If this is your first rodeo, you’re either sprinting to Maternity Chic to dive into full-figured everything or feeling just plain fat. A growing form can be a huge mental hurdle for women who struggle with gaining weight or a welcome change for health-conscious folks. But regardless of how eager you are to cloak your growing bod, take heed to these much-needed tips to avoid a pile of maternity clothing debt. As a mom to soon-to-be three, I’ve made every mistake under the fluorescent strap-on belly sun. Save your budget and look good at the same time.
You may barf five times each day or feel like a completely normal person. Some women gain ten pounds during the first 13 weeks while others lose that much. The first portion of your pregnancy is a total mixed bag. You’ll start to feel different, regardless, and will need to make some clothing adjustments by the end.
1. Eat well, but not for two.
Getting started with the right portions and nutrition will not only save in potential health complications for you and your baby, but also in wardrobe costs. Excessive food intake for baby #1 (at the behest of every well-intentioned friend who said “eat for two”) not only added crazy amounts of weight to lose plus severe foot and back pain, but also sent me back to the maternity section many more times to buy ever increasing sizes. While you may need to purchase a few larger clothes toward the end of your pregnancy, keeping weight gain within the recommended guidelines (25-30 pounds) will avoid buying two or three sets of clothing. Carbs will stick to your gut and thighs like spitballs on a junior high ceiling.
2. Invest in a bigger bra.
The girls will swell early on, at least for most of us. If you’ve been comfortable in a B-cup, get ready to go to a C-cup. And while it isn’t necessary, you’ll want to avoid underwire as much as possible, so you may as well ditch the wire now. That extra supportive feature quickly becomes a straight jacket when your belly swells. And get fitted! Women at quality lingerie shops know exactly what will work for your size and shape.
3. Look for front pleated shirts before buying maternity counterparts.
One of the biggest shocks you’ll ever have is seeing how large you are after giving birth. You still look 6-months pregnant when you waltz out of the hospital. Depending on how much weight you put on, it will take up to 9 months to get back to your original size. Your pregnancy shirts worked great for a large belly but they’re cut to accommodate for a giant belly. Post-partum you’re just larger and frumpy. So as much as you can make use of the billowing, pleated style right now, do it! Daisy Fuentes top or several pleated Apt 9 options, both from Kohls, are long enough to cover your new tummy mileage for several months while also looking great when the baby comes.
4. Buy a few larger shirts and “flexible” pants.
Early on is not the time to go crazy at Maternity Central. Buy one or two traditional pants and shirts in larger sizes rather than pants with the elastic band. They are more comfortable and you’ll wear them longer.
5. Only buy one or two band pants.
During my first pregnancy I was convinced that the full tummy coverage pant would be ridiculously hot and uncomfortable. But after a dozen pairs of elastic band jeans and the full panel pant, I wouldn’t trade one full-coverage for all twelve! Elastic waistbands always curl and are just uncomfortable. Plus they roll down like a snowball as soon as you develop a belly. Yes, they can be worn longer after delivering, but I’d much rather have a larger pair of pants than deal with bulky elastic. If you do buy them, reinforce the band with several vertical stitches so it doesn’t separate from the fabric pocket.
6. Buy a waist extender to use your regular clothing.
With fun names like the Tummy Tube and Bella Band it’s hard to resist this splurge. Essentially fancy tube tops, these circular hose-like bands hold up your britches so you can continue wearing the same pants. I wouldn’t recommend trying to wear thick denim with a band as they wiggle out too easily, but thinner dress pants work very well with them. Another trick that pushes you well into the second trimester without much shopping is an elastic button extender.
This is the fun part, where your bump is cute and small and looks like a model at the maternity store. Most women lose the nausea and start to enjoy their (obvious) body changes. New clothing is definitely in order during these few months.
1. Purchase regular jackets and sweaters.
Open cardigans and wrap sweaters are hot right now and will fit you! The maternity store has the same version of these cover-ups, but they will only fit well during your big-belly months. Buy a size or two larger than you normally wear and they will do for all but a few weeks toward the end (when nothing fits anyway). You’ll be much warmer than usual so jackets aren’t that big of a priority.
2. Rouched shirts actually slim.
You may have avoided the side-pleated shirts with “rouching” for fear that they make you look even larger. But the pleating across the front makes your growing tummy look more prominent than the extra chub you’ve put on the sides. It’s the vanishing point in action. Buying rouched shirts will also allow more fabric for your belly to expand.
3. Avoid exclusively maternity stores.
Before heading to Future Mother Central check out your favorite stores’ maternity options first. Digs like Old Navy, Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, and JCPenney have great options and less restrictive return requirements than traditional maternity stores. I’ve found the best prices for maternity during sales at JCPenney and Gap rather than exclusive maternity outlets. And don’t forget Target, Kohls, and Walmart too. The quality of clothing at Motherhood Maternity isn’t nearly as durable as clothing from other retailers. A Pea in the Pod has some really attractive options, but I wouldn’t spend the bulk of your maternity budget there.
4. No more heels.
Flats are in, so take advantage of it! According to a recent study at Iowa State University in Ames, wearing heels causes significant knee damage, adds to poor posture and unnaturally shortens the calf muscle by about 13%. Add 20-35 pounds to that pressure and you can cause serious long-term damage. You need to live in comfortable flats that support your growing body.
5. Buy what fits now with a little room to grow.
“How huge will I get?” is always a lingering question for pregnant women. At some point, ladies, you will be enormous. Those model pictures you see of stick-thin armed women at Japanese Weekend are about six or seven months pregnant. Your final girth will amaze you. So buy for clothing that fits now with a little room to expand (outward) and don’t worry so much about covering all your bases for the length of your pregnancy.
6. Hang-dry all clothing, especially shirts.
The biggest complaint I have about overtly marketed maternity shirts is they’re often as short as regular shirts. Make absolute sure your maternity clothing is long enough. You can squeeze into a top that’s a bit too narrow, but nothing is more unsightly than a nude-colored band popping out under your short shirt. Hang every shirt to dry, stretching it length-wise just a bit.
Well-meaning fools will start to ask if you “are due any day?” at 7-months and they deserve a swift kick in the nether regions for it. The belly will grow and grow and you will feel like a freak. Those last few weeks are excruciatingly long and increasing. Just know that you’ll soon be delivered from breathing pains and uncomfortable nights.
1. Stick to dresses and skirts for comfort.
Dresses will become your best friend during this last push. If you have a winter due date, stick some tights under a dress and throw on a comfy cardigan. Wearing light-weight cotton dresses is like waltzing around in pajamas–you just can’t beat it at your size! And summer baby-mommas should live in swimsuits at the pool. No excuses.
2. Choose highly flexible fabrics.
Blouse material is out. Stick to cottons and breathable polyester blends. Anything that stretches will become your best friend. Depending on your size, you may just look large regardless of what you wear (which is naturally what happens when you make a baby), so you’ll need to aim for comfort.
3. Don’t be afraid to go up a size.
Even if you were a medium before getting pregnant, don’t be afraid to try clothing a size larger for this last push of pregnancy. The worst thing you could do is squeeze into clothing too small and be even more miserable during the last few weeks. Expect to retain extra water toward the end. When the 9th month rolls around, you probably won’t fit many of your maternity clothes anyway. Yoga pants will become your best friend.
4. Buy a nursing bra that fits your 8-month size.
The girls have grown to their full size by about now. While this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule (since they will be slightly larger during the first months of nursing), you can buy a good nursing bra and start breaking it in. Bravado Designs makes several comfortable and supportive bras that will carry you through to the next stage.
5. Avoid adding bulk with excessive pleating.
Now is not the trimester to bring out the billowy tops. They will only accentuate your width. Stick with tailored and fitted tops in muted tones that don’t scream “I’m my own continent!” Flowing, unshapely things are great for a smaller bump, but they just don’t work for the third trimester.
6. Not every full-paneled pant is created equal.
You’ll need a full-paneled pant at some point, so buy a good one. Look for hose-like, firm panels that stretch easily, but hold well. Motherhood’s Secret Belly jeans are lightweight and very comfortable–at $44 they aren’t the cheapest on the market, but the wash well and feel great. Cotton panels sag with denim and thicker fabrics, and the last thing you need is to pull your pants up while you’re trying to hoist your giant body up as well. If it feels like forgiving tights, you’re on the right track. Plan to spend more for a good full-panel jean or short, but it’s worth every dime.
7. No more underwire bras.
Unless you plan on suffocating yourself, don’t wear underwire. It will be an amazing relief to ditch the wire after putting up with months of discomfort. And you might never go back it after delivering!