As a new mom returning to work, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how much breast milk to send to daycare. Every facet of a newborn’s life can be overwhelming the first (or third!) time around. Determining how much milk your baby needs and how often they need to be fed, especially when you are away from them for several hours a day, can be one of the most mind-boggling decisions to make. In this article, we will discuss some guidelines to help you determine how much breast milk to send to daycare.
Breast milk is the ideal food for babies and provides all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfed babies should be fed on demand, which means that they should be fed whenever they show signs of hunger. This can be tricky when you are away from your baby. You won’t see those signs yourself and your childcare provider won’t yet know all of your baby’s cues. Thus, you will need to provide enough milk to cover the hours you are apart.
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How Much Breast Milk Should I Send to Daycare?
The general guideline is to send 1 to 1.5 ounces of breast milk for every hour that you will be away from your baby. For example, if you will be away from your baby for eight hours, you should send 8 to 12 ounces of breast milk to daycare. However, keep in mind that this is just a general guideline, and the amount of milk your baby needs may vary depending on their age, weight, and feeding habits.
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In the first few weeks of life, newborns typically feed every 2-3 hours. Their stomachs are about the size of a grape. The amount of breast milk they need per feeding ranges from 1 to 3 ounces. As your baby grows, they will eat more and less frequently. Around 1 to 2 months old, most babies will eat about 3-4 ounces per feeding, every 3-4 hours. Their stomachs are about the size of an egg. You can keep your baby on this schedule until they are 12 months old, or whenever they begin eating more solid foods. Speak with your pediatrician when your baby hits the 6 month mark to determine if you should stay on this schedule or begin allowing more time between feedings.
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It’s also important to communicate with your daycare provider about your baby’s feeding schedule and preferences. Make sure they understand your baby’s cues and how much milk to give them at each feeding. Ask them if they understand how to pace feed a breastfed baby and make sure to explain that a breastfed baby only needs 1-1.5 ounces of breast milk per hour.
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Your daycare or childcare provider will likely request that you send an extra bag of breast milk in case of emergencies. If this is the first time you are taking your baby to daycare, make sure to send the prepared bottles of breast milk which we outline below, and also take in a bag of breast milk that has enough milk for one feeding. It’s important to ensure that the emergency bag of breast milk equates to only one feeding. You don’t want to waste breast milk, nor do you want your baby to be overfed.
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Keep in mind, too, that your daycare may request more milk per feeding session or more bottles. This is common. Don’t panic if this happens. Explain the guidelines above. If you want to and are able to send more milk, by all means, do what you think is best. You are mom and you know best. Don’t let daycare or your childcare provider pressure you into more milk if you don’t think your baby needs it from a nutritional standpoint. Speak with your pediatrician for guidance if you are concerned.
How to Prepare Breast Milk Bottles for Daycare
We recommend speaking with your daycare or childcare provider to find out if they have specific requests or policies on how they want you to send in bottles. Every daycare and state is different when it comes to rules and regulations. Here are the steps we take to prepare bottles for daycare each day:
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1. Preparing the Breast Milk
If you haven’t chosen your bottles yet, make sure to check out our article on The 5 Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies. You will need to have enough bottles for each feeding. That means if you are going to be away from your baby for 8 hours and your baby will need 3 bottle feedings, then have 3 bottles at your disposal (6 if you want to make your life a little easier when it comes to cleaning the bottles). Decide if you are going to use fresh or frozen breast milk. If you are using your freezer stash, make sure to thaw the breast milk in the refrigerator the night before you plan to use it.
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Once you have decided how much breast milk your baby will need using the guidelines we outlined above, pour the determined amount into each bottle. Example: if your baby needs three 3.5 oz. bottles while at daycare, then pour 3.5 ounces into 3 separate bottles.
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2. Label the Bottles
Make sure that each bottle has it’s own label. Your daycare will require this. It helps prevent the daycare from giving the wrong breast milk to your baby. Read this article for more information if this happens. Most of our moms stick masking tape on their baby’s bottles and write their child’s name on it with a Sharpie. This approach works just fine. You can also purchase waterproof labels (like these on Amazon) that are dishwasher safe if you’d like a cuter option. Many moms like Name Bubbles, too. We also really like Inchbug labels in addition to tape on bottles. These Inchbug labels can grow with your child and be used on sippy cups, too.
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3. Place Bottles in a Cooler Bag
After you have prepared the breast milk and labeled the bottles, place the bottles into a transport bag. If you are prepping bottles the night before, simply put the bag into the refrigerator and grab it on your way out the door in the morning.
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Determining how much breast milk to send to daycare can be challenging, but it’s essential to provide enough milk to meet your baby’s needs while you are away. Speak with your daycare provider about your baby’s feeding schedule and preferences. And remember that you know your baby best. With a little planning and communication, you can successfully provide breast milk to your baby while being a working mom! And when your baby gets older, check back here and read our article When To Stop Sending Breast Milk to Daycare!
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