When I became pregnant with my first child, a friend told me that I really didn’t need to buy any maternity clothes. My reactions ranged from “oh good, I can save money” to “but how am I going to fit a growing belly under half of what I own?” As my pregnancy progressed and my body continued to change, I realized that there was a lot of truth to what she had said.  While every pregnancy is different, and how a woman’s body responds to it varies greatly, but generally, there are only a few essential items that one actually needs during the 9 (well, really 10) months.  Especially if you’re on a budget, you’re a minimalist, or you just don’t see the rationale for buying something you’ll only wear for a few months, here is what you need:

MUST BUYS:

2-3 Maternity Bras: Your boobs are going to get big.  For some women, they may just go up a cup size (or two).  Others may go up multiple cup sizes, plus their rib cage may expand as well.  Buying maternity bras are a great investment because they are (1) designed to fit an expanding bustline, which happens during most of pregnancy and (2) you can use them postpartum, especially if you choose to breastfeed.  I personally bought 3, right off Amazon: a white and black one, and a “night” nursing bra that offered support but also was comfortable enough to wear at night.  The best time to buy a bra is mid-pregnancy, when you’re about 5 or even 6 months along (or basically when you can’t fit into your regular bras anymore).  Cost: $40 per bra.

2 Belly Bands: These basically look like spandex tube tops, which you can wear over your hips/your waist put still hold up your pants.  In theory, you can still wear your regular pants/shorts/skirts, and when you can’t zip or button them anymore (or at all), the belly bands hold them in place and cover up the fact your zipper is, well, unzipped.  You can also wear them postpartum, and because they are spandex…it helps smooth a few things out…like Spanx!  I bought a black and a white version. Cost: $20 per band.

2-3 Cotton Tank Tops or Shirts: You may already have a couple neutral-colored tank tops or shirts in your wardrobe that you can use, but if not, having a couple ones that act as your “base layer” is key.  If it’s winter, you can wear a sweater over it for a layered look; if it’s spring or summer, just accessorize with a colorful scarf or jewelry.  You can buy these shirts at H&M, Target, Old Navy, Gap. Cost: $10 per shirt.

1 Maxi Skirt or Dress: If you already this in your wardrobe, use it.  If not, you can easily get one off Amazon, or at H&M.  The material should be stretchy enough, and getting a neutral solid color is best, as you can layer it with a blazer, a sweater, or accessorize with jewelry, a scarf, or a belt (put it right under your boobs).  This can also be worn in all seasons, and remember, you can always wear it post-partum as well.  Cost: $40.

OPTIONAL:

Maternity Tights:  If you tend to wear a lot of skirts or dresses, and your second half of your pregnancy will be in the fall/winter, buying 1-2 pairs of maternity tights is key. You can only go for so long trying to either pull up your tights above your growing bump, or wearing them around your hips.  It’s uncomfortable and awkward.  Maternity tights have a big panel at the waistline that is expandable, so you can easily fit them above your belly.  Get them off Amazon.  Cost: $20.

A Maternity Swimsuit: If you want to swim during your pregnancy (which I highly recommend, especially in the last few months!), having a swimsuit that you feel comfortable in is key.  Of course, there are some women that feel totally comfortable in bikinis, with their belly on display, but others prefer a more modest approach.  I purchased mine at a maternity store, but there are a lot of options at Motherhood Maternity, Amazon, or even Target.  I found that the “tankini” st‌yle was the best option for me, as the top portion had a larger panel that I could adjust to fit over my belly as I grew bigger, which also made it easier to get it on and off.  Cost: $50.

If cost isn’t a factor, then you can certainly add to this list.  There are tons of stylish maternity clothes out there (which you can get from maternity or non-maternity stores), but a lot of them you really don’t need, or perhaps you’ll only wear the for a month or two.  In most cases when buying any items, buy your pre-pregnancy size.  Regardless, before you start to go shopping, make sure to assess your wardrobe, and see what you could wear for a portion of the pregnancy and what is not possible (your pencil skirt? No. Blazers, sweaters, high-waisted dresses, stretchy shirts, yes.).  I recommend you remove all items that are in the “no” category immediately and put it to the back of the closet.  Your body changes rapidly and being reminded of something that you can’t possibly wear during those months will just make you overwhelmed. Remember to assess your wardrobe at multiple points during your pregnancy.  Your belly will probably get bigger than you think it will be if you just do this when you’re only 4 months along!

Finally, don’t forget to assess your wardrobe at the end of your pregnancy.  Your body won’t suddenly morph into the body it was when you arrive back home immediately after delivery, so you should have a few options for this “interim period.”  For some, it may only last a few weeks; others, it will last months.  The last thing you need when you are in the early days of postpartum is to agonize over “not having anything to wear” or to wear what you wore when you were 9 months pregnant.  You’ll probably still look a little pregnant, so having loose, comfortable clothes is key. Your body takes time to get back to the way it was, so another reason for recycling your “non-pregnant clothes” or having just a few basics in your wardrobe that may not technically be maternity wear.  It will definitely help your postpartum moral!