If you are reading this article, you are likely two things. First, a mom with a precious, snugly newborn and second, a mom who is going back to work soon. You likely have just gotten into a good groove with breastfeeding only to realize that you now need to figure out how to build a freezer stash of breast milk for when you return to work. No worries, we have been there! Read on for our best tips on how to build your stock.
Do I really need a freezer stash of breast milk?
First things first, let’s chat about how much milk we are talking about when it comes to your freezer stash. There are many different thoughts and opinions on this, and you will get 38 different responses depending on which mom you ask. It’s our opinion that you do not need hundreds of ounces of breast milk in your freezer before you return to work.
How much breast milk do I need in my freezer stash?
In our experience, having somewhere around 50 ounces of breast milk in your freezer is a nice buffer amount. However, having enough breast milk for just 1-2 days worth of bottles is really all you need. That’s because you will be pumping at work at the times baby normally feeds so, in theory, you should be pumping the same amount that your baby takes from the breast. No extra breast milk necessary! If you need help figuring out your pump schedule for work, make sure to check out our article How Often Should I Pump at Work?
The reality is, though, that sometimes it takes a few days back in the office to figure out your pump schedule. And if you have been primarily nursing (and not pumping), it may take your breasts a few days to adjust to the pump. Because of this, you may pump a little less than your baby needs in her bottles. This can cause a lot of stress. A lot of stress. However, if you have built a freezer stash of breast milk, you can easily pull a bag or two from it in order to make up for the milk you need. You likely will get into a new groove of pumping within a few days back at work and will figure out when/how often to pump to make enough milk for baby’s bottles. Your reserve of breast milk in the freezer will turn into just that–a reserve you can use if you are sick or if you spill some of that liquid gold.
Related article: How to Pump in the Car Safely and Discretely on Your Commute
How to build a freezer stash of breast milk
So how exactly does one build a freezer stash of breast milk? This can be a daunting task when you are sleep deprived and figuring out newborn life. Luckily there are some ways you easily begin building a freezer stash of breast milk without too much effort.
1. Catch breast milk you leak.
If you are a leaky breastfeeding mom (i.e. you leak milk from the opposite breast that baby is nursing from), save every drop you leak via a Milkies Milk Saver. This product is genius for those of us who leak breast milk. It comfortably fits into your bra and around your nipple in order to catch the milk you leak. No more wasting milk by soaking a burp cloth (or your shirt!) or pressing your hand against your nipple in order to stop the let down.
By using a Milk Saver, many of our moms have been able to freeze hundreds of ounces (even though, again, you don’t need hundreds!) of breast milk with little effort at all. If you leak breast milk, get thee a Milk Saver!
Related article: How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Without Affecting Milk Supply
2. Use a silicone breast pump to “pump” while nursing.
Similar to the Milkies Milk Saver, the Haakaa Manual Breast Pump fits on to the opposite breast from the one you are nursing on. Calling this a breast pump is a bit of a misnomer because it’s not pumping like an electric breast pump and has no batteries or cords. Instead, the Haakaa works by suctioning on to your breast and allowing natural suction to express breast milk. It also, by default, catches any milk you leak.
The Haakaa is very popular with many of our moms. Not only did many of us use it to build a freezer stash of breast milk in the early days, but we continued to use it throughout our breastfeeding journeys in order to maintain a freezer stash. This is definitely the most loved “breast pump” among working moms.
Related article: 10 Reasons for a Sudden Drop in Milk Supply (and What To Do About It)
3. Pump on the opposite breast.
If your baby only nurses on one side during a feeding, consider pumping on the opposite side at the same time. This will enable you to store away extra breast milk while also stimulating your breasts to let them know you need more milk!
We recommend only pumping on the opposite breast once or twice a day if you are figuring out how to build a freezer stash of breast milk. This is because you don’t want to create an oversupply of breast milk. That comes with a slew of other issues (clogged ducts, mastitis, etc.). By only pumping once or twice a day while baby nurses, you won’t run that risk. You’ll also have a freezer stash of breast milk built in no time!
Related article: Determining Your Correct Flange Size (So Pumping Doesn’t Hurt!)
4. Start pumping once a day.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, try adding in a pump session after your baby nurses in the morning. Your breast milk volume is highest in the morning. Take advantage of that by pumping for around 15 minutes after your baby nurses. Keep in mind that you may only get 0.5-2.0 ounces of breast milk. That’s totally normal! By combining milk over several days, you will soon have enough for several bottles.
If you are pumping on the lower end of the 0.5-2.0 ounce range, you can consider adding in a pump session at night, too. In order to do this, you will pump after your baby’s last feed before she goes to bed. Again, keep in mind that breast milk volume is highest in the morning. You may get even less breast milk than you did in the morning, but don’t fret! These pump sessions are just “extra” sessions and don’t represent how much milk your baby is getting whenever she nurses at your breast.
Related article: How to Increase Breast Milk Supply (Fast!)
5. Save any extra milk.
This is likely a no brainer for those of you exclusively pumping, but make sure to freeze and save any extra milk. You probably have the bottle ounces and amount of milk you need down to a science at this point. If you are only pumping enough for baby’s bottles, try adding in a pump session in the morning (if possible!) or pump longer in order to stimulate a second or third letdown.
If you need additional help on how to use your breast pump, how to store breast milk in the freezer, or how to figure out your pump schedule for work, make sure to check out these other helpful articles:
- How to Pump at Work: The Complete Guide
- How Often Should I Pump at Work?
- Pumping Supplies: All the Essentials You Need
- How to Store Breast Milk After Pumping
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