, except that most nightgowns just aren't all that cute? With some exceptions--I'd totally wear a Belabumbum striped nursing gown (and I could make it for a lot less than the $100ish retail price!):

Actually, my current favorite maternity nightgown is not an official nightgown or maternity wear at all--it's just a stretchy cotton-lycra cap-sleeved polka-dot dress from a discount store. I wear it both for sleeping and for lounging around in on weekend mornings (you can see a bit of it at the top of this post). I could totally wear it out and about if I wanted to, especially in the summer.

I've already got the patterns in my stash, too. This is a modular nursing pattern--I've made it up twice already as a maternity sleep bra (with an full bust adjustment and extensive alterations to make it super-supportive) and would just need to attach the actual nightgown bit and maybe some cap or flutter sleeves:

Blessed Designs 1400 Nightgown

Clearly stripes or polka dots need to be involved, right?

maternity nightgown + dress sketches 1

I have some striped fabric left over from the sleep bras, actually... I call them my Tim Burton bras. They don't look like much lying flat, but trust me that they fit fabulously!

Sleep/Nursing/Maternity Bra Test Muslin fronthotmamasleepbra

And I have this nursing top pattern from the Ottobre Woman 02/2009 issue, which I could easily lengthen into a dress. It's a bit bland, but with cap or flutter sleeves and a fun fabric, it would be totally cute.

Ottobre Woman 2-2009 1

I also have plans for nursing bras with more serious architecture, plus tops and coverups and dresses that are too dressy for nightgown use, but more on those later.

P.S. Update from 2013: Once I actually had my baby, I didn't actually have much time to sew nursing nightgowns/dresses! I still get a TON of wear out of the nursing/maternity sleep bras I made shown above, but I ended up buying a few knit nursing nightgown/dresses from Japanese Weekend and wearing them to shreds. Here I am with my 3-day-old newborn in a nice black nightgown/dress hybrid that I pretty much lived in for the first week—it has a nice ruffled lettuce edge:

Baby Z (aka Cartoonist Baby), the Early Days!

And here's a similar style available today with lace edging:

It's totally the little black dress for new moms!


  1. I like the Sweet blossom lingerie pattern you have. Kwiksew 2762 is a bit like the $100 RTW night gown.

  2. No lace. Baby spittle and expressed milk just gets caught in the little fussy bits and is difficulty just to wipe off. If you were wondering about this perfect stranger's thoughts.

  3. I love all of those patterns. I would just urge you to remain open that with babies, best laid plans.... well, you know. Both of my boys nursed differently, and fussy nursing garments just didn't work for us. I ended up hiking up my regular shirts most of the time or wearing button-downs. So a dress wouldn't work for that! But the crossover tops are wonderful. And patterns like polka dots are great because there's a lot of mess involved. Both of my boys were refluxy, so I wore a lot of milk after-the-fact too.

  4. Such lovely plans! The stipes will be so fun. I think the lace would be a nice touch, but it is true about the leakage/spit up at the beginning being difficult to wipe and go. I put lace on the bottoms of my hems on my pj's. I wonder about a picot elastic--sort of a lacy look, but maybe more wipeable...but that's just a theory.

  5. Oh, yes--that sketch was done when I was thinking a maternity nightgown, but yes, lace could be an issue. I have plenty of picot elastic in cute colors and it's much less fussy and more washable than stretch lace--the stretch lace on that second bra shown above has started to deteriorate from frequent wear, even though I handwash it. The other one just has picot elastic and it's fine.

  6. I agree with Heather, prints are your friend. Not only does baby spit-up stain, but so does breastmilk if it leaks and they are these horrible, grease like stains that never come out and ruin your absolutely favorite, unbelievably soft, perfect fitting, cute and edgy t-shirt. Only you don't realize it until you're out in the sunlight.

    Also, Hot Milk bras rock! (I think that was one in your collage.

  7. Congratulations on the coming baby! I'm nursing baby #3, and I wear a lot of dresses. Surplice or crossover necklines are fantastic - even some deep V's that are stretchy work really well for nursing. Since none of my babies would let me cover them with a blanket, I wear most of my dresses with a cut off and hemmed camisole (cut and hemmed so that it ends right under my breasts). I unfasten my nursing bra, pull up the camisole to cover the top of my breast and pull the dress down and to the side to nurse. I have nursed all my babies in church, with my husband and pastor's wife sitting beside me, and they didn't know I was nursing. I have several basic camisoles I've cut off and wear under my dresess - ie white, black, tan, navy. If you are at all self-conscious about letting your boob hang out, it helps keep you covered without having to cover up the baby. Not trying to be preachy, especially since I'm a first-time commenter -but I wanted to share a way to be a more modest in your nursing if you got to feeling a little overexposed. :) Congratulations again on the upcoming little one!

  8. I'm nursing my two-month-old and my two-year-old and I'm sad that the lack of cute nursing wear. One of my favorite patterns is the Twist Top with a Twist by rostitchery.

    It could certainly be lengthened into a dress.

    I'm not a fan of pulling my breast over my neckline since it eventually makes the neckline sag but I need a high opening for nursing because:
    a) I babywear a lot and I don't want to walk around with my shirt hiked up and
    b) I feel more exposed having my belly hanging out than having my breast hanging out.

    Anywho, I have plans to be making my own nursing wear. Ambitious plans that may never be done.

    By the way, every two hours with newborns is, IMHO, totally unrealistic. They nurse all the time, especially when they're trying to make your milk come in. Seriously, my little 2mo girl nursed nearly all day and night before my milk came it, and still nurses often. But I love doing it!

  9. Anonymous, thank you--that cami idea is great!

    Krista, that tutorial looks fabulous. And don't worry, the breastfeeding class I took explained that "every two hours" means "STARTING EVERY TWO HOURS..." so if baby takes a long time to nurse, that could mean scarcely any time between feedings.


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