Some people refer to breastfeeding as a full-time job — which is not an exaggeration. If you add up a year’s worth of nursing sessions, the total comes out to a whopping 1,800 hours — and that’s only a conservative estimate. For reference, a full-time job (40-hour work week with three weeks vacation) clocks in at 1,960 hours a year.
It goes without saying that working moms with breastfed babies have a lot on their plate, even when they work from home. Don’t get us wrong, remote work certainly makes a few things easier, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that WFH moms have it easy! If you’re working from home and breastfeeding, here are some research-backed tips to help you get through the workday, along with real-life tips from real-life moms!
What are the benefits of breastfeeding while working from home?
Before we get into the advice, let’s talk about the advantages of working from home and breastfeeding. Here are some of the perks, at a glance:
- Use breastfeeding to inject stillness into your busy day.
Breastfeeding while working from home is hardly a cakewalk, especially if there isn’t another caregiver at home during the day. But, on the bright side, nursing sessions can force you to slow down when there are a million things on your to-do list. With time, you can become a pro at multitasking (a.k.a. nursing your little one while typing one-handed), but remind yourself that it’s more than okay to put the laptop away while breastfeeding. Turn your nursing session into a much-needed break by taking a few moments to breathe, throwing on your favorite show, grabbing a snack, or even simply closing your eyes for a mental break.
- Breastfeeding helps to keep up breast milk supply.
If you plan on providing breast milk for your child (either through exclusive breastfeeding or breastfeeding mixed with bottle-feeding), remember that milk production is largely based on supply and demand. The more you feed (or pump), the more milk your body will provide! This point is especially important for new moms within the first few months who are still establishing their breast milk supply.
- Nursing promotes wellness for baby and mom.
Breast milk is rich with vitamins, protein, and fat — everything a baby needs for the first six months of life. Breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections, asthma, and allergies, and breastfeeding moms are less likely to have breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis. Breast milk is also amazingly responsive to what your baby needs. As Angela Garbes shares in Like A Mother: “The nutritional and immunological components of breast milk change every day, according to the specific, individual needs of a baby.” Not to mention breast milk contains antibodies to help fend off viruses, which is especially important during the pandemic.
- Breastfeeding requires no dishes.
When motherhood and work feel like a juggling act, who wouldn’t say no to a few fewer dishes? Many caregivers know the dread that is hand-washing the countless breast pump parts that go into a single pumping session and bottle feed — flanges, valves, and rubber nipples galore! At least with breastfeeding, you can give your bottle brush and sterilizer a break while saving space in your freezer where you’d normally store milk.
It’s important to acknowledge that breastfeeding isn’t always available to a mother and her child. We often hear that “breast is best” — but every family is different. If you can’t or you choose not to breastfeed, that’s more than okay! That said, if breastfeeding is part of your journey, we’ve included some tips for how to breastfeed and work from home. Keep on reading!
5 hard-won tips for breastfeeding while working from home
Tip #1: Know your rights.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide the time and space for working moms to express breast milk during work hours. For up to one year after their child’s birth, employers must give reasonable break time for nursing mothers and a private space to pump breast milk (that isn’t the bathroom). Read more about this law at dol.gov.
You might not need a lactation room if you’re working from home, but you’ll still need dedicated time for breastfeeding. Knowing your rights can give you the confidence to build nursing breaks into your schedule and not feel bad about it!
Note: This federal law only applies to employees who are eligible for overtime pay, but if you’re not eligible, there may be state laws that can protect you as a nursing mother. Click here to learn more.
Tip #2: Instead of work-life balance, think work-life integration.
If there’s anything more elusive to new mothers than sleep, it’s the idea of work-life balance. Work-life balance implies keeping our professional and personal lives separate from each other, while devoting equal time to each. By its nature, working from home (especially while being a mother) is all about the very opposite: bringing our professional and personal lives closer together, a.k.a. work-life integration.
Work-life integration for breastfeeding mothers might look like answering emails while nursing, or even joining a Zoom call. One mom shares, “I can be in a meeting with my 4.5 month old on the boob — either no camera, or camera just showing my face. Baby comes first, and I’ve become great at typing with one hand.” For working mothers, the idea of keeping life and work in tidy, separate boxes can create unrealistic expectations. Give yourself permission to be a mom and an employee at the same time, especially if childcare is unavailable.
Tip #3: Keep everything close at hand.
Set up a space in your home where you can comfortably breastfeed and work at the same time. Nursing pillows often help when it comes to infants, but you might not need one if you’re breastfeeding a toddler. Be sure you have easy access to everything you’ll need — a drink, your phone, your laptop, your earbuds. Nothing’s worse than an out-of-reach cup of coffee when your baby has already latched!
Tip #4: Block off time on your work calendar for nursing sessions.
If videoconferencing and breastfeeding aren’t a great mix for you personally, then feel free to block off your calendar for nursing sessions. Remember that the Fair Labor Standards Act protects the right to express breast milk during work hours. Clockwise Links is the easiest way to share your meeting availability without the dreaded back-and-forth.
If you’re a first time mom who’s still establishing your milk supply, feeding on demand (versus on a strict schedule) can help you produce enough milk. That said, you might start to notice a pattern in your little one’s feeding schedule. Once you settle into a rhythm, you’ll be able to block off your work schedule ahead of time.
One way to help protect your scheduled feeding times is to make your other meetings flexible. When you mark a meeting as flexible with Clockwise we will reschedule any conflicting meetings to the least-interruptive time possible based on the meeting preferences of you and your team.
Tip #5: Be flexible.
Flexibility is the name of the game, especially if daycare is out of the equation. One mom shares, “I work from home, but I’m not on a scheduled shift or time limit — just as long as the work gets done that day. Some days I don’t start working until the afternoon. Some days I start right after the first feed of the day. Some days I work, take a few hours break, and finish after dinner.”
She continues, “I utilize nap times to get work done, and I prop up my laptop next to me while she feeds (that makes me work slower but I’m still able to be on the clock). And if it’s a harder day, I don’t do anything until my husband gets home from work and he’ll watch her. Feeding on demand with my job means it’s inconsistent and I just work with what I can. But I know for sure I’m lucky to have the flexibility I have.”
Does it help to have a pumping or nursing schedule?
When it comes to children (especially infants), it’s helpful to have a schedule as long as you stay flexible. Follow your child’s lead by noticing their natural sleep and feeding patterns, instead of imposing a strict schedule on your first day back from maternity leave. Once you notice a rhythm, it becomes easier to plan around it and establish a bit of consistency in your schedule.
One fellow mom was generous enough to share her own schedule, which we share below. Although every family is different, it’s often very useful to peek at what others are doing and maybe even adapt it for yourself!
One nursing mom’s real-life WFH schedule
6-6:30 am Nurse before work
7 am Log in to work
8 am Feed solid breakfast
9 am Nurse
9:30 am Nap
11 am Feed solid lunch
12 pm Nurse
12:30 pm Nap
2 pm Nurse
3 pm Log off of work
She also shares, “There’s a lot of work and play time in between, but that’s pretty much our feeding schedule! It does vary from time to time. If she ever wants nurses anytime away from that schedule, I will always allow her to.”
To all moms, you’re real-life superheroes! For breastfeeding support, check out these amazing resources:
- La Leche League International is a nonprofit that is dedicated to helping nursing mothers reach their breastfeeding goals through educational resources and in-person support. Visit their website to find free, local breastfeeding support.
- What to Expect is an app and website that supports families through pregnancy and parenthood. Find science-backed articles to empower you on this tough yet rewarding journey — and connect with other parents through the community tab, where you can find groups dedicated to breastfeeding, parents of multiples and twins, and more.
- KellyMom.com is a website that includes tons of research-based articles on parenting. It’s a great resource for breastfeeding especially!
- The Center for WorkLife Law is a research organization that’s on a mission to advance equity in schools and workplaces. They have an awesome resource here that lets you plug in your state to learn about your rights as a breastfeeding mother where you live.
- For help with milk supply, breastfeeding positions, latching difficulties, and more, reach out to your healthcare provider and ask for a lactation consultant referral.