Expanding into the Nursing and Maternity Category
by Libby Dowd
The popularity of breastfeeding in the United States is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012 statistics 76.9 percent of mothers breastfeed. Women are also breastfeeding longer—a reported 47.2 percent continued for up to 6 months. With stats like that it’s no wonder manufacturers and retailers are seeing a greater demand for well-fitting and stylish nursing bras. So how can your retail business keep up? Here, The Lingerie Journal spoke to six cutting-edge maternity and nursing bra manufacturers to get their advice on building a well-rounded stock.
Nine Months of Comfort
Above and from left: Melinda G™ 2115 Tee-Shirt Soft-Cup Nursing Bra black colored – Rosie; Melinda G™ 2160 Glorious™ Contour Nursing Bra nude – Sam vamping colored and Melinda G™ 2160 Glorious™ Contour Nursing Bra black colored – Sam
The need for a new bra often becomes apparent to expectant mothers right away. According to Melinda Gros of Melinda G Maternity & Nursing Bras a woman can expect her cup size to increase as soon as the first month. She recommends retailers carry supportive styles with coverage and a lot of give for women in the early stages of pregnancy. “Sometimes all you want is space for your breasts,” she says. “A full coverage bra gives more space. Stay away from a demi bra style.”
“Making sure there is a good top cup stretch is a key consideration when fitting a pregnant woman,” – Tracey Montford, Cake Lingerie
Above: Cake Lingerie’s Candy Collection – Vanilla
“Making sure there is a good top cup stretch is a key consideration when fitting a pregnant woman,” adds Tracey Montford, designer of Cake Lingerie. “The top cup should fit over the breast tissue without restricting or cutting into it. The side cups in our maternity and nursing bras are designed for additional support and avoid the breast tissue bulging towards the sides.”
Above: Melinda G™ 3000 Cami Sutra™ Nursing Cami
In addition to full coverage bras, nursing tanks are versatile and can be worn throughout the entire pregnancy. Melinda G has had success with its Cami Sutra Nursing Cami. The fitted tank is long enough to cover the tops of unbuttoned jeans, and stretches to fit over a pregnant belly. The top features drop cups with easy to secure clips. “It’s designed for nursing but it doesn’t scream nursing top. It works well through the entire pregnancy,” says Gros.
Above and from left: Glamourmom Nursing Bra Full Bust Long Top in Grape and Glamourmom Nursing Bra Full Bust Slimming Long Top-Black.
“Nursing tanks are great for layering and do not ride up,” – Line Rothman, Glamourmom
Other manufacturers agree. “Nursing tanks are great for layering and do not ride up,” says owner and designer of Glamourmom, Line Rothman. The brand recently introduced a new Full Bust Slimming Long Top that features a full structured built-in adjustable nursing bra and an outer layer of fabric that shapes and smoothes the bust, waistline and back. Additionally, Cake Lingerie has launched a new range of seamless nursing tanks.
Above: Leading Lady Lace Cup Nursing Bra; Leading Lady Lace Frame Nursing Bra and Leading Lady Nursing Bralette
“Fitting a women at the end of her pregnancy will ensure the bra will fit once her milk comes in,” – Haidee Johnstone, Leading Lady
Remind your expectant customers to begin shopping for the nursing bras she plans to wear post-partum during the eighth and ninth month. Fitting a women at the end of her pregnancy will ensure the bra will fit once her milk comes in, says Haidee Johnstone, senior vice president and director of design for Leading Lady. But one is not enough: “She’ll need to buy at least three bras—the one she’s wearing, one in the drawer and one in the wash,” Johnstone adds.
Once again, flexible styles will be the most comfortable for a new mom. “A woman who just gave birth is in a transition stage where the cup size will go up usually two sizes once the milk comes in and the ribcage and belly will go down after giving birth,” says Rothman. “Her breasts are more sensitive during this time. And cup sizes usually change in between feedings, too.”
Above: Belabumbum nursing bra and girlshort
Retail Tip: Alyssa Weiss of Belabumbum recommends stocking soft, non-constructed sleep bras for new moms
“A nursing woman’s size may change depending on the time of day,” adds Alyssa Weiss, co-founder of Belabumbum. She recommends stocking soft, non-constructed sleep bras for new moms. Belabumbum’s nursing bras feature adjustable shoulder straps, six adjustment hooks to accommodate women’s changing body before and after birth and cups made from breathable microfibers and cottons.
More styles that easily adapt to a woman’s changing body come from QT Intimates, which makes nursing bras under the QT label and holds the license for La Leche League Intimates. It’s new adjustable band bra is perfect for accommodating a women’s changing body after she has a baby says Meryl Kutzin, vice president of production and merchandising.
Above and from left: QT Intimates Nursing Bra style #352; QT Intimates style #4321 drop cup and QT Intimates Lace Nursing Bra with Contrast Neck Trim
Leading Lady has also introduced the Crossover Front Closure Racer Back Leisure bra that has a hook and eye front closure with adjustment options making it easy to open during the night.
Additionally, all of Leading Lady’s nursing bras feature four adjustment hooks and underwires have a wider “u” shape that won’t pinch. Generally, underwire bras are not recommended during the first few weeks as they may interfere with milk production and can cause mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue. However, Johnstone created the oversized underwire when she found that women who feel more supported in this style were requesting it.
Above and from left: Belabumbum Kimono Dress and QT Intimates Long Nursing Cami style #4221
Not only do fit and function play a major role in selecting the right bra, style is also important to young mothers. QT Intimates works closely with La Leche League to gather feedback from nursing mothers. “We design our line around what nursing moms need—a good functioning bra that supports and does not block milk ducts,” Kutzin says. “And what they want—fashion, fun and color. We try to include the best in both of worlds.”
“Color is one way designers are infusing style and current trends into their collections”
“Nobody wants to sacrifice fashion or style when it comes to pregnancy and nursing,” adds Weiss. “Our collection features really beautiful ruffle robes and chemises. Everything is made from 100 percent pima cotton and pima modal. Our collection is everyday pretty—it’s not utilitarian nursing bras, but rather something you want to put on every day that makes you feel good. It isn’t over the top.”
Color is one way designers are infusing style and current trends into their collections. This season QT Intimates’ nursing bras will make a statement with bold colors, like black lace trimmed in hot pink and peacock blue and a new leopard print. Leading Lady has added lavender to its lace wire-free and underwire bras. And Belabumbum is offering brilliant jewel tones like eggplant and turquois.
Events and Education
Above: Leading Lady Nursing Chemise
“Stocking nursing bras will be no good to your business if you and your staff are not confident fitting and marketing them to pregnant women”
Stocking nursing bras will be no good to your business if you and your staff are not confident fitting and marketing them to pregnant women. Reach out to your vendors and ask for their assistance—most maternity and nursing bra manufacturers offer literature on their products and fitting guides. Leading Lady shares their fit measurements with retailers to let them know how they size bras. And for non-specific sizes, like S, M, L, XL, they offer conversion charts that retailers can cross-reference. If that’s not enough, most manufacturers will be available to speak directly to you and answer any questions you may have regarding fit. “We are always available to speak to stores one-on-one,” says Weiss. And Leading Lady’s Johnstone is also available to discuss fit with retailers.
Gros recommends retailers attend trade shows where they’ll have time to meet face-to-face with manufacturers and gain important knowledge regarding fit and sales. She’s also been known to visit stores for mini fit clinics with their staff. “We walk them through the fitting process when the customer is right there, showing them what to check and what to look for,” she says.
Above: Glamourmom Nursing Bra Long Tank-Chocolate
“Retailers can also team up with a lactation consultant to offer in-store events for new and nursing mothers.”
Be sure to speak to your reps about merchandising the product, too. “The majority of stores we work with don’t know where to put nursing bras,” says Kutzin. “And many large retailers have dropped the product because it’s not represented well.” Weiss tackles this problem by offering retailers a merchandising story. By using a color story to arrange bras and sleepwear you will make the display more noticeable to customers. “Our belly boudoir and beyond group and Colette groups are mix and match styles and colors,” she says. “We have reversible dresses and coordinating pants and mix and match tops. Prints and colors are a big part of what we do each season and we try to make it as easy as possible for the retailer to tell that story.”
Above: Belabumbum Nursing Chemise
Hosting an in-store event is a great way to educate your customers and staff. Belabumbum has held trunk shows in the New York area that feature new items. Weiss says these events also play a role in expanding a retailer’s education in nursing and maternity fit. “We work with a lot of retailers who own children’s stores or lingerie stores and they are not used to selling nursing bras that often,” she says. “They want easy to understand information that they can pass on to their customers.”
Retailers can also team up with a lactation consultant to offer in-store events for new and nursing mothers. During this time mothers are looking for support and an opportunity to meet with other women who breastfeed. Have a lactation consultant on hand to lead a group discussion and answer questions. And be sure to invite moms to bring along their babies—if you present your store as a comfortable environment where breastfeeding is encourages they will be more likely to return to you for their intimate apparel needs. To find a lactation consultant near you, contact your local La Leche League chapter at http://www.llli.org/.
Adding nursing apparel to your store can help you connect with a growing number of women who are pregnant and breastfeed. By supporting their needs you will in turn gain their trust, creating long-term relationships and a stronger, loyal customer base.
Learn More about the Brands Featured
Belabumbum: www.belabumbum.com | email@example.com
Cake Lingerie: www.cakelingerie.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Glamourmom: www.glamourmom.com | email@example.com
Leading Lady: www.leadinglady.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Melinda G Nursing & Maternity Bras: www.melindag.com | AskUs!@MelindaG.com
QT Intimates: www.qtbras.com | email@example.com