One question that I get in my Instagram Q&A every week is “when should you start freezing breastmilk?” Here’s what to think about when it comes to starting and using a freezer stash.
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When Should You Start Freezing Your Milk?
Whenever you have extra milk that you think you won’t need to use within three days of pumping it, I would go ahead and freeze it.
There is no magic amount of fresh milk you should have on hand before putting some of it in the freezer. Babies can take very different amounts in a day, some women have very consistent pumping output day to day while others do not, and some exclusively pump while others mostly nurse. So just use your judgement as to whether you think you’ll need it in the next few days. If not, freeze it.
(Note: Fresh breast milk can be kept in the fridge for up to 8 days, but 3 days or less is ideal. More on breast milk storage here.)
Plus, it’s okay if you miscalculate and end up needing the milk – you can always thaw it and use it! (Here’s more info on how.)
How Much Breastmilk to Freeze Should You Freeze in a Bag
There isn’t a clear answer for this, either.
Lots of websites will recommend freezing in small portions, so that no milk is wasted. This makes sense, unless you have an oversupply, because you’ll go broke buying a million breastmilk bags.
Other websites will say to freeze in the portion size your baby eats now. This can work, but say your baby currently takes 3oz bottles and then next month, he takes 4oz bottles. Then you still have to defrost multiple bags for one feeding.
So I would test it out and see what works best for you and your routine. When you go to thaw a bag that isn’t the amount of milk that you need at one feeding, thaw in cold water or in the refrigerator overnight. Then you can split up the milk to use in multiple bottles.
(Another option is to freeze your milk in ice cube trays, so you can just grab the number of cubes that you need for a feeding. More on this here.)
When Should You Start Using Frozen Breastmilk?
Even if you don’t need your frozen breastmilk, I would recommend starting to use it about two weeks after starting your stash.
Some women have an issue with having excess lipase in their breast milk. Their milk is still perfectly safe for baby to eat, but it may taste “off,” and baby may refuse it.
If you have this issue, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later – there is nothing worse than the heartbreak of building a large freezer stash, only to discover months later that your baby won’t drink it.
For this reason, I would recommend starting rotate your milk within a few weeks after you begin freezing your milk. Rotating your milk just means using some frozen milk on a regular basis and replacing it with the fresh milk you would have fed your baby.
Hopefully this helps give you an idea of when you should start to freeze breastmilk! Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.