23 May 2018

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

Now that I'm a mama, my life has changed a lot. But one of the things that remains constant is that I want to be able to express myself through the clothes that I wear, and show my love of making by wearing things I've sewn myself. Even if somedays that just means yet another Breton top, hehe!

One of the questions that pops up in our inbox every so often is what sewing patterns to make if you're breastfeeding your baby. With a hungry newborn, you'll want to be able to pull your boobs out quickly and easily, while not necessarily flashing the rest of your body to the other customers in that parent-friendly cafe that's become your second home.

Comfort and ease are also key. Bra sizes can fluctuate wildly through pregnancy, nursing and beyond, so it's a good idea to avoid anything too fitted. And in the early months postpartum, particularly if you've had a caesarean, you probably won't want anything tight against your tum.

With these factors in mind, here's a list of Tilly and the Buttons sewing patterns that are great options for nursing mamas:

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!
Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

1) Cleo dungaree dress

When I was pregnant, our pattern cutter mentioned to me that her mama friend and all her friends from antenatal classes were basically living in Cleo dungaree dresses since having their babies. Cleo was already a favourite of mine and, once I popped, I understood exactly why it's particularly appealing to breastfeeding mothers.

The buckles (or buttons if you prefer) make it quick and easy to drop one side of the bib down for easy access to one boob, while keeping the rest of your torso covered. The pinafore style means you can wear pretty much any favourite t-shirt, sweater or blouse underneath. Plus the waist-skimming shape is extremely comfortable and very much appreciated in the early months after giving birth.

An added bonus is that Cleo is speedy to sew - and time is of the essence when there's a baba in the picture!

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

2) Mama-to-Be Bettine dress

When I was pregnant, I designed a couple of maternity patterns for our collection. One of these, the Mama-to-Be Bettine dress, includes an option to have buttons down the bodice. That way you can continue to wear the dress after pregnancy and open up just the right amount of bodice when your baby is hungry.

The shape of this dress makes it a lovely style to wear postpartum, the skirt skimming the waist and providing plenty of comfort. The elasticated empire waistline highlights the smallest part of your torso, and won't touch any tender caesarean scars if you have one.

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

3) Coco top

Easy-to-make and easy-to-wear, the Coco top is one of our all-time bestselling patterns. Zoe created a tutorial on how to turn it into a nursing top with a flap that you can discreetly pull up while keeping the rest of the bodice in place. You may have seen these kinds of tops in ready-to-wear maternity lines - they're such a good idea! This hack would also work well with the Agnes top or the Freya dress from my book Stretch!

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

Alternatively, if you've already got plenty of Coco tops that you want to get more wear out of, what I did was buy a couple of nursing vests to layer under my existing tops. That way, you can pull the whole top up - and Coco is loose enough to do this easily - but keep your belly under wraps with the vest.

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!
Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

4) Rosa shirt and shirt dress

If you want another style that will last you beyond your breastfeeding days, try the Rosa shirt or shirt dress. The button-down style is a winner for nursing. Wear the shirt with jeans (BTW am I the only one who's reluctant to go back to zipped jeans after trying elasticated waist maternity ones?!?), or make the dress version if you don't want anything rubbing on your belly.

The Mimi blouse from my first book Love at First Stitch is another good option - with short sleeves and a breezy bodice, it's a lovely one to wear in the summer months.

We also have another button-down pattern coming soon, so keep an eye out ;)

Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns - lovely options for breastfeeding mamas!

5) Mila dungarees

And finally, if you like the Cleo pinafore, give the Mila dungarees a whirl! I'm basically living in dungas at the moment, not only because the buckle staps make them perfect for nursing, but also because they're just so fun to wear.

One thing you may want to bear in mind is that, if your baby likes snuggling up to your chest at times other than feeding, you might want to go with buttons and buttonholes in place of the dungaree buckles so they don't press up against their delicate body. To be honest, this was a concern of mine in the early months but now my little one is a bit bigger he doesn't seem at all bothered by buckles. In fact, he's fascinated by them, so they're a good source of entertainment for a few minutes - and a bit of peace is always appreciated!

If you're currently breastfeeding or planning to do so in the future, I hope you found this post helpful. There's no reason why we can't continue to dress handmade while boobing our babies if we want to!

PS. If you like this post, you may also like Three Maternity Joni Dresses.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post! We're expecting our 3rd child and I've never thought of wearing dungarees for breastfeeding. I love the Coco pattern hack & everything with buttons for easy access. I love to make clothes that I can also use during the milky months. My next makes will be: the Mama patterns Bettine & Agnes,some Baby Boy clothes :) & the Cleo dungaree dress! So inspired! xxx

  2. Hiya! Zoe's tutorial for converting the Coco which you say would work on the Agnes - I presume we just do on the normal Agnes not the maternity version? No idea how quickly I'd expect the bump to go down but the stretch of jersey would work over a bit of a bump early on, right?
    Also, made myself a beautiful maternity Jersey bettine early on but when I made one in a woven fabric last week I couldn't even slightly get it over my bump, absolutely gutted!! No idea what went wrong!


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