Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mama Bean doesn't understand why nursing apparel must be so expensive

Puberty beat me with the Boob Stick. I fell out of the Boob Tree and hit every branch. In the Dictionary of Colloquialisms, the entry for "well-endowed" is illustrated with my girls. Their names are melon-related: Honey and Dew.

I can speak of these things (relatively) unabashedly because my breasts have been repurposed. Apparently, they must be reclad in purpose-specific garments. Almost six months in, and I've bought one such garment, for almost $100. This is not especially more money than a normal bra might cost, particularly for the so-called hard to fit. Nor is it as much money as some spend on a complete wardrobe's worth of such garments. I have bought one, using my entire budget for these things, and it will have to do.

I may have already mentioned I didn't even wear a bra for the first two or three weeks of Bean's life. I had some (horribly) mistaken notion that it was bad for my nipples to be properly encased. Nursing pads were received into my home like manna. They saved my sanity, my breastmilk encrusted t-shirts, and my drop-bespeckled floor (which remains so bespeckled to this day. Let's not dwell on it.) But, I didn't feel capable of going to the Special Bra Store. At that point, I had just started using stairs again, let alone dressing in civilian clothes, or driving. Driving! And you have to make an appointment to be fitted at the Special Bra Store. An appointment was an Impossibility of the Highest Order. I mean, I didn't know when Bean would sleep, or eat, or pee, or poo, or neeeeeeeeed meeeeee, how could I appoint a time with any sort of certainty that I'd be available, let alone orchestrate my dressing, driving, and punctual arrival to said appointment? It is not even a little bit of an exaggeration to say this trip was one of the most difficult achievements of my Delirious Early Days. (For shame, the things us privileged women complain about. I'm not whining, I swear!)

The salesperson did not appreciate my efforts. She no doubt has a wealth of experience with nursing women, she asked when I had nursed last, how full my breasts felt, etc. But she was brusque. To my fragile, addled, Delirious mind, she was almost rude. But she knew my size. And she had a nursing bra in my size! (Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles....and now that song is stuck in my head. Awesome.) It was $100. I knew it would be $100. It still felt like a lot of money.

I invest in my bras. It's whatever, my cross to bear, I have to do it, it's cool. I'm used to it. But a nursing bra, while specifically functional for one purpose, is otherwise less functional than a normal bra would be. For one thing, it can't be underwire, because this will encourage mastitis (the scourge of breastfeeding women everywhere) so it can't support Honey or Dew as they are accustomed to being supported. Secondly, the straps unclip, in order to open the dealy for feeding time, but this creates a weak point at a fairly key stress point of the whole apparatus, and my bra for some reason is prone to spontaneously detaching. When I'm working. On a patient. And suddenly I have the distinct sensation one of my girls is no longer suitably corralled. It's not that a patient could tell this through my clothes or anything, it's just the sensation... it unnerves me. And I can't do anything about it until I'm done with that appointment and can be alone to reach unceremoniously down my shirt and reattach everything.

There is no graceful way for me to do this. I have seen the Lulu-mamas at breastfeeding group who make unhooking and rehooking their nursing apparel look sexy. It's like watching a beautiful foreign creature on a safari, I have no idea how they do it. I dream of being so capable. This dream will not come true.

I couldn't bring myself to spend another $100 on another bra, so I removed the underwire from two of my regular bras to wear around the house. They are serviceable, but I do have to halfway undress myself at feeding times. This doesn't work in the Public Arena, so I reserve my dear nursing bra for those situations. It took awhile to get the hang of it. There are extra strappy bits that are supposed to keep the main strap on your shoulder after you've unhooked the cup part, but these extra strappies are really loose, so the darn thing falls off my shoulder anyway. This was initially frustrating enough for me to want to give up on the whole enterprise, but I got over it. Because with a nursing bra, I only have to lift my shirt and unclip the doodad, I don't have to pull my arm out of my sleeve and slide half my bra off. And I spend enough time driving around in civilian clothes to public places to understand how this is beneficial. So we love the nursing bra now, and it only took six months. Just in time for Bean to start solids!

In retrospect, yes I should have bought a nursing bra before giving birth. But the baby-pundits say you can't be sure how much your breast size will change. So I waited for them to get even bigger (good grief) except they didn't really. Obviously, since I spend most of my time in de-wired pre-pregnancy bras. So I could have saved myself a bunch of drippy drippy trouble by getting a good bra before the baby came. That magical time when I could go shopping unencumbered by a baby bucket, or without orchestrating Papa Bean's supervision, and didn't have to strategize my excursion to fit between feedings. (I was going to call them halcyon days, then looked up the origin of this phrase, and discovered it is inappropriate in this instance. Learn something new every day, etc.)

Friend L insists nursing tanks are the way to go, this brand in particular, as the top of the tank is an actual bra in actual bra sizes. (And because the site has regular sales. They are only available via interwebs in the Prairie Valley City.) The benefit is that you don't have to hike up your shirt to unhook the bra, thereby exposing your delectably stretch-marked post-pregnancy abdominal regions. The bra just unhooks at the strap of the shirt, and your tummy remains covered. This is modesty I can believe in. I was hung up on the $55 price tag (for a tank top!) until I realized I could have bought two of these shirts for the price of my one, lonely nursing bra. So I'm waiting for a sale...I think I like the purple :) (Holy crap I didn't think I had this much to say about nursing bras! Apologies to all readers, presumably male, if this made for squeesies. If you've even read this far!)


  1. Wow, that is pricey. When I had my daughter, I went right to formula, so never had to deal with that. But sure it's expensive, isn't everything?

  2. I have taken to moving the straps on my bras closer to the closure. Sometimes I just fold them laterally and hand-stitch them down; sometimes I cut and reattach. I have found this does wonderful things to help them stay on my shoulders. Mayhaps this would help your fabulous and wonderful nursing bra stay put.

  3. There is a website called diaperswappers.com which I love for stuff like this. I got MOST of my really nice nursing tanks there for trades for diapers or for cheap. Obviously, mostly stuff that other mamas have used, but I didn't care.

  4. I have justified my mommy wardrobe by equating the cost of a tank (or seven!) to the cost of formula. Unfortunately, I have also used this argument to justify buying the Cadillac of breast pumps. I will be bfing forever to pay that one off!

    The one-handed-boob-freeing has more to do with the style of the clasp, and less to do with the skill of the mommy. Bravado bras are particularly easy to fasten and unfasten with one hand.

  5. You are so funny.
    I don't know why that bra cost so much. Admittedly, it has been about 11 years since I have looked into this issue, and when I fell out of the boob tree I just fell on the ground, no branches (I think in Mama-bean-speak this means I am not very well endowed).
    Still. I just went to Sears and got some nursing bras, they cost me about $12 each.
    Is that just not an option any more?
    I could never stand not to have nursing bras, though -- couldn't use my regular ones. Just hated the feeling...
    But buy bras, don't get the tank dealy. All you have to do is buy cheap tanks and ...I'm a little vague here, don't really remember...but maybe cut slits under the bosom area? Cut out the top but leave the straps? Cut into the sides?
    I saw that on a blog -- 11 years too late.
    It never even occurred to me that my side-flab was showing...

  6. I'm not sure if it would work for you, but I buy regular tanks tops with the built in shelf-bra support and wear them with nursing bras. I'll wear the tanks under t-shirts or sweaters and then just shed the tee/sweater at feeding time. Instead of hiking up my shirt to unhook the bra, I just slide the tank strap down over my arm and pop A on for her feeding. I love this option because it keeps my baby belly covered and I find it easier than trying to wrestle with the hooks under a shirt...

  7. I totally sympathize! I needed new nursing bras this time around but I was too busy (and cheap) to buy them. So I made do with the shredding bras. I'm almost done now (down to 2 little noodly sessions a day) and I went out and replaced all my "regular" bras this week. Wonderful fun! But expensive. :)