Can you keep your baby happy, healthy, and fed when your maternity leave ends? Absolutely! Lactation consultants suggest that efficient planning and a proper pumping strategy can help you run a successful freezer stash and keep your new baby fed at all times.
In today’s article, I will teach you how to build your breast milk stash and also answer common questions about milk supply, freezer stash, and much more.
That being said, let’s learn how building a breast milk freezer stash can ease your life and how to do it properly!
Why Build A Breast Milk Stash
When your maternity leave ends, you will probably pump enough to fill a good amount of bottles for the next few days. However, having extra milk already stored in the freezer will ensure peace of mind.
Otherwise, it’s going to be very stressful for you as a mom, especially if you’re adjusting to a new routine right away.
Also, your stash provides more “wiggle room” if pumping doesn’t go according to plan (you can either forget the milk in the fridge at work or not have enough time to pump at work).
In such cases, with a decent supply at home, you can just ask someone to defrost a few ounces, so you have something to work with when you get back.
Overall, building a stash of breast milk helps you feel less worried about keeping up with your baby’s needs.
When to Start Pumping for Storage
The best time to start pumping for storage doesn’t exist! It’s as unique as each mom’s post-partum life, so it depends on the timing of your return and other factors that affect your breastfeeding.
If you’re still bonding with your child, working on getting comfy with breastfeeding, or handling other more important issues, don’t feel bad about putting pumping on hold.
However, assuming you have multiple weeks of maternity leave (which not all moms do) and breastfeeding is going well, a good time to begin exclusively pumping is about 3 weeks before your start date. Until then, focus on bonding with your baby and enjoying your time at home.
How to Build Milk Stash While Exclusively Breastfeeding
Exclusive breastfeeding means initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life. The baby only gets breast milk without any extra food or beverage, not even water. You feed your child as often as they want, day and night, without bottles, pacifiers, or teats.
In this case, building a stash can be hard but not impossible. The following steps can help you stockpile enough milk for your baby.
Determine How Much Milk Your Baby Will Consume During A Workday
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that most babies between 2 and 5 months of age intake between 4 and 6 ounces per feeding, every 3-4 hours, whereas 6-month-old babies can drink as much as 8 ounces per session. However, sometimes they can go 5 hours between feedings.
Keep in mind that every baby is different. Some can take smaller portions but feed often, while others can consume more across fewer sessions.
Therefore, determine how much milk your baby will consume daily before building a stash.
If Possible, Start Pumping After The First 3-4 Weeks
In the very first weeks, you will probably have more milk than you need. After that, your milk supply will be more regulated. However, if you start pumping right away, you can end up with oversupply.
I suggest that you wait 3-4 weeks if possible. If you must go back to work early, start sooner and keep in mind that breast milk lasts between 6 and 12 months in the freezer.
Introduce The Bottle When Your Baby’s Between 4-6 Weeks Old
Try to feed your baby with a bottle about 5 times a week.
See how comfy they feel with a bottle as well as how much they might consume from it per session. You can have your caregiver, partner, or friend supply the bottle so you can pump simultaneously.
Pump About 3 Times A Day After Feeding Your Baby
If you pump after feeding, your baby can eat as much as they want, and you can get what’s left behind.
Also, pump at the same time each day because consistency encourages the body to produce more milk as it begins to adapt. This also helps stop clogged ducts, which can result in mastitis infection.
Furthermore, a routine helps you feel more secure, which is good if you’re a first-time mom and day-to-day life seems unpredictable.
Lastly, pump after the first feed because the majority of moms get the most milk at this time of day. And don’t forget to massage your breasts beforehand for a smoother flow of the milk.
Pump for 8-15 Minutes per Session
Some say that longer pumping doesn’t necessarily provide better results. However, in my case, pumping for 15-20 minutes stimulated my breasts to increase production.
If you find long sessions exhausting, do it under your own terms and increase accordingly.
Store 3-4 Days Before Your Start Date
You don’t need more than this amount because you will keep on building your stash at work. The fresher the milk, the better it will be because it’s packed with disease-fighting antibodies.
Not that your 6-month-old baby can’t consume the milk you stored 3 months ago, but fresher milk has more antibodies to aid whatever your baby’s going through at the time, so they’re getting constant protection.
Take it Easy!
If you decide to supplement with formula, it doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding and pumping. Some working moms just breastfeed in the mornings, evenings, and on their day off, and their little ones still get a lot out of it.
Talk to a lactation consultant about your daily challenges, and they can help you come up with a better plan.
How to Store Breast Milk Stash Properly
Depending on your baby’s age and the number of feeding sessions you’re making up for, by the time you go back to work, you might have about 36-72 ounces of milk set aside.
However, note that babies born prematurely or those with other health problems can have different needs. The following strategies can help you protect your precious milk.
Cool Down Fresh Breast Milk Before Mixing with Refrigerated Breast Milk
You can blend milk from different pumping sessions. For example, you can create a 3-ounce frozen bag from three 1-ounce portions.
Just make sure to cool down the fresh milk for a couple of hours before adding it to what’s already stored. Otherwise, the milk will lower the colder milk’s temperature and cause thawing.
Gently Swirl Your Breast Milk Around and Freeze Pumped Breast Milk Within 24 Hours
Instead of shaking your refrigerated milk, gently swirl it around to keep the fat from separating and give your breast milk a weird smell when it’s defrosted.
Furthermore, freeze your pumped breast milk within 24 hours to help keep all the nutrients. If you plan to build a freezer stash, keep in mind that frozen breast milk can safely be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Leave Extra Space in The Storage Bags
I suggest that you leave room in the storage bags because pumped milk in your freezer stash will expand as it freezes. So, to prevent bursting, fill them about 3/4 full. And don’t forget to squeeze out the air before sealing.
Never Keep Breast Milk in The Freezer Door Compartments
If you store your milk in the door compartments, it can thaw due to the constant opening and closing of the freezer door. So, I suggest that you keep it in the back of the freezer to prevent this.
Keep Track of The Temperature in The Freezer
If you don’t have a freezer that automatically displays the temperature, then you can keep an eye on the temperature with a separate thermometer. The freezer always seems cold, but there’s a clear difference between a 0-degree day and a 20-degree day.
Utilize The Oldest Milk from Your Supply First
Whether you pick plastic bags made for milk or a set of bottles, label each portion with the exact date you pumped it as well as how many ounces it has. Lastly, put the oldest ones in the front and the most recent ones at the back.
How to Defrost Breast Milk from Your Freezer Stash Properly
Let your breast milk thaw in the refrigerator overnight. You can also put the frozen bag or milk bottle in a glass of warm water or run it under a tap until it thaws.
Also, try serving it cold because most babies don’t have any problem consuming cold milk. Finally, never microwave breast milk.
Happy Breastfeeding Journey!
Building a breast milk stash shouldn’t be stressful. Just give yourself some time and take it easy! If you’re feeling tired after your baby’s first-morning feed, then don’t pump and go back to bed!
If you can’t stand the sight of your pump that day, just put it aside and move on with your day. It’s not a big deal if you miss a pumping session or two. Just get back on your pumping routine as soon as possible.
There’s always time for building your breast milk stash. If you have any tips on how to build a freezer stash that you would like to share, or have some further questions, drop a comment below, and let’s chat!