Are you working on building a freezer stash of breast milk? Building a freezer stash while nursing can be a daunting task, but is definitely doable! Read on to learn everything you need to know in order to build a freezer stash while nursing!
Build a Freezer Stash While Nursing: Your Questions Answered
Why Start a Freezer Stash
You may want to start a freezer stash for a number of reasons. Some moms may be trying to build a supply for when they go back to work. Others may want a supply to use for an impromptu vacation or trip. Others still may want to have some back-up, just in case they need to be away from baby in case of emergency.
My Experience Building a Freezer Stash
Personally, although I had a breast pump, I had no great ambition to build a freezer stash after giving birth to my first daughter. I had no plans to be away from her for long periods of time and figured I’d pump a little extra if I decided to go somewhere without her for a few hours.
Then at nine weeks old, I had a health problem that landed me in the emergency room. My daughter stayed home. Because I had no milk stashed, her father had to give her formula, something I really regret.
After that experience, building a freezer stash became really important to me and I began a pumping regimen every day. I soon had pumped almost an entire deep freeze full of breast milk. My stash gave me confidence that my daughter could continue to be fed with breast milk no matter what happened in our lives.
I also knew that I wanted her to continue to nurse after my maternity leave ended after a year. Pumping at work wasn’t really an option for me (busy kindergarten teacher with very few breaks!) By building a freezer stash, I was able to send breast milk to daycare for my daughter to drink without the pressure to find time to pump at work.
Whatever the reason, a large stash can give you piece of mind, and who doesn’t need that as a new mom!
So, how do you build a freezer stash while nursing? Keep reading!
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Supplies to Build a Freezer Stash While Nursing
To start a freezer stash, you need a few essential items:
- Breast Pump: if you’re planning on creating a sizable freezer stash, I recommend investing in a double breast pump. This will maximize your pumping efforts in the least amount of time.
- Milk Storage Bags: You’ll need quite a few of these to build a sizable freezer stash. These were my favorite because they are so sturdy and have plenty of room to record important info.
- Sterilizer: You’ll have to sterilize your breast pump after each use (or once a day if you store the parts in the fridge between pumping sessions).
Other Nice-To-Have Items for Pumping Milk
- Pumping Bra: This will allow you to pump hands-free! It may not seem like a big deal, but pumping can be quite monotonous and having your hands free to be on your phone or do something else is very helpful.
- Haakaa/Breast Milk Catcher: These genius inventions allow you to save the leaking milk from the breast your baby is not nursing on, or when you are leaking in between nursing sessions. Instead of filling nursing pads or worse, leaking on your shirt, why not catch that milk and store it?
- Milk Storage Bag Organizers: If you’re a big pop drinker, pop can cardboard boxes will do just fine, otherwise these boxes are the perfect size for storage!
- Drying Rack: Having a special drying rack only for pump parts was a really nice way for me to be sure they were absolutely sterile and didn’t get mix up with other dishes as they air-dried. Plus this dying rack is so adorable and comes apart easily for cleaning.
- Deep Freeze: If you’re committed to building a large stash, you’ll need to consider where you are going to store it all. Your regular freezer will definitely not be able to hold it all. A deep freeze will be necessary if your goal is to have a large stash.
- Generator: this may seem bizarre,but if you’re committed to building a large stash, you will not want to lose it to a freak power outage! I have a friend who lost her entire stash that she worked to build for months during a freak storm that knocked our entire city’s power out for nearly a week after a freak storm (we don’t even live in a place where storms or hurricanes usually occur!). This was absolutely devastating to her, so I always mention a generator or other power back-up just in case you have this misfortune!
When to Start Building Your Freezer Stash
You may want to start your freezer stash pretty soon after your baby is born, but it may be better to give it a month or two before you start a full pumping routine.
In the first few weeks after birth when your milk is coming in, your supply needs to regulate. Your breasts will likely be engorged. You might pump once in a while for relief, but hold off starting a pumping regime every day. If you are pumping too often, it could lead to an oversupply. This can be problematic for baby (read more here).
New mamas are often stressed and exhausted. If nap time is the only downtime you get in the day, don’t try to stress yourself out with pumping, washing and sterilizing pump parts. Give yourself some time to get into the groove of motherhood (it will happen before you know it).
Personally, I didn’t start a regular pumping routine for a few months. My daughter only took 30 minute naps for the first few months of her life. I didn’t want to spend her whole nap time pumping, so I waited until her naps became a little longer before starting a consistent pumping routine.
If you have a really chill baby who is happy to just hang out while you’re pumping, by all means, start pumping earlier!
Alternate to Pumping
Instead of starting a full pumping routine, you CAN start saving milk right away and building your stash. As soon as your milk comes in, try using a Haakaa or a milk catcher while you nurse. The idea is to nurse on one side and use the milk catcher on the other. You’ll be able to catch and store the milk that otherwise would be wasted.
This is a great strategy to begin building a supply before your supply regulates. It won’t cause oversupply, as you are simply catching leaking milk, not pumping more milk!
When to Pump
Your milk supply is usually at its highest earliest in the day, so you’ll produce more milk. I usually tried to pump during the first nap of the day. I also pumped after the baby went to bed, just before my bedtime, but produced considerably less.
Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply
If you’re struggling to produce much milk, there are a few things you can do to increase your supply. I wrote a comprehensive blog post on ways to increase your milk production when pumping here.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Pump early in the day
- Look at pictures or videos of your baby while pumping
- Smell something of your baby’s while pumping
- Power pump (3 ten minute pumping sessions with ten minute breaks in between sessions)
- Hydrate: drink a ton of water! Others swear by blue Gatorade.
- Massage breasts while pumping
- Oatmeal is a great lactation boosting food. Try it for breakfast in the morning.
- Use a supplement like Fenugreek or Blessed Thistle (talk to a care provider before starting)
- Try some lactation smoothies or cookies (see my Pinterest board for a ton of awesome recipes)
Remember if you want to build a freezer stash WHILE nursing full time, pumping only an extra ounce or two is normal! Read more about false signs of low milk supply here. Keep at it and you’ll have work up to a nicely sized stash!
How Much Breast Milk to Stockpile
How much breast milk to freeze really depends on your goals. Are you creating a freezer stash for emergencies or so you can take a week long vacation? Are you hoping to build enough of a stash so you can go back to work without needing to pump at work?
Here’s a handy freezer stash calculator for how much your baby will need to eat while you are away.
Don’t forget that if you plan on continuing to pump while you’re using your stash, you’ll continue to add to your stash as your baby dips into it. You may not need as much as you think. E.g. If your baby is drinking 24 oz/day, but you are able to pump 22 oz while you’re away, you’ll be adding almost as much to your stash as baby is drinking.
How Much Breast Milk to Store in Each Bag
You may be tempted to fill each breast milk storage bag to the top (usually six or seven ounces). Keep in mind that your baby may not want to drink that much for each feeding. You’ll have to thaw the entire bag. You may want to store less in each bag so you don’t end up wasting milk. Instead, try putting three or four ounces in each bag.
If your baby needs more for a feed, it’s easy to unthaw another bag. You won’t need to thaw too much and waste that liquid gold!
How to Freeze Your Milk
Once you have three to four ounces of breast milk ready to be frozen, be sure to label your milk with the date, time and how many ounces are in the bag.
When you put the bag in the freezer, be sure to lay it flat at first until the milk freezes. Then you can pop it into a storage container. This way, each bag will take up a lot less space.
How to Best Stash and Organize My Milk
A serious freezer stash takes up a good deal of room, so you’ll definitely need a deep freeze. Organize your milk by the date it has been pumped. The newest bags should be stored at the back. Thaw and use the oldest bags first.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
Breast milk can be stored in a deep freeze for six months to a year (best before six months, but acceptable for up to a year). After it has been thawed in the refrigerator, it will keep for 24 hours in the fridge or up to 2 hours on the counter.
I hope this information will help you build a freezer stash while nursing! A freezer stash will provide you with piece of mind and give you confidence your baby will be able to be provided with breast milk, even if you are apart. Happy pumping!
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