Are you breastfeeding and nervous about heading back to work? Here is everything you need to know about how to build a freezer stash for work – how to pump extra milk, how to store it, and how to use the frozen breast milk when you need it.
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Why do you need a freezer stash?
Many moms like to have a small stash of breast milk for when they need to be away from their baby. This can be for a date night, for a medical procedure, or for going back to work.
How do you build a freezer stash for work?
How you go about starting your freezer stash will be different depending on whether you’re an exclusively pumping mom or a nursing mom.
If you’re exclusively pumping, this is pretty easy – you’re already pumping, so you just want to take whatever extra milk you have and store it in the freezer (more on how to do that in the next section).
What if you don’t have any extra breast milk to freeze?
If you’re making less or about the same as what your baby eats, building a freezer stash can be challenging. A few options you can consider include:
- Try to increase your milk supply (some ideas, in the order that I would try them, here)
- Add some (additional) formula feedings to what your baby is eating now, in order to be able to store more for later
- Don’t create a freezer stash and just feed formula as needed
Regarding the second and third options – some parents would rather keep the first day of childcare as consistent as possible with what baby would normally eat. If that’s important to you, feeding extra formula and creating a freezer stash before the first day may work better for you.
Otherwise, you can just send formula on the the first day. There’s no research that says one is better than the other, so do what works best for you.
If you’re a nursing mom, you may not be pumping much or at all yet.
What you will want to do is start pumping once or twice a day, in order to start to stash a little extra milk.
How often should you pump?
Aim for about 1-2 sessions per day.
You want to pump often enough for your body to get used to the pump and for you to build a freezer stash, but not so much that you get a large oversupply. Oversupply in nursing moms can cause issues with forceful letdown and foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.
How long should your pumping sessions be?
About 15-20 minutes should be fine.
You want to get through about 1-2 letdowns, but again, you don’t want to overdo it.
When is the best time to pump?
There is no evidence-based answer to this, but many people find that the best time is when you’re likely to have the most extra milk, which for most moms is morning.
My routine with the two babies that I nursed was to pump once per day when I was on maternity leave, about 30 minutes after baby’s first nursing session of that day.
(Note: By “of the day,” I mean the first session when it was light out and I was drinking coffee, not the first session after midnight.)
That gave me enough time to put the baby down for a nap after she ate, get something to eat myself, and then sit down to pump.
However, the best time for you might be different depending on your life.
What do you do with the milk after you pump it?
After you pump milk for your freezer stash, you’ll want to store it in a breast milk freezer bag.
How much milk should go in each bag?
There is no single answer for this – different things work for different people. Some options to consider:
- Freezing the amount that baby is currently eating
- Freezing small amounts to ensure no milk is wasted
- Filling breast milk bags as much as possible in order to save money on them (primarily for moms that have a lot of milk)
Try different things and see what works best for you.
How to freeze your breast milk
Once you put the milk into the freezer bag, you want to freeze it flat (you can put it on a cookie sheet or in a takeout container – anything flat will work).
Then you can store the frozen breast milk bricks in a gallon-sized zip top bag or in a box. You can see ideas and pictures of how this should look here and in the story below:
Another option is to freeze your milk in a tray like the Ceres Chill Milkstache, so you can just grab the number of cubes that you need for each bottle.
Breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months in the freezer.
How much of a stash do you need?
All that you really need is enough milk to send with your baby on the first day that you’ll be at work and they will be in childcare. On the second day, you would send the milk that you pumped on the first day, and so on.
Having extra is always great, of course – but that’s a potential goal that you can start with.
How much will your baby need on the first day of daycare?
I generally sent four 4oz bottles of breast milk with my 3 month olds to daycare, and sometimes got one of the bottles back. (Meaning they would take between 12-16oz in the nine hours that they were there.)
However, my babies were big eaters, and yours might need less or more – try testing out giving your baby a bottle and see what they take during a feeding to get an idea of how much milk your baby will need that first day.
How do you use the stash that you have frozen?
When you’re ready to use your stash for the first day of work, you’ll want to thaw out enough milk to prep the bottles for the day. (Note that at some daycare facilities, you can bring frozen milk and they will thaw it for you, so you might want to check with your childcare provider before prepping the bottles.)
To thaw the milk for prepping bottles, you can either take the milk out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost slowly, or you can put it in cold water to thaw. It will take about 12 hours to defrost in the fridge, and maybe 10-20 minutes in cold water.
Hopefully this helps you understand how to build a freezer stash for work! Let us know if you have any questions or additional tips in the comments.