Enter the maternity section of any store underwear department and you’ll be met with bulging racks of hard, unforgiving cups, cumbersome clip systems and designs that seem altogether too large to ever go under your clothes. Essentially, the opposite of the sexy, sleek designs one rack over that used to be your MO. And why? If motherhood is meant to be beautiful, why is the underwear that caters for it so ugly? It was this line of thinking that inspired the Byron Bay-based (and decidedly non-maternity) maternity wear label Juem.
When Juliette Harkness and Emma Nelson became mothers, they struggled to find maternity wear that felt like them. “I just wanted something minimal and refined,” says Emma. “I enjoyed breastfeeding, but definitely felt a bit gross at times with all the milk leaking and the thick, utilitarian designed bras. Everything seemed far too functional rather than something I would actually want to wear.” Seeking to solve this for other women who felt the same, the friends launched Juem in 2018 with a small collection of underwear that caters for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers. Juem designs are comfortable without sacrificing the aesthetic, and aim to make women feel one way: “the same way they did prior to becoming mothers.” Here Emma shares her advice on how to buy maternity wear that does just that.
“Breast size fluctuates depending on how much milk you have, so you want a fabric that accommodates that,” says Emma. Juem designs are made from a carefully chosen cotton and elastane blend for this exact reason. It also means you can invest in the underwear during your pregnancy that will still work for you when breastfeeding, and even after — the gold hardware, tortoiseshell buttons and flattering cuts make them some of the nicest underwear out there, maternity or not. Emma recommends buying their bras as you head into your last trimester, “that’s when you’ll be a similar size to when you’re breastfeeding.”
While you don’t need something that looks and feels like a medieval breastplate, you do need a bra that supports. Look for a wider back band, adjustable straps and room for breast pads — because at some point in your breastfeeding journey you’ll need breast pads to catch leaks and having bras that easily accommodates them is just one less thing to worry about. “Our bras accommodate breast pads, but they are not as full coverage as traditional maternity bras and don’t include a full layer of fabric at the sides to make the clips or buttons work.”
Having a baby requires a range of underwear. If you’re a high-waisted undies lover, you might find your favourites unwearable during pregnancy, while low-cut briefs are a no-go after birth, especially if you have a Caesarean. Emma’s recommendation? “Something soft, comfortable with plenty of flex and breathable with soft elastic so they don’t dig in.” Low cuts are great for that last trimester because they fit smoothly and comfortably under your bump, while high-waisted ones offer great coverage for postnatal.
“Look for something you feel good in,” says Emma. “Pre and post-natal dressing is tricky! I found I couldn’t wear the same things as I had previously because my body was such a different shape, so my best advice is to just roll with it, know that it’s not forever and find something that makes you feel good.” Just as a great blazer can make you feel professional and a blow-dry can make you feel like a bombshell, nice underwear can make you feel put together — especially when you’re seeing it every three hours to feed your baby. “We all go through such a big change physically and mentally when we have children, and it can become quite overwhelming. Something as simple as a nice pair of underwear can lift your mood, and when you’re a new mum or you’re about to be, it’s these subtle shifts in mood that have all the power.”