My 5 Most Practical Maternity Must Haves

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ASOS dress (old; love their stylish maternity selection), Vivian Drew earrings

The other day I realized that my third trimester has slowly but surely crept up! Not certain if it’s due to this being my second baby or due to all the quarantine cooking (likely both), but my belly grew very big, very early this pregnancy. The wide-eyed “wow any day now!” or “twins??” comments from strangers at the grocery store started early second trimester ; )

This time around, I was excited to re-use a lot of pregnancy favorites from before that I had stored away. Here are a few of my  must-haves to help stay comfortable amidst all the bodily changes, and to help maximize your existing wardrobe throughout pregnancy!

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1. Maternity Support Shorts

First time around, I dismissed the idea of “maternity shapewear,” thinking they were purely aesthetic for smoothing out lumps in an area of my body that didn’t want to be restricted. This pregnancy, however, I finally gave these a try and have literally been wearing them every. single. day.

I’m going to refer to them as “support shorts” instead of shape wear, since I wear them under my outfits to help distribute the weight of my belly and alleviate lower back pain (any smoothing is just a bonus). I’m also carrying lower this time around and everything just feels looser and floppier in general, so supportive garments have been critical! I tried a bunch and kept these two pairs:

  • Narcissuss shapewear shorts – in size Small, which are currently very fitted on me in my third trimester at 5′ tall, 118lbs. I don’t like my support shorts to be too restricting, so if your usual size feels too tight then try a size up.
  • Belevation shapewear shorts – in size Small. These are very similar to the above so I’d recommend both. The shape of the supportive area on the Narcissus brand just feels a little better on my current low hanging belly.

On days when I’m not wearing these support shorts I’m usually in my supportive Zella maternity crop leggings (good length for shorter ladies) – see on me here & here.

2. Body Pillow (also great for non-pregnancy)

This is actually something I’d happily recommend to everyone (husbands, kids and pets included, based on testaments from fellow fans of this!). I’ve tried several, but the one that has stayed with me over the past 3 years throughout my first pregnancy, nursing, and the non-pregnancy years in between has been this compact bean-shaped Boppy (also sold at Target) . I’ve washed the cover countless times now and it’s held up well.

The gently curving shape allows me to use one end between the knees, and the other end below the belly. It can also be used for some light nursing support (not as thick or firm as My Brest Friend however which I loved for that purpose). Pillows are a very personal choice, and whether you want full body vs smaller, wedge versus round, firm vs soft… the options out there are plentiful! Note that this is a softer, fluffier pillow versus firm.

3. Bra Band Extender

Great not just for pregnancy but also for weight fluctuations. I’ve needed this early on, as soon as my chest started expanding and all my bras became uncomfortable. This simple gadget comes in different colors and sizes (i.e. 2 rows of hooks vs. 3 rows of hooks) and is so easy to clip on to regular bras! Lots of options but here are two examples:

4. Below The Bump Underwear

I wore my existing, stretchier undies as long as possible my first pregnancy, before finally caving to buy maternity ones and wondered why the heck I waited so long! The lower cut front to fit below a growing belly is just much more comfortable for me. Here are some options:

  • Amazon maternity undies – I have this in the 3-pack basics sz S. They’re soft, stretchy and have held up well! Front is cut a little lower than the Uniqlo option.
  • Uniqlo maternity undies – online only
  • Kindred Bravely maternity undies (also on Amazon) – I don’t have these as I just came across them, but I love everything Kindred Bravely that I own for pregnancy, postpartum and nursing. Their items are always soft and wash well. They gave me code JEAN20 for 20% off on their site.
5. Bellaband for Pants & Postpartum

Also available in a lower-priced Target version.

If you like to wear shorts, pants, or jeans (compared to skirts and dresses) with regular button / zipper flies, then the this accessory was a must for me during pregnancy AND postpartum. It’s basically a stretchy tube with a silicone grip strip that you wear over an unbuttoned / unzipped fly on your regular non-maternity pants.

You can wear the band folded down in half, or flip it up for more full panel support. I have only tried the regular Bellaband in size 1 so can only speak to that one, but several of you also suggested the more affordable Target alternative. I wore this so much during and after pregnancy with Nori, I ended up buying it in black, blue, and white to go with all of my non-maternity denim and shorts!

Additional item: Ruched Dresses

I’ve purchased very few maternity-specific clothes and have gotten away with a lot of flowy or elastic waisted regular pieces. However, as your belly grows it definitely is nice to have a few go-to pieces specifically designed for maternity wear. For me, ruched dresses are a no-brainer since they can stretch a lot at the belly, and are flattering across different stages of pregnancy!

  • 1st to 2nd trimester: can get away comfortably in non-maternity pieces like this ruched Leith dress (on major sale!). When not pregnant, this dress is very slimming as well – see it on me when not pregnant.

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Dress reviewed in this post. Outfit above is from this post

  • 2nd to 3rd trimester: Been loving this Old Navy jersey bodycon dress that fit a lot better on me after a machine wash & dry! I love the length for everyday wear, with no worries about the bottom riding up while you walk. The belly area is still a tad loose on me with room to grow into. See more affordable Old Navy maternity options here.

affordable summer maternity outfit for petites

Outfit from this post

  • 2nd to 3rd trimester: Amazon floral maternity dress. So soft and comfortable but not too petite friendly, however I only had to make a few small alterations, as shown here, to make it fit my shorter frame better. The shoulder strap shortening is very easy to do, and the tapering on the bottom is not really necessary. Compared to the two dresses above, this runs bigger, which I needed towards the end of my pregnancy!

floral print maternity dress third trimester outfit ideas

Outfit from this post

  • 2nd to 3rd trimester: I have also been loving this Amazon tank dress though I would recommend a darker color since white is a little sheer, but I wear it with the support shorts under item #1 to solve that issue! See this dress on me here and here.

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Outfit from this post

Mamas, what were / are some of your top maternity must haves? 

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  1. Jaennika wrote:

    Hi Jean when shopping for non maternity clothes do you just size up? Current I’m a size small petite but as my bump
    Grows I’m trying to figure out if I should go up to medium in skirts and dresses. I go into the office everyday so figuring out what size I should start buying…M-Petite? Any recommendations? Thank you!

    Posted 2.7.21 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi and congrats! I did usually go up one size and I looked for pieces that were possible to take in after pregnancy (ie skirts with easy to alter waistbands) I hope this helps and wishing you the best with your pregnancy x

      Posted 2.11.21 Reply
  2. Mariel wrote:

    Great post! I bought the Leith ruched dress (in navy) and the same Amazon floral dress and they were very flattering 🙂

    During my pregnancy I personally had the WORST back pain. So a maternity must-have to me would be a maternity back support belt (I personally used the NEOtech one which provided an option for an over the belly support belt too). The velcro tended to make sounds when I switched between standing/sitting, but it was worth it to have the extra support for my back starting the second trimester!

    Also, even though we’re currently in a pandemic, I loved how the LaClef pleated maternity dress on Amazon fit me whenever I went into the office. I think others have used it for baby showers and such, but it was a very cute, clean (and professional) style that still flatters the bump 🙂 plus the material is also comfy!

    Best of luck to you during the second half of this pregnancy 🙂

    Posted 7.22.20 Reply
  3. May wrote:

    If you find yourself too hot wearing the support shorts, I’d recommend kinesio tape. It’s much less cumbersome and definitely cooler (regarding temperature😉) to support your belly. There are tons of ways to apply it depending on the support you need. Just google some videos. I didn’t discover it until my 5th and 6th pregnancies, and it did wonders!

    Posted 7.17.20 Reply
  4. Ka Yang wrote:

    I was constantly having lower back pain with my first pregnancy. My friend lended me her belly bandit and it helped so much. It comes with a microwavable heating pad. I still have pain throughout the pregnancy but this alleviates it so I can work.

    Posted 7.16.20 Reply
  5. Demi wrote:

    My cousin is pregnant and that body pillow seems like a really good pregnancy present! Also, you look amazing!

    Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  6. Christi Beebe wrote:

    Jean – you look great! Curious if you have found yourself splurging on any luxury maternity brands, like designer maternity low-rise jeans, or have you kept it all fairly lower-cost items? Curious which brands have been the most comfortable for you — including maternity PJs! When I was pregnant in late summer (fall baby), I really liked Japanese Weekend brand PJs.

    Posted 7.12.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Christi – I haven’t, but I think it’s primarily because I’ve been most pregnant during a season that allows me to wear a lot of my existing non-maternity pieces, or just a basic tank dress or two. If I were pregnant in the winter I may invest in a pair of designer maternity jeans or two like from J.brand.

      The only exception is I did splurge on my maternity shoot dresses because I got regular dresses then altered them, but that isn’t of much help. Thanks for the note about Japanese Weekend!

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  7. AA wrote:

    Hi Jean, when do you wear the compression shorts? Under everything?

    Posted 7.11.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Yes! I wear it under my daily outfits, even at home. Everyone’s body is different though so it may not help or feel comfortable for everyone, but I can notice almost an instant difference in back strain when I have support for my lower carrying belly this time around.

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  8. Trude wrote:

    I’m on my second pregnancy too, early in my 2nd trimester, and I was surprised at how early I popped too, despite reading about it! This time around, changing a toddler made the belly band far too annoying to keep adjusting (although it saved me at my old job last time), so I just bit the bullet and got out my maternity pants already. I’ve been living in maxi dresses in this heat too! H&M has a great maternity section too, loved their jeans and nursing tanks, plus some cute sweaters for late in pregnancy in the winter that don’t break the bank. Old Navy had great winter coats for when it was necessary to be able to close up my coat! 😉

    Posted 7.11.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Love H&M’s selection … I only wish they would stock more sizes in their maternity undies, nursing bras and tanks! They sell so quickly!

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  9. ainomiaka wrote:

    too funny on the maternity underwear. I thought the exact same thing, and said it when I passed some along after my pregnancy. “You’ll think this isn’t worth it, but you’ll feel much more comfortable trust me.”

    Posted 7.11.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Haha so worth it!

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  10. Linna wrote:

    You look radiant! 🙂

    Posted 7.11.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Thank you, Linna! xx

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  11. Bette wrote:

    This could not have come at a better time! I just entered my third trimester as well and was complaining to my OB-GYN literally yesterday about the lower back pain and ever expanding bra sizes… ordered the shorts and extenders, hoping they bring some relief!

    Posted 7.10.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Bette – I hope they work out for you! Congrats … you’re in the final stretch!

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply
  12. Debbie wrote:

    Do you know if you’re having a boy or girl? Your belly has definitely popped very early on! Nori must be happy to get a sibling soon. Does she have a preference for a brother or sister?

    Posted 7.10.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Debbie! Yes we found out and will share in a few days! No preference here : )

      Posted 7.14.20 Reply

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