After two pregnancies, two nursing babies, and four years working in the outerwear department at R.E.I., I’ve had the chance to figure out what clothing works best for getting outdoors while pregnant or breastfeeding in cold winter weather. I’ve been disheartened to notice that pregnant and nursing mothers are a greatly underserved population for gearing up for the outdoors, which is a shame as life outside doesn’t end with pregnancy.
All the traditional maternity outfitters seem to offer cotton-only (or mostly cotton) clothing which is a major no-no for outdoor activities in the cold, not to mention the fact that for being maternity-specific clothing, it never seemed to cover my belly past month 8. (For reference, I am 5’8″ and 125lbs, though at my biggest during pregnancy I was about 175.)
Fortunately, I’ve found several items that I have been able to wear throughout the duration of my pregnancies and beyond, as each of these items below were purchased in my pre-pregnancy size and due to stretchy waists or longer torso sizes were able to last throughout my pregnancies and continue to fit once I reached pre-pregnancy weight – no small feat since I gained 50lbs each time – which is nice since no one wants to buy quality technical gear that only lasts a few months.
These are items that I have personally used, but I have seen a lot of items that would fit the bill for pregnancy/nursing friendly gear; my main recommendation would be to stop in an outdoor retailer and look for items with a longer torso (like tunics) and a stretchy waistband (for pregnancy) or any shirts with a henley style/zip-down/stretchy scooped neck (for nursing), paying close attention to the labels to make sure you’re avoiding cotton.
lucy Manifest Long-Sleeve Tunic
They have a number of pregnancy-friendly options and have something along these lines in a short-sleeve as well (the Yoga Girl Tunic). This also has a deep V-back so if you’re feeling frisky you can even try flipping it around post-pregnancy and using it as a nursing shirt (though the jury is still out on how obvious the backwards-wear is!).
With a solid base layer underneath for colder temperatures these are definitely workable hiking pants (as well as a just a good all-around athletic or even casual pant during pregnancy).
These unfortunately picked up more leaves than I would have liked but were still a solid non-jeans option for expanding bellies – and it has pockets!
The North Face Aphrodite Pull-On Pants
Similar to the Get Going Pants, another really nice option for a stretchy band to last the whole pregnancy (though different brands fit differently, so it’s important to try things on to make sure it fits your body type).
Smartwool Women’s PhD® Light Printed Wind Zip T
One of the few Merino wool options I’ve had the chance to try on (though I’m sure there are others). Merino wool can be worn for days on end before it starts to smell and does a much better job than synthetic materials at regulating body temperature so this tends to be my go-to for more serious hikes when I want to be more careful about over-heating.
This one has a nice quarter-zip option that goes down just far enough for me to get a boob out while out and about – and it has thumbholes! This is definitely a more “technical” shirt with a lot of backpacking-friendly features like paneling that works well with backpack (or carrier) placement.
I recently discovered this one and I ended up picking up two – it is a synthetic but is incredibly soft like broken-in cotton, plus it just looks nice as a casual shirt. It has a deep v-neck with some stretchiness to it and is a tested and confirmed nursing-friendly option.
On another note, I highly recommend people look for more “technical” jackets (as opposed to a casual, traditional coat) if they plan on carrying their kids. Companies that make jackets intended for backpacking/climbing tend to have easier to access pockets when wearing babies as opposed to more traditional jackets where you have to do a lot more fumbling/readjusting to get to your phone/keys. I have only tried one jacket that does this – the Arc’Teryx Zeta LT – so I can only speak to that particular item, but including “harness compatible pockets” in your search for a jacket should turn up some options that work well with a SSC or framed carrier.
Do you have a favorite piece of outdoor gear? Share with us here in the comments! Happy Winter Hiking!