The arrival of a new child is a transformative moment in any parent’s life. For working women, it undeniably brings more complexity than we’re already juggling. Returning to work after having a baby is a significant post-partum milestone. While many women are eager to regain their professional footing, the transition can be taxing. Childcare, diaper bags, first-year doctor appointments, breast pumping, sleep schedules, and more need to be coordinated, all while delivering value to employers. Is it even feasible to manage this stage of your life with your usual sense of style? Well, sure it is—and we can help with your nursing workwear.
Mama Means Business
When to return to work after giving birth is no doubt a deeply personal decision, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer . Some mothers may be eager to return to their careers, while others prefer to take extended maternity leaves. Paid family leave policies vary greatly in the US, leaving many women with little choice on timing. In addition to economic factors, when to return can hinge on career aspirations and physical recovery. In short, some women need to plan for a longer haul for workday pumping, but—sigh—having an infant on breastmilk is a fleeting moment in time nonetheless.
One of the key factors influencing a mother’s transition back to work post-childbirth is the level of flexibility and support provided by her workplace. Employers that offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or adjusted schedules, can significantly ease the transition back to work for new mothers. The availability of on-site childcare facilities or the option to bring infants to work can also mitigate some of the challenges faced by working moms.
As a society, we’ve made great strides in reducing the “motherhood penalty”—the dated stereotype that mothers are less committed to their careers or less available for work-related responsibilities. However, the effects often linger in the minds of moms who feel added pressure to demonstrate their commitment and ability. The stakes may feel higher than ever to present ourselves as having it all together, and that’s precisely why nursing workwear can be a stressor.
Work It, Mom
As mothers ourselves, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider for the “fifth trimester”, sprinkled with some advice and hard-earned wisdom. We’ve included details on a creative initiative from Armoire to support you through this moment in time with a curated collection of nursing workwear.
- Being away from your baby and transitioning back to work can stir a wide range of emotions. Be realistic about what you can achieve in terms of work and home responsibilities. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at both. Give yourself grace and ask for help.
- Prioritize self-care. It may be easier said than done, but try to make time for activities that help you relax and recharge. Taking care of yourself will make you a better parent and employee.
- Be aware of your legal rights and benefits, such as maternity leave, parental leave, and protections against discrimination. Knowing your rights can help you navigate work-related issues effectively.
- Connect with other new mothers at work or in your social circle to get valuable insights and hacks, not to mention emotional support.
- Maintaining your breastfeeding routine and incorporating it into your workday may feel overwhelming. Ask for a private, comfortable space to pump at the office. Many workplaces have dedicated lactation rooms with comfy chairs and access to electrical outlets for breast pumps.
- You’ll also need flexibility in your schedule to accommodate pumping sessions. Get on a routine and schedule this time into your calendar like any other important meeting.
- A place to store your breast milk is essential. Our friends at Willow, the Femtech leader with the world’s first and only spill-proof, in-bra wearable breast pump, introduced us to the Willow® Portable Breast Milk Cooler, a solution for moms to store up to 16 oz. of breast milk in an insulated, leak-proof cooler for up to 24 hours. This is a favorite among the new moms here on the Armoire team.
- A postpartum wardrobe—and one that caters to breastfeeding—can be an investment, especially considering you’ll need it for just a short period of time. That’s where Armoire can step in and step up. We put our heads together with the Willow team to create a curated wardrobe collection of nursing workwear available for rent.
The Nursing Mother of Invention
The Willow x Armoire collection was born so women don’t need to sacrifice confidence for functionality while transitioning from parental leave.
“Together, we can help women go back to work feeling confident and capable of balancing their professional and family lives,” said Ambika Singh, Chief Executive Officer of Armoire.
This isn’t merely corporate speak for Ambika. As a busy CEO and mother of two, she’s living it. Necessity is the mother of invention afterall, and Ambika knows it first-hand. “I’m six weeks postpartum with my second son and the combo of my Willow pump and Armoire closet is keeping me sane.”
Highlights of the collection of nursing workwear include thoughtful styles for a variety of professional occasions:
- Office setting: what to wear when pumping in a conference room during a meeting
- After-work social: pump-friendly outfits to keep up with your busy schedule and take you from the desk to dinner
- Traveling for work: the perfect outfits to wear when pumping and traveling
- Remote working: what to wear while pumping on a video conference
Styles We Love for Nursing & Nailing It
For easy and discreet access while still maintaining personal style and comfort, these are our go-to picks:
- Button-Down Shirts: Collared button-down shirts are always practical for breastfeeding, while maintaining a professional look.
- Wrap Dresses & Crossover Tops: Wrap dresses are a versatile and comfortable option, although some low-cut styles may leave you feeling exposed.
- V-Neck Tops and Dresses: Clothing with a V-neckline will do the trick if the fabric has enough stretch to pull down or to the side. Opt for high-quality garments that will bounce back into shape after being stretched.
- Off-the-Shoulder Tops: During sweater weather, a cozy off-the-shoulder top can deliver both a fashionable look and easy access.
- Tunic Tops: Tunic-style tops are longer and offer extra coverage, making them popular for those who prefer to be discreet when breastfeeding in public. Pair them with leggings or jeans for a comfortable and stylish look.
- Cardigans and Kimonos: Layering with cardigans or kimonos can provide extra coverage and serve as an impromptu nursing blanket as needed.
- Scarves and Ponchos: Scarves and ponchos can be draped over the shoulder for privacy while nursing in public, if preferred.
- Jumpsuits and Rompers: Some jumpsuits and rompers are designed with buttons or zippers in front. Steer clear of styles that would require you to completely undress.
Styles to Avoid When Going from Boardroom to Pump Room
Besides the obvious high-neck or constricting styles, here are others you might not think to avoid but could find less convenient or uncomfortable for breastfeeding and/or pumping:
- Bodysuits: These can be challenging to manage, especially if they have a snap crotch. (Although some do have a snap closure at the neckline that will work.)
- Strapless Tops or Dresses: Strapless styles may not provide enough support or work with your nursing bras.
- Tops with Embellishments or Fringe: Clothing with elaborate embellishments, sequins, or fringe can be uncomfortable for the baby or cause distractions during feeding.
- Garments with Hidden Zippers or Snaps: Clothing with delicate concealed zippers, buttons, or snaps will be a pain when juggling a fussy, hungry baby or trying to set up a breast pump quickly. Anything that needs to be unfastened should be manageable with one hand.
- Dry Clean Only: Leaks happen, as do baby spit-ups and diaper blow-outs. Washable garments may be wise at this stage. (Note: if renting from Armoire, dry cleaning and laundering are always included.)
Ultimately, what’s comfortable and convenient for breastfeeding can vary from woman to woman. Many pumping-friendly clothing options are available, including tops, dresses, and bras designed specifically for breastfeeding. Look for nursing workwear styles with accessible front openings, stretchy or adjustable necklines, or wrap designs that allow for easy and discreet access. Prioritize comfort, functionality, and your personal preferences when choosing clothing for breastfeeding.
Returning to work after having a baby is a significant life transition, and it’s important to be flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances. Keep in mind that every family and situation is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another. Find what works best for you and go ahead—milk it for all it’s worth.