When you’re just starting out as a breastfeeding mom, the idea of pumping and storing breast milk can seem overwhelming. After all, you’re already dealing with exhaustion and recovering from birth. If you’re on maternity leave, maybe you feel pressed for time to learn how to pump and start to build your freezer stash of milk.
The good news is that creating a freezer stash can be done little by little, and you can make it a simple addition to your daily routine. It’s okay not to have a month’s worth of breast milk stored. Any small amount you can save will be helpful.
Whether you’re going back to work, pumping exclusively, or pumping to supplement, having a backup supply can be beneficial for a few reasons:
- If you become ill at any time during your breastfeeding relationship, causing your supply to drop temporarily, or if you have to take medicine that isn’t recommended for breastfeeding.
- If you’re unexpectedly delayed for some reason.
- If you have to travel apart from your baby.
A freezer stash isn’t as hard to achieve as it sounds! Here are some tips for getting started creating your backup supply of breast milk for your baby.
The milk supply of any breastfeeding mom is usually at its peak first thing in the morning, so this is the perfect time for a pumping session. Wait about 30 to 60 minutes after your baby has finished her first morning feed, then set aside 20 or 30 minutes to pump.
It’s okay if you only pump a couple of ounces at first. Try to wait for the second or third letdown to make sure you’re making the most of your supply. This means pumping for 5 or 10 minutes after you’ve stopped getting milk.
Eventually your body will adjust to the increased demand and start producing more, especially if you time your pumping sessions consistently.
Balance Your Supply
Sometimes nursing moms tend to think that more milk is always better, but that’s not necessarily the case. Pumping too often can lead to oversupply, which increases the risk of plugged ducts and mastitis.
This is why it’s best (not to mention less stressful!) to wait to start pumping until your baby is around 3-4 weeks old. Milk supply stabilizes between 6 and 12 weeks postpartum.
However, some moms do start pumping right away. If you choose to do this, just keep an eye out for oversupply issues. If you’re apart from your baby for a feeding, pump to make up for it as soon as possible.
If you are short on time, you can pump on one side while you’re nursing on the other. Turn the pump on before you start nursing. You can switch sides to even it out during the feeding, since babies are more efficient than pumps!
Pump More Often
If you’re nursing throughout the day, you can pump after feeding several times, as long as you keep an eye on possible engorgement and oversupply.
To create your backup stash, go ahead and freeze the milk you’ve pumped right away. It’s best to freeze 1-4 ounces at a time so you don’t end up with wasted milk. Label the storage bag with the date and the quantity and freeze it flat.
Once the milk is frozen, place it standing up in a rectangular container in the freezer. Place the newest bags at the back so you can rotate through your stash.
How Much Is Enough?
If you can save up 45 ounces before you go back to work, you’ll have about a three-day supply. But even having a one-day backup in the freezer is great!
Pumping at Work
While you’re at work, make sure you pump often enough to replace your baby’s feedings and keep your supply up. If you rely on your freezer stash to make up the difference, your baby will get enough to eat, but your supply will gradually dwindle and eventually you’ll run out of your backup.
With the BlueSmart Baby Tracker app, you can track your baby's activities throughout the day, and even adjust your pumping accordingly so both of you are in sync.
As difficult as it may be, try not to stress out about pumping. As long as you’re consistent, your body will adjust and you should be able to have enough on hand for your baby’s needs. If you can avoid it, don’t set alarms to wake up and pump. You’re probably sleep-deprived enough as it is! Rest whenever you can, and eat nutritious food to support your supply and keep your immune system strong. You can do it, Mama!