Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Mondays 9/26/11 – Clothes to Labor in

labor clothes via @chgdiapers

Mondays are when I answer a question that a reader asked, and ask other readers to help out too!

Questions don’t have to be cloth diaper related, just email maria at with “Mailbox Mondays” in the subject, or fill out my contact form for readers, which you will always be able to find on my Contact Page.

Melissa says:

So here is a non cloth diaper related question…I am giving birth for the first time in November. I will be at a hospital, hopefully in their natural birthing center, but that just depends on if the little one cooperates 🙂 Either way my plan is to do it naturally. I will not be required to wear a hospital gown and would prefer not to. So, do you have any recommendations for what to wear while in labor? I have heard that all inhibitions go out the window during transition and birth, but there will be at least a few hours before that that I would like to be at least partially clothed but still have everything accessible for the nurses. I found an online retailer that makes birth skirts that I am intrigued with but I am not sure I am willing to fork over that much money for one. Any suggestions?

Thank you so much!

Hey this is a great question, and actually one I’ve been thinking about lately myself. My hospital wasn’t as accommodating, so I went with the ever stylish hospital gown, and saved my battles for other stuff!

First of all, congratulations!! I have seen the birth skirts you’re talking about and while fabulous, they are also a little spendy. After my post last week, you probably know I’m planning a home birth. It may not be as important a decision, since I won’t have to pack a bag & can change my mind easily, but I’ve still been trying to figure out what to wear! Weird as it sounds, I’m not comfortable being naked (even by myself), but obviously I can’t be wearing a 3-piece suit during labor/birth!

You definitely want something that is comfortable, not restrictive, allows easy access to medical staff (to check you, apply monitors, blood pressure cuffs etc.) and allows easy skin-to-skin contact and nursing access after the birth. You will probably want a backup labor outfit as well if you really want to avoid hospital gowns. There’s always the possibility that what you’re wearing might become soiled enough that you need to change. You also probably want to choose darker colors, or something that wasn’t too expensive since you won’t be able to rush home and pre-treat/soak it!

So here’s what I’m thinking…a loose fitting, elastic waist skirt. I actually have one from Target that isn’t maternity, but folds down like yoga pants to sit under my belly (and was considerably less expensive than that one!) You’ll want a loose fitting top that’s easy to pull up, gives access to your arms, and preferably also access to your chest (for baby!) Since I’m not sure if I will end up in the tub, I’m considering my maternity tankini top (which I never actually used this summer!) because the faux crossover front is easy to pull down/aside for skin to skin and nursing. Or consider a short sleeved, loose fitting top.

I think layers are the way to go since hormonal shifts made me go from sweltering hot to freezing cold in an instant. You could do a maternity/nursing tank top with a tie or button front sweater/shirt even. Depending on how modest (or not) you are, you could just wear a comfortable nursing sleep bra under your clothing, and plan to take your shirt off if you get hot/after the baby is born. Though hospital gowns make for easy chest access. I regret not fighting to keep my bra on, since I really don’t like going braless (especially while carrying around pregnancy sized boobs!)

I already mentioned having a backup change of clothes for labor, but you will also want something for the first day or so after the baby is born. Depending on how long you were in labor, you might feel like you’ve been wearing the same clothes forever, and nothing feels better than a shower and clean clothes! Most hospitals still check you quite a bit during that first day, so you will want something similar, or a nursing nightgown/robe. You will probably not want to be wearing pants or long sleeves.

You didn’t ask this, but you’ll also need something to wear home! Unless you have incredible genes/are a supermodel (in which I hate you…kidding…sort of…) you will not be skinny leaving the hospital. Most women are around the size they were at 5-6 months pregnant, so it’s probably not a good idea to bring pre-pregnancy clothes to wear home (unless you like feeling depressed!) I found jeans to be extremely uncomfortable because of the crotch seams, which seem about 1,000 times bigger/bumpier when you’re sore! What would be good are some maternity sweats or loose fitting yoga pants, along with a nursing top, or nursing tank and loose, zip up hoodie.

What about everyone else? Have you worn your own clothing during labor? What did you wear?

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Maria is an aspiring "fit mom" of 3 children, writing about cloth diapers, going green, and her life as a single mom. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development, and other services.
  • Melissa
    October 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you everyone for all the great advice. You inspired me to go thrift store shopping and I found a good, cheap skirt that I think will work perfectly. Add to that a sports bra that zips down the front and I think I am ready for labor. Or at least as ready as I can be 🙂

    Thank you for your advice,

    • October 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Yay! Sending you smooth labor vibes!

  • September 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    P.S. My apologies for the improper grammar in my post title. Clothes in which to labor? Shouldn’t have ended my “sentence” with a preposition. Tsk tsk.

  • Megan
    September 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I had a knee-length zippered robe on. It was just the right length to be checked and I could zip down the top a little to cool down and later nurse. I had a meternity swim top and swim skirt ready if I wanted to get in the tub, but didn’t.

    • September 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      Great idea!

  • Hannah
    September 26, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Ahhh, good question. I wore a hospital gown the first time around and actually didn’t mind b/c then I didn’t have to worry about ruining any of my own clothes, or even if not ruining them, having to take them home dirty/sweaty.

    I guess it depends when/if I get in a tub, and how long I stay there!

    Thanks for all the suggestions!

    • September 26, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      I do love some of these fancy schmancy “hospital gowns” though. The ones at our hospital were all ugly, gross, faded etc. bleh.

  • September 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    I was totally naked… yeah. I had brought a t-shirt to wear in the tub if I wanted to (birth center, water birth) but I ended up feeling most natural naked. Sometimes while I was laboring outside the tub, I had a towel wrapped around me. I don’t think I wore anything (except the comfy panties and pads) until several hours after she was born and family was going to visit.

    • September 26, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      I wish I were as comfortable naked! My kids seem to love being naked. My son will run around after a bath saying “Nekkid boy!! Nekkid boy!!” Tee-hee!!

  • Courtney S
    September 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

    The gowns seem like a good idea for a home birth. They only suggest throwing it away because they assume you are delivering in a hospital where there is no place to wash it. They are cute!

    • September 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Well, I’m cheap, so I wouldn’t throw it away any more than I’d throw a $20 bill away. 😉

      • Courtney S
        September 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

        If I could like your comment, I would! I could never throw something like that away! It’s 100% cotton!

  • September 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Great suggestions, Maria!

    With my first, I wore a long, loose T-shirt while laboring. At the hospital, they made my put on the gown (boo). I totally didn’t care at the end who saw me, since there was a whole crowd of people in there that I couldn’t help anyway. I still had my top covered. At least the hospital gown was made to accommodate nursing!

    With my second, I ended up wearing a snug fitting tank-top. It was totally not an intentional pick – just what I happened to be wearing when I went into labor that night!

    All were comfortable, and I know I prefer to have my upper chest covered during labor/birth. Although I don’t have a big deal with modesty while birthing, it helps keep me warmer, without having fabric or constricting garments on my lower half.

    I’ve seen some labor gowns that can be bought that are pretty (one brand is Pretty Pushers – prices seem reasonable) and could be useful for giving access in a hospital setting. One could also use a sarong, or some other skirt that you could loosely tie around the waist, and whatever top seemed most comfortable – nursing bar, sports bra, tank top, t-shirt…

    • September 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Wow, those are beautiful gowns!

      • September 26, 2011 at 10:33 am

        Wait, what? Disposable? That’s odd. 100% cotton…hmm…

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