A survival guide for Executive MBA mothers

4 minute read

Congratulations new EMBA Mom!

Welcome to the exclusively wonderful world of those of us who decided that an Executive MBA (EMBA) alone wasn’t enough of a challenge and decided to add on being a new parent. Being pregnant and giving birth while on the programme, alongside maintaining a full-time job, travelling from Asia to the UK and Africa for the in-person modules and committing to one year breastfeeding, I would like to share what I have learnt on this journey and the things that helped me survive. This guide focuses on considerations for balancing pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood with the demands of an Executive MBA programme.


Prepare as much as possible now, before the baby arrives and life gets even busier.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Inform your programme administrators that you're expecting. Let them know if you have any dietary restrictions or need special accommodations for classes.
  • Locate the nearest hospital and prenatal care in any locations where you will be during your pregnancy. Be prepared just in case of any emergencies.
  • Ask about available lactation and rest areas at the school and at your college. It's good to know where you can pump, feed or rest if needed during long class days.
  • Request extensions for assignments in writing from your doctor if needed, especially after giving birth. Your wellbeing and recovery should be the priority.


Don't forget to ask for extensions, even after due dates have passed if needed. I made the mistake of trying to complete an assignment just two weeks after giving birth in a panic because I hadn't heard back about an extension approval.

Remember, your health and your baby's health should come before any deadlines. Try and enjoy the newborn bliss before classes begin again.

Postpartum - nursing and pumping

Here are some essential items to help you continue nursing and pumping on-the-go during your programme:

Cooler bags

Useful for storing pumped milk during travel and flights. Look for bags specifically designed to keep milk cold for longer periods. I used a combination of a small cooler lunch box and a larger cooler box that could fit into a checked suitcase to bring any frozen milk back (on average my flights were 12 hours so I needed to be prepared).

Reusable ice packs

Long-lasting ice packs are ideal for keeping milk cool in a cooler bag when a refrigerator isn't available. Freeze ice packs overnight before each use. You also need a smaller version to carry on-the-go for pumping during the day as you may not always have access to a fridge, especially during overseas electives.

Milk storage bags

For collecting and freezing milk to transport long distances. There are companies that make bags designed specifically for breast milk storage. They reduce any leaking, but I always put them in another gallon-sized resealable bag, just in case. And if you freeze it, always freeze flat in under 7oz to maximise space.

Extra nursing bottles

In case any get lost or left behind during your trips - always have these in your carry-on.

A hands-free breast pump

Essential for pumping on the go and during travel when finding a plug and lugging around an electric pump isn't ideal.

Nursing covers

For discreetly pumping during class, on flights and in other public areas. Many companies make covers that offer stylish and lightweight options.

Quick clean wipes

You can bring a couple based on daily pumping needs. Pro tip - they’re also great for when you have wine stains!

Breast pads

Just in case of any leaks before you're able to pump on a busy day. Disposable pads can provide relief and protection in those moments.

Resealable bags

For an extra layer of protection against spills when storing and transporting pumped milk. Double or triple bagging milk bags and bottles provides peace of mind.

Travel and airlines

Always check with airlines for the latest guidelines on flying with breast milk before your trip. Some airports like Heathrow have more restrictions for carrying pumped milk on board. Whenever possible, freeze milk beforehand and pack it in your checked luggage to avoid issues. For places like Heathrow, you can screenshot or print out the laws ahead of time to show any staff that challenge you. If you are unsure, you can also ask airline staff when you arrive in a location to find out local rules. In locations like Vietnam and Singapore, it was not as clear to me and I always found it easier to go with a female staff member since they may understand what you mean when you say you are carrying milk with you.

Best of luck to all you Executive MBA supermoms out there. Stay focused on self-care, ask for help when you need it, and remember that this challenging time will pass. Despite the obstacles, you can have a rewarding experience as both a new mother and Executive MBA student - and if you can do this, nothing will ever be a challenge.

Oxford Executive MBA