I was recently invited to attend a formal fundraising gala with friends. My first thought was, “Yes!” then “What will I wear?” As I mentally reviewed the dresses in my closet, I realized I wouldn’t be able to nurse Joey in any of them. Visions of the Gala began to fade from my mind.
Then I thought of Momzelle’s nursing dresses. In seconds, I’d found the perfect dress for the Gala online. With Joey in tow, we had a lovely evening dining on fine food, visiting with friends, and raising money for a good cause.
If you also want to attend a formal event with a nursing baby, here are my tips for pulling it off.
1. Pick the right dress for the event.
As I mentioned, my dress was my first concern in planning to attend a formal event with a nursing baby. While I have a few favourite fancy dresses in my wardrobe, I haven’t worn them much in the past decade because none of them are breastfeeding-friendly.
Momzelle is my go-to store for nursing wear. I have a variety of their tops and dresses, which are comfortable and discreet. For the Gala, I picked the nursing dress Ella—a classic little black dress with a lace overlay, scoop neckline, and black satin ribbon just below the bust. I love lace and textures, so the sleeves and ragged hem caught my attention. I also liked the slim, figure-enhancing fit of the dress.
For the Gala, I put my hair up, added a pair of gold earrings, and wore black nylons and heels. I tend to keep my jewelry simple when I’m out with a baby, as it’s too easy for him to swing an arm or hand and yank off an earring or necklace. Avoid hoops or earrings that baby could yank on, but a simple pair of gold earrings can be classy and stylish. A choker-style necklace or silicone teething jewelry, or a sturdy bracelet, could also look lovely.
Joey was my accessory, in an adorable black-and-purple George suit and his black Mia’s Moccs.
I like this dress because it’s easy to style up or down for the occasion. I also wore it for Lily’s First Communion, just before the Gala. Since we were going to church, I left my hair down and wore a grey silicone nursing bracelet to keep Joey busy. I wore the same black heels, but without nylons.
I also think this dress would look cute with the right scarf, if you were wearing it during cooler weather in the spring or fall.
Depending on the occasion, Momzelle has a variety of cute nursing dresses. Shop well before your formal event to ensure that the dress arrives on time. (If it’s your first time ordering from Momzelle, check their handy size chart. A size small fits me perfectly.)
Another option is to wear a nursing top and pretty skirt for a formal event. It may be easier to find a skirt and blouse that fit your postpartum figure than to get a dress. You can mix-and-match a bit more with a skirt and top. Also, if baby is prone to spitting up, you can pack an extra top in case you need to change during the event.
2. Check that the event is baby-friendly.
Before getting tickets to the Gala, I asked a friend of mine (who’d gone in previous years) whether it would be okay to bring Joey along. She said she’d also be bringing her daughter (just a few weeks younger than Joey). In fact, we had a table of nursing moms, as four of us attended together with babes in tow, and there were a couple other adorable babies at other tables.
Try to find out if it’s okay to attend a formal event with a nursing baby or if you’ll feel entirely out of place. Look up the venue, the type of event, or ask someone who has attended in the past. For example, I love live theatre, but that’s one place I would never take a baby.
3. How will Baby behave at a formal event?
Consider your baby’s temperament before planning to take him or her to a formal event. Joey is currently a happy, fairly easy-going baby who isn’t mobile. A few months ago, I turned down evenings out with him because he’d scream from supper time until past bedtime.
At the Gala, it was easy to browse the silent auction and eat dinner with Joey on one arm. We had a table near the door, so I could sneak out whenever he needed a diaper change (which had to happen on his diaper mat on the floor, as the venue didn’t have change tables). I nursed Joey at the table during dinner. I also slipped out once to find a slightly quieter area to nurse him, because he was distracted by all the noise around him.
Joey was, in fact, quite interested in watching everything and didn’t want to nap at all. He also had fun “visiting” with a few other ladies at the Gala, who were eager to hold a cute baby and let me eat my dinner with two hands.
4. Attend formal event with a nursing baby and a friend.
Attending any event with a baby is easier if you’re going with your spouse or a friend. It’s always nice to have a backup to hold the baby if you need to go to the washroom, clean up after baby, or cut your medium rare filet mignon. If you do have to sneak out to change or feed the baby, your friend can save your seat or let you know what you’ve missed during any speeches or talks.
5. Minimize the baby gear at a formal event.
An outing with a baby can require a lot of gear. Formal events, however, don’t always allow you the space for baby gear. As you decide what to take, it can be handy to chat with someone who has attended the event before. Otherwise, I’d recommend taking as little as possible.
For example, I thought about taking just my purse with 4-6 disposable diapers and a small pack of wipes for the evening. I ended up taking my diaper bag and tucking it under the table, and it came in handy as I needed the mat for changing Joey. I also had a change of clothes for him, but thankfully he didn’t need them (the one time he spit up, he managed to miss both me and himself).
When we arrived, I left my stroller and baby carrier in the van. Once we got to our table, I noticed that my friends there with their babies had brought their strollers up. We had a large table near the door with a bit of space nearby to park the strollers. I ended up going back down for our stroller later, hoping Joey would fall asleep and let me put him down. My friends’ babies had naps and went in and out of their strollers, but Joey steadfastly refused to fall asleep. (He just had to be the life of the party!)
At other events I’ve attended with baby in tow, there’s no space for strollers. Usually, I leave it behind and take a baby carrier with me instead. This usually helps baby fall asleep during the event and gives me a bit of hands-free time for holding a drink or snapping pictures. Again, consider where your baby is happiest and most likely to settle down.
What advice would you share for moms planning to attend a formal event with a nursing baby?
I received the Ella nursing dress from Momzelle for this post; all opinions expressed are my own.
I’m debating taking my 6 month old to a fundraising gala for my husband’s work. He works at a pro life organization so they are pro baby so I think it should be okay. I don’t want to leave him with his grandma because he gets fussy in the evenings without me. If I stay home I miss out on the yummy food, the event, and supporting my husband. Last year some friends from church brought their baby, but I don’t remember any others. Our baby is well behaved and does well at events and in the baby carrier. He is eating table food so I can see him wanting to eat with us at dinner. Maybe I could bring some of his food and feed him away from the table before the meal. My biggest concern is I worry what other people will think and I don’t want our baby to be a negative distraction. He is pretty sweet though and I would think his presence would help the cause.
Thank you for writing about this! I have a dress already so good there.
Hi Alicia – it’s always hard to make this decision. I think it depends on your baby (and you know him best) and the event. It sounds like this would be a baby-friendly event where most people would be happy to see him and he’d be pretty happy to hang out with you. I’d definitely pack some food for him, and maybe some quiet toys. Is it possible for you to leave the event early (if necessary)? Are any friends attending who could also help play with or hold your baby? All the best! I hope it works out for you. 🙂