The only thing harder than bringing a child into this world is getting into a workout routine once they've arrived.
But prioritizing postpartum movement has many benefits, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Not only can it boost energy and help prevent postpartum depression, but it can also play a big role in relieving the stress that can come along with raising a small human.
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Before jumping back into a workout routine, though, you'll want to get the all-clear from your health care provider and take stock of your athletic gear. What you wore when exercising before baby arrived may no longer be comfortable or function how you need it to.
This is especially true if you're breast or chestfeeding. Wearing nursing-friendly sports bras and workout tops can make it easier to feed your infant by giving you the support you need along with easy access for your baby.
How We Chose
Finding a nursing-friendly workout top isn't easy, though. LIVESTRONG.com spoke with parents who have said there are limited options out there, and finding one that strikes the balance between style and function is challenging.
We also chatted with personal trainers who specialize in pre and postnatal fitness for their expertise. To determine which tops were best, we considered the following criteria. You can learn more about how we cover products here.
- Features that provide easy nursing access
- Breathable fabrics
The Best Workout Tops for Breast or Chestfeeding
1. Beyond Yoga Featherweight Under Wraps Nursing Overlap Tee
This lightweight, moisture-wicking top is great for low-impact postnatal workouts. "This shirt is great for nursing, and the best part is there's a built-in nursing cover," says Naomi R., a Massachusetts-based mom of one.
The top has two layers so that baby can stay focused underneath the bottom layer and mama can keep things modest without having to whip out a nursing cover.
"I loved wearing this during all my postnatal yoga classes and stroller walks, and also for every day — it's stylish, soft and comfortable, and it doesn't look like a nursing top. I'm no longer nursing and still wear this top at least once a week, so it's absolutely worth the price," she says.
New mom Caitlin M. is also a big fan of this top, noting that it's held up very well to heavy use and countless washes and is "very flattering for the early postpartum days." If you're looking for something with a long sleeve, this is it.
2. Joymom Maternity Summer Cool Sleeveless Nursing Tank Top
Crafted from polyester and spandex, this stretchy top will help you stay cool while you break a sweat. The top layer pulls open for quick and easy nursing, a feature that can make going from fitness to feeding less stressful.
"When you only have to open a flap on your top to feed your baby, it's one less thing to worry about — especially if your infant is cluster feeding, which can be a real adventure," says Amanda Margusity, a new mom and a Spinning-certified lead instructor at CycleBar in New York City.
Amazon reviewers are big fans of this top too, noting that the asymmetric design makes the nursing flap less obvious.
"Super easy nursing access. I love how lightweight and soft the material is. It's like a Dry-Fit type of material, so it is perfect for a hot summer, workouts and snuggling a sweaty baby. The heathered color is especially great as it helps camouflage milk dribbles," one reviewer writes.
One thing worth noting is that this top doesn't have a built-in sports bra. So, you'll want to layer it over a nursing sports bra to stay supported while you break a sweat.
When Margusity was stocking up on nursing clothes, she wanted to look and feel great but didn't want to splurge.
"Breastfeeding can be a messy job, and it's temporary, so I didn't want to break the bank. I live for my cheap and cheerful Old Navy pieces. They're super comfortable and affordable," she says.
This ribbed, flowy top is one of her favorites. While not specifically marketed for workouts, it's made with a blend of polyester, rayon and spandex, so it's moisture-wicking, durable, breathable and stretchy — all the things you could want in a top that will see a lot of sweat and spit-up. Featuring a wrap front for convenient, discreet nursing, this is sure to become a staple in the early months with your baby.
4. Aanook Athletics Ruby Maternity and Nursing Sports Tank
Don't let the thinner straps on this tank fool you, reviewers say its built-in bra lends ample support — even while running and jumping.
"I've been looking for a comfortable but stylish workout tank that was breastfeeding-friendly, and this tank top has been everything I wanted. It is also very supportive for the HIIT workout I do," one reviewer says.
Ania Schietzelt, CPT, a pre and postnatal personal trainer, says this shirt hits all the marks. "This top provides great support and has nursing clips for easy access, which was always my biggest concern when I was nursing."
Schietzelt also notes that the moisture-wicking fabric and sewn-in bra pads are big bonuses.
"Lactating breasts can leak sometimes. It mostly happens when they're full, and I wouldn't recommend working out with full breasts, but sometimes they can leak a little out of the blue. The bra's nipple pads and antimicrobial liner help absorb leaks and wick away moisture, which can help you stay dry and comfortable," she says.
5. Beyond Yoga Featherweight Cozy Cover Maternity Nursing Tee
If you're looking to invest in pieces that will grow with you during the third trimester and beyond, consider this pick from Schietzelt, which is essentially a nursing tank with an attached short-sleeved top that acts as a modesty cover.
She says the polyester fabric "feels great against the skin" and is "super soft." Because it's moisture-wicking, it can help carry sweat, breast milk and baby drool away from your skin, helping you stay dry and comfy.
Pair it with your favorite leggings and nursing sports bra for workouts, or style it with a breastfeeding bra and some denim for an everyday look.
6. Bao Bei HUG Perfect Postpartum Tank
If flaps and snaps aren't your vibe, consider this stretchy yet compressive racerback top made explicitly with the postpartum period in mind.
It's cute enough for workouts or daily wear and has a scoop neckline to accommodate portable pumps and quick nursing access. Plus, the moisture-wicking nylon fabric dries quickly, making it ideal for workouts and feeding baby.
Erica Ziel, CPT, a certified pre and postnatal exercise specialist and founder of Knocked-Up Fitness, recommends this top to clients and says it can be worn without a bra for lounging or paired with the brand's Varsity Sports Bra for workouts.
Reviewers agree and love how supportive the tops are. "I was a 36DDD before my milk came in, and I never can go without a bra. But I can comfortably go without a bra in these tanks, which is mind-blowing. They are so comfortable," one reviewer writes.
Just because you recently delivered doesn't mean you can't wear a sports bra as your top.
"If you feel confident and strong, go for it," Margusity says. "Too many people think they have to look a certain way to wear a crop top or sports bra during movement, but that isn't the case! Plus, if you're breastfeeding or postpartum, you run really hot, so ditching the shirt may keep you way more comfortable," she says.
Margusity recommends this high-impact, supportive nursing bra to her postpartum clients and even wore it herself while breastfeeding. (The bra's adjustable hook-and-eye clasp at the back and adjustable shoulder straps provide major lift and compression.)
"I love a V-neck because they're extremely practical. There were many times when I couldn't nurse my daughter while I was training clients, so I had to sit on the floor and use wireless pumps. The V-neck allowed for easy adjustments and support for the pumps, and the detachable clips made access easy," Margusity says.
8. Kindred Bravely Bamboo Nursing and Maternity Tank
"Kindred Bravely is a brand that comes highly recommended by many certified pre and postnatal instructors," Ziel says.
The company was started by a mom of two when she couldn't find a comfortable and cute pair of pajamas to wear during early motherhood. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the brand has everything a postpartum parent could need to stay comfy as they navigate raising a baby, including this bamboo nursing top that reviewers say is perfect for everyday wear and working out.
Shoppers love the underlayer that facilitates easy, discreet breastfeeding, the lightweight fabric and the roomy fit. Consider this a must-have no matter how you like to stay fit.
5 Factors to Consider Before You Buy
Here's what you should look for in a workout top if you're chest or breastfeeding, according to Schietzelt and Margusity.
1. Nursing Access
The entire point of buying a chestfeeding-friendly workout top is so you can nurse during or after workouts hassle-free without getting fully undressed.
While shopping, remember "you'll be holding a baby with one arm and then have to undress in some capacity to feed your mini with the other," Margusity says.
With that in mind, Margusity and Schietzelt agree that the main thing you should consider while shopping is the access mechanism. Drop-down cups, flaps, snaps and front zippers allow quick and discreet breastfeeding, so try a few things out to see what you prefer.
"Personally, I had zero luck using zipper fronts. The zipper had a mind of its own. But it's different for everyone," Margusity says.
There are two main types of nursing-friendly workout tops: those with built-in bras and those without. If you prefer the former, ensure the top offers sufficient support for your breasts during physical activities and minimizes bounce, Schietzelt says. Feeding or pumping before hitting the gym can also help you exercise more comfortably.
If you prefer a top without built-in support, layer your shirt over a nursing sports bra that provides adequate support without being too tight. Bras that are too snug can put pressure on your breasts, which may restrict milk flow and cause mastitis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you're comfortable with less coverage, tops with clips, snaps, and V-necks that easily pull down are all great options, Margusity says. On the other hand, "if you prefer more privacy, look for something with a flap or wrap which will keep you and your baby more covered," she says.
4. Fit and Adjustability
"Choose a top that fits well and has adjustable features. It's common for breast size to change throughout the day while nursing, so adjustable straps or closures can accommodate these fluctuations," Schietzelt says. "A secure fit ensures both comfort and proper support."
Make breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics, like rayon and nylon, your go-to's in the postpartum period, Schietzelt says.
Due to hormonal fluctuations, you may sweat more during this time (both in and out of the gym). So, moisture-wicking fabric will help keep you comfortable. Plus, they will dry faster when milk leaks or your baby spits up, so it's a win-win.
For an extra comfy fit and ease during pumping and feedings, Schietzelt and Margusity recommend workout tops that blend a quick-drying fabric with something stretchy, like spandex.
"Soft, stretchy fabrics will help keep you comfortable and also help accommodate the changing size and sensitivity of breasts during breastfeeding," Schietzelt says.
What's the difference between a regular workout top and one for breast and chestfeeding?
"The primary difference between a regular workout top and one designed for nursing is the added functionality to facilitate feeding or pumping while providing support and comfort during physical activities," Schietzelt says.
Here are some distinctions she points out:
- Nursing access: A breastfeeding-friendly workout top typically has discreet access points, such as drop-down cups, front zippers or hidden slits, allowing easy and quick access for feeding or pumping without the need to remove the entire top.
- Adjustability: Some breastfeeding tops have adjustable straps and bra bands to accommodate fluctuations in breast size, which is common during nursing.
- Coverage and discretion: Nursing-friendly workout tops often provide extra coverage and discretion to help nursing moms feel comfortable feeding in public or semi-private settings.
Can you wear a regular workout top when breastfeeding?
"Absolutely!" Margusity says. "It's all about comfort and how you'd like to create your nursing journey."
Just be aware that regular workout tops typically don't have the same nursing-friendly features as specialized breastfeeding workout tops, Schietzelt says. "This means you may need to lift your top or remove it entirely to breastfeed," she explains.
Massachusetts-based new mom Tara Sales decided not to invest in breastfeeding-specific workout tops. Instead, she got a few traditional workout tops (like this Old Navy top and Lululemon tank) and sized up for added comfort.
"The tops I liked the most were loose and easy to pull up to breastfeed. After I delivered, I wanted to wear clothes that felt like me and would be things I could continue to wear even when I was no longer breastfeeding," she says.
What are the benefits of wearing a breast or chestfeeding-friendly workout top?
Accessibility and ease are the major selling points, Margusity says.
"Breast and chestfeeding-friendly clothing helps to minimize the stress of undressing to pump or feed your mini. It may sound weird, but it's one less thing to worry about, and it is a million times easier to unclip or open a swing top to feed your baby than to take an entire shirt off every time you have to nurse — especially when baby is cluster feeding," Margusity says.
Nursing-friendly shirts may also help modest parents feel more comfortable feeding their littles in front of others.
"These tops often come with discreet nursing access points, allowing parents to breastfeed in public or semi-private settings without drawing too much attention," Schietzelt says. "Overall, breastfeeding-friendly workout tops help make the experience of staying active while nursing more comfortable, efficient and enjoyable for both you and your baby."
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