The wedding dress on the right, by fashion designer Samantha Sleeper, allows mothers to breastfeed while wearing it. (Photo: Samantha Sleeper)
Samantha Sleeper knows how hard it is to breastfeed in something beautiful. “There’s a conundrum around being fashionable and nursing,” the fashion designer, and mom of a 2-year-old boy, tells Yahoo Parenting. “There’s not a lot that makes you feel beautiful and sexy. It’s a lot of jersey shirts.”
So when another mother mentioned that she was getting married – and had resigned herself to simply unzipping her designer gown and leaving the room every time she had to nurse – Sleeper heard it as a challenge. “I was like ‘No, you don’t want to do that. You can’t miss your own wedding,’” she says. Instead, the 28-year-old designer set out to create a dress that served both needs – a gorgeous bridal gown with easy nursing access.
This top half of the wedding dress has two layers, and one can be partially removed to allow a mother to breastfeed. (Photo: Samantha Sleeper)
Sleeper says the project was her biggest design challenge, but also her most rewarding one. “The engineering of the dress was hard – normally we go through one prototype, and this one had four, as we were trying to figure out what kind of closures, what kind of fabric, what kind of zippers,” she says.
In the end Sleeper created a stunning gown that made nursing easy for the new mom, but still had all the glamour a bride might want on her wedding day. “The front of the dress has a bust panel that goes across the chest, but that opens to expose a silk camisole underneath, and that’s where there is an overlapping opening that allows for breastfeeding,” Sleeper says. “And you’re not at all exposed in the process.”
This opening allows a mother to breastfeed without feeling exposed on her wedding day. (Photo: Samantha Sleeper.)
There was a lot to consider in the design, including the best fabric option. “You don’t want milk to leak through, but you don’t want it to be cotton – you want it to be luxurious,” Sleeper says. “And then it has to support your breasts.” In the end she went with all silk, with a lycra-silk blend in the base layer. The dress – which can also be separated into a top and skirt — sold for $2800.
The wedding, which took place last spring, was a huge success, Sleeper says. “The bride remarked at how beautiful it made her feel and how easy it was. It made a difference to her overall experience of the evening — she didn’t want nursing to negatively impact her night,” she says. “There’s an intimacy to breastfeeding, and I imagine you don’t want to feel uncomfortable about doing something so natural, especially on your wedding day. Without this, she probably would have had to miss half her wedding in half-hour segments. ”
Sleeper found the experience so rewarding that she’s begun experimenting with other maternity wear, creating custom silk breastfeeding shirts for two mothers looking for maternity clothes for their corporate office jobs.
Mothers interested in trying out their own custom made-to-measure breastfeeding shirts or gowns can contact Sleeper at firstname.lastname@example.org.