How to Build a Freezer Stash
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you (hopefully) know I like to be honest and upfront with my readers. So, to start this post, I want to let you know that I never returned to work full time after my son was born. At the last minute, my husband and I crunched some numbers and I decided to quit my full time job and stay home with our son. Unfortunately, that number crunching left us in the red, so I did have to go back to work, part-time, in the evenings (after my husband gets home). So, while I did not have to build a freezer stash to get Weston through 40+ hours a week, I did have to have enough of a freezer stash that my husband could bottle feed him while I was away (about 20 hours a week). Here’s how I built a freezer stash of over 1500 ounces (and even had the opportunity to donate over 1000 ounces to other babies).
When to Start
When to start pumping really depends on how long your maternity leave is. Give yourself about a month to build your stash.
Get on a Pumping Schedule
Once I started pumping, I knew I wanted to build a small freezer stash. I put myself on somewhat of a schedule. I would feed from one side first thing in the morning, and pump from the other. TIP: You usually have a greater volume of milk in the morning, so this is a great time to pump. I would pump once in the afternoon, in between feedings, and finally, I would pump one side before bed and save the other side for a dreamfeed. Since then, my schedule has changed a bit since Weston sleeps through the night. I still do the morning pump session, I no longer do the afternoon session, and I pump from both sides right before bed so that I don’t wake up in a puddle. This schedule worked for me, but think about your typical day and find a routine that works for you.
How Much do you Need
In theory, you only need enough milk for one day of work (your first day back), but I would aim to get at least three days’ worth to be on the safe side. The idea is that you’ll pump for the second day of work while you’re at work on the first day. We all know this is going to be a stressful, chaotic day back to work, so alleviate some of the pressure and pump at least a few days worth of milk prior to returning to work. Math time! Babies eat up to 30 ounces per day. Divide that by how many times a day your baby eats (usually 7 – 9 times a day for a 2-3 month old so we’re looking at approximately 3 – 4 ounces per feeding. Then, look at how many times your baby typically eats during work hours. Multiple that number of feedings by the number of ounces your baby eats per feeding. Now multiply that by 3 (or however many days’ worth you’d like to have in your freezer ahead of time). That’s how much milk you need to get started!
Keeping Up and Restocking Your Freezer Stash
Make sure you are pumping for every missed feeding while at work. If your baby eats every three hours, you should pump every three hours. Always pump from both sides to maximize your pumping session. Continue to pump on the weekends to stay ahead.
Tips for Freezing your Pumped Milk
Freeze Flat – Lay your milk bags flat to freeze. It’s a huge space saver and makes milk easier to pack up for daycare or a babysitter. Try laying them in an empty wipe container to make sure they freeze perfectly flat.
Date and Label – Always date and label your milk bags with your child’s name and the quantity of milk. Store in the milk in your freezer from oldest to newest.
Freeze in Smaller Quantities – I’ve always stored my milk in smaller quantities to prevent waste. Whatever Weston eats in a normal feeding, I divide that by 2, and store in it in that quantity. If he eats 6 ounces per feeding, I freeze milk in 3 ounce quantities. The Medela Pump and Save bags have been our favorite for freezing. They’re easy to fill and the best when it comes to pouring the milk back out. Breastfed babies are a bit finicky, sometimes they eat more, sometimes they eat less. Storing milk in smaller quantities helps you make smaller bottles if needed, therefore reducing waste, and building your stash!
Tips for Pumping at Work
If you have any anxiety about pumping at work or maintaining your milk supply after returning to work, check out the Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class. The online class, created by a certified lactation educator, can teach you way more about pumping at work than I ever could. It covers topics like mastering your milk supply, safe milk storage, creating a plan with your employer, bottle feeding your breastfed baby and more! I absolutely love the class and recommend it to any mom who wants to successfully breastfeed after returning to work!
Try to Relax – Pumping at work can be extremely uncomfortable. Being stressed is going to make it harder for you to have a letdown and probably reduce the amount of milk you’re able to pump overall. My best advice is to keep a picture or video of your baby nearby to help you relax and help your brain tell your boobies that it’s time to make milk!
Pump from both Sides – This probably a no brainer, but always try to pump from both sides while you’re at work. It’s going to save a ton of time. Yes, busting out both boobies makes things a lot less discreet, but it’s worth it to save time, get back to work quicker, and get the most milk from your pumping session. I have the Simple Wishes hands free pumping bra, but I don’t recommend wearing it under your clothes (it’s pretty bulky). This hands free pumping bra looks like a much better choice to wear all day long.
Storage – I always used this little cooler to store my milk in at work. Its discreet enough that no one knows your hiding tiny human food in there. This is especially helpful if the only place to store your milk is the communal break room fridge. It holds up to four bottles (5 ounces each) and has an ice pack inside that fits around the bottles perfectly, making sure there is no milk spilling or spoiling on the way home.
Refridgerate your Pump Parts between Sessions – We all know it’s a pain in the butt to wash pump parts after every use, but those parts can also grow bacteria like crazy. A great way to skip the washing while you’re busy at working is to throw the pump parts into a Ziplock bag and put them in the refrigerator between pumping sessions. This leaves them safe to use for your next session. Just make sure to wash them at the end of the day. I would recommend getting an extra set of pump parts in case you leave them at work or just plain don’t feel like washing them one day (trust me… it happens).
Have a Manual Pump on Hand – You never know where the work day might take you. Perhaps you travel a lot, have a meeting out of the office, or can’t make it to a private place with an outlet. Enter the manual pump! This thing was a life saver for me on many occasions (at work and otherwise). Not only do you want to make sure you’re not missing sessions so you can keep your supply up and replenish your freezer stash, you also want to be comfortable. Any breastfeeding mom will tell you that going too long between pumping sessions can be downright painful. Even if you just use the manual pump to relieve yourself a bit, this little thing is worth the investment. I’ve taken mine to weddings, football tailgates, and long road trips (just to name a few).
Being a breastfeeding and working mom isn’t easy and its a huge accomplishment be able to do either, let alone both. I hope these tips help you build your freezer stash and give you the opportunity to breastfeed your baby for as long as you chose. If you’d like more information about pumping at work and the laws that protect you, click here!