COVID-19 has made moms even more committed to breastfeeding, says new survey

And when moms return to the office employers will need to be prepared.

employers support pumping at work

Breastfeeding and pumping are hard enough when you're home, but it is extra challenging when you're trying to balance your baby's feeding schedule with your office schedule. For nursing mamas, the silver lining of working from home due to COVID-19 is the freedom to pump and feed as needed, and without worrying about what colleagues think or whether someone is going to walk in on you mid-pump.

A new survey, conducted in May and June 2020 by Medela and Mamava finds more than 40% of moms are more committed to breast milk feeding their babies because of COVID-19, and 1 in 5 moms expect to breastfeed or pump longer than they initially planned due to the virus. The 53% of moms who plan to return to work when offices reopen, however, are also worried about what will happen to this commitment when they can no longer be home with their babies.

The moms surveyed cite the health and immunity benefits of breastmilk as the reason why COVID-19 made them even more committed to breastfeeding, and 1 in 3 moms plan to talk to their employer about making breastfeeding in the office easier when the office reopens. Almost half of the moms who plan to keep breastfeeding/pumping when work resumes say they are uncertain about the safety and sanitary standards of their workplace pumping areas.

The top three improvements moms surveyed want their workplace lactation spaces to include:

  • Sanitation supplies available inside and outside the lactation space
  • A clearly published and adhered to cleaning and sanitization process
  • A dedicated space where pumping is the only allowed activity

Mothers have so much to worry about right now, they should not have to worry about this. They should already have this.



It's been more than a decade since federal guidelines were implemented to ensure nursing mothers have the time and space to pump at work, but as Motherly has previously reported, many mothers still find it extremely challenging to maintain a pumping schedule in the workplace.

A recent study out of the University of Georgia showed that while most women report having access to private spaces and break times for pumping there are still significant "gaps in access to workplace breastfeeding resources" and the researchers recommend employers take action to reduce breastfeeding disparities.

"We know that there are benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant, and we know that returning to work is a significant challenge for breastfeeding continuation," says Rachel McCardel, a doctoral student at UGA's College of Public Health and lead study author. "There is a collective experience that we wanted to explore and learn how can we make this better."

The challenges of breastfeeding before COVID

There is a lot of pressure on mothers to exclusively breastfeed, but nearly half of mothers feel like they must make a choice between breastfeeding and keeping their job. A baby's mother is the best person to decide whether the infant should be breastfed, formula-fed or both, but it should be her choice. When workplace supports for breastfeeding are not in place many mothers feel like they don't have a choice at all.

Public health campaigns and social norms reinforce breastfeeding as the best choice, but a recent survey from Areoflow found that 1 in 3 people (31%) "do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room" but at the same time, 90% of those surveyed stated that they believe women should be allowed to pump at work.

For too many women, those contradicting messages mean that pumping at work is an uncomfortable experience, something they need to do nearly in secret. It's an example of the many ways in which mothers are supposed to parent as though they don't work but pretend they aren't parents when at work.

Calling for change in a post-COVID world

Half the states in America explicitly protect the rights of nursing parents in the workplace, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and federal law also provides protections to nursing workers under the Affordable Care Act. Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act—but millions of working mothers are not covered by those protections, and the new research out of the University of Georgia's College of Public Health suggests that even mothers who are need more support from their employers.

Heather Padilla is an assistant professor at UGA's College of Public Health and the co-author of the study. She recommends employers "designate a person who is responsible for making sure that women who are preparing for the birth of their baby understand what resources they have available to them when they return to work," she said.

Supervisors or HR directors could fill this role, and would fill a gap between company policy and personal experience. Padilla and McCardel found that many women "said they hadn't expected to get much help from their employers, and there was a general lack of communication about the resources available to them."

Mamas need to work + babies need to eat

For many American mothers work is not a choice, it is a necessity. Mothers are increasingly the breadwinners for their families and it is very hard for mothers, even those with working partners, to be a stay-at-home parent in 2020.

We need paid family leave and protection from breastfeeding discrimination. We need employers to support working mothers who choose to pump, and we need to reduce the stigmatization of formula feeding.

Mama, we see you, breastfeeding, pumping and mixing bottles of formula. We know you're pumping between Zoom calls and wondering what's going to happen when you're called back to the office.

We see how hard it is and we support you. Know that no matter what your baby is eating—bottled breast milk, formula, or some combination (because breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing)—we know you are working so hard to provide it.

We are calling on your employers to do the work to make that easier.

[A version of this post was originally published January 21, 2020. It has been updated.]

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

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    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

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    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

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    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

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    Doona Infant Car Seat + Latch Base

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    SNOO Smart Sleeper Bassinet

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    Willow Hands-Free Wearable Double Electric Breast Pump

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    Jenna Dewan says being a working mom with postpartum anxiety was 'really difficult'

    In a new interview, Jenna Dewan talks about her struggles when she was a first-time mom.

    Jenna Dewan/Instagram

    Jenna Dewan has been a mother for eight years, but she's just now opening up about her struggles in those early days with her first child, Everly. She touches on a majorly relatable pain point for many new parents: postpartum anxiety.

    Postpartum depression is, of course, a major issue that affects many, many new parents. But postpartum anxiety doesn't get quite as much attention (or, at least, it didn't used to), despite it being a very common experience.


    In an episode of the Dear Gabby podcast, Dewan says after giving birth to Everly in 2013, she was away from her ex-husband (and Everly's proud dad), Channing Tatum and experiencing "a lot of postpartum anxiety" at the time. She says she and Tatum both had hectic work schedules that separated them for the first six weeks of Everly's life.

    "I had to travel with her and at the time, Chan wasn't available to be with us for the most part. So, it was me, my doula, and Evie all by ourselves traveling at six weeks," she said. She explained that balancing everything was "really hard" and she was filming on sets for long hours . "I did have her on set with me constantly," she said. "It was just really difficult."

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    Even though the world was crazy, I was home and in this love nest and it was different," she said.

    Many parents have a different experience the second time around—myself included. Even if all the same anxieties are there, you typically have better coping strategies when you know what to expect. We need more moms like Jenna Dewan to keep the dialogue open about postpartum mental health.
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    To the mama preparing her heart for baby #2: You are ready

    Your heart is about to grow so much more full with love.

    A few months ago my two year old daughter and I were driving home from dinner with friends, and as we pulled onto our street a lump formed in my throat and big tears began to stream down my face—I realized that tonight was our last night ever just the two of us to do my daughter's bedtime routine.

    Out-of-town relatives were set to arrive, my husband would soon be home from his deployment, and we'd be having our second baby.

    The intense emotion hit me out of nowhere.

    I felt guilty about how much was about to change for my daughter. I had no idea how to rationalize or sort through this sudden rush of feelings.

    I was already so in love with this healthy, unborn baby girl kicking inside my belly, but I felt like I was mourning the future loss of my season as a mama of one.

    Fast forward three months later to today as I once again found myself with a lump in my throat, but this time it was the result of watching my 2.5 year old daughter love on my infant while she sat in her bouncer seat. I had stepped out of the room for a moment, and when I rounded the corner to return I found my older daughter crouched down by my baby wiping spit-up off of her face and making the sweetest baby-talk noises.

    My baby was locked on my older girl's eyes, and the lump in my throat formed before I knew it. I smiled and recalled my emotions from a few months back—I couldn't begin to imagine then how full my heart would feel watching the two tiny loves of my life interact with each other. It sometimes takes my breath away.

    I was so worried then about the unknown and making my daughter "share" my husband and me and the life we'd all built together, but we didn't know what we didn't know, and that's that I had nothing to worry about.

    To the mama reading this whose heart is currently twisted about soon going from parenting one kid to two...

    It really is true that you'll never have to split your love between your babies, and it really is true that your love will multiply tenfold as you all get to know your newest little love.

    Right now you may catch yourself wondering how it's possible that you could ever intensely love another little person as much as you love your first (I couldn't begin to fathom it), but just wait, mama. It's beautiful and perfect it happens so effortlessly.

    You wonder and worry about how your oldest will respond to sharing your attention, but try to remember that the adjustment period, regardless of how long or short it is, is just a brief season in the grand scheme. (Plus, your oldest may surprise you with how well and how quickly he or she adjusts.)

    Like me, you may find yourself in this bizarre phase of mourning all the things you love about this current season of life as a mom to one. You feel like you've all finally found a routine that's comfortable and easy and enjoyable just in time to shake things back up again. You'll surely find that "comfortable" routine again eventually, and this time you'll have the privilege of having another little soul to love and raise and enjoy.I used to watch other moms who had two or more children and wondered if they could have ever at some point empathized with my roller coaster of emotions about adding another baby. I would watch as these mamas so effortlessly moved through the grocery store or a restaurant or the park with two or more little ones, and I would hope (and still hope) that one day I would find my groove just like her. I hoped that someday I would be able to embrace the role of juggling multiple kids as naturally as she seemed to do.

    If your heart is twisted and you're finding yourself taken back by your roller coaster of emotions about having your next baby—know that your feelings are relatable, understandable and justified. You may choke up like me when it's time to give your biggest baby one last hug before you meet your second one, but just remember this is all a beautiful part of this crazy life.

    Your heart is about to grow so much more full with love.

    Making the transition from one to two, mama? These tried-and-true products can help.

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    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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