Alright. The time has come. The last time you left the house for a night out was before you were a mom…it’s been a hot minute. Your bestie is having a milestone birthday and you’re invited to go out for cocktails and music. Sounds great, but can you really go out without the baby? And have cocktails?! Yes! How? Because you’ve been building a milk stash! Let freedom ring.
Building a milk stash might just be the key to your salvation if you’ve been feeling particularly stir crazy or cabin feverish and there’s lots of other benefits to packing some milk away too, which we’ll get into in a bit. But while that’s all well and good, the concept of putting this plan into action might be daunting, especially if you’re an exclusive pumper. Don’t worry; how to build a milk stash while exclusively pumping can with a plan and a bit of commitment this goal is definitely attainable and might even be easier than you think.
- Why Build a Milk Stash?
- How to build a milk stash while Exclusively Pumping
- How much milk does your baby need?
- How to Safely Store your pumped milk?
Table of Contents
Why Is Building a Milk Stash Important?
Yes, the concept of a night on the town without an infant strapped to your frontside is reason enough for many of us to start hoarding breast milk right away, but even if you’re not super enthusiastic about going out, there’s a lot of important possibilities that could arise where a milk stash could be your saving grace. These possibilities can range from inconvenient instances like bottle spillage to a more dramatic event such as an emergency where spending time away from your baby is unavoidable. Hopefully, such an emergency doesn’t happen, but if it does, that milk stash allows you to worry about one less thing – what your baby will eat when you’re away.
When Should You Start Building Your Stash?
There’s really no hard and fast rule for when you should start stocking up on breastmilk when you’re an exclusive pumper. It’s really all about each individual baby and mom and how pumping is going so far. If it’s going well, you’re pumping enough to satiate your baby during every feeding and you have a good pumping routine established, you might want to try your luck. If you’re still trying to get the hang of it all, wait until you do before you start pumping extra. If you’re saving up for an upcoming event, such as returning to work, a good general guideline is to begin stocking 2-3 weeks beforehand.
How Much Should You Save?
This is also a pretty individualized decision. It might depend on why you’re saving to begin with. If you’re saving up for a date night, you’ll need significantly less than if you have a four-day work conference in Topeka. The beauty of exclusive feeding is that you know exactly how much your baby has been eating, so you can safely estimate how much you’ll need to freeze for when you’re gone. For that Topeka trip, figure out how many times your baby eats in a 24-hour period and multiply that by the amount of days you’ll be gone. Then be sure to pump extra just in case of bottle spills and other unforeseen oopsies.
How Long Does it Take to Build a Good Milk Stash?
As long as pumping is going well and you get that routine established, two to three weeks should be enough time to build a decent milk stash for returning to work. If you anticipate being away from your baby for a prolonged period of time, start sooner; four to six weeks beforehand, depending on how long you anticipate being gone. Breastmilk will keep in the freezer for up to twelve months, so if you end up with extra, it’s okay.
Tips for Building Your Milk Stash While Exclusively Pumping
- Try different methods of increasing your production, such as power pumping so that you have extra to stash
- Define your pumping schedule to accommodate extra milk
- Pump at the same time each day so your body knows what to expect
- Massage your breasts before you pump to stimulate milk glands
- Pumping in the morning. Many women produce more milk in the mornings.
- Pump and save while you’re away from your baby
- Try adding in an extra pump session or two – remember your milk production is demand-driven.
- Use a preferred but reliable storage method – such as baggies made specifically for storing breastmilk.
- Clear a designated spot in your freezer specifically for your stash. It’s a bummer when you lose a baggie of breastmilk behind the frozen peas.
How Much Does Your Baby Need?
Babies will need varying amounts of breastmilk depending on their age, weight, development and other external factors such as whether or not your baby has been introduced to solid foods yet. If you’re feeding your baby when she’s hungry and your pediatrician is pleased with her weight and development, your baby is getting an adequate amount of breast milk. If you’re concerned that your baby is not getting an adequate amount of milk, consult your pediatrician, even if you’re not sure.
Stick to a Pumping Schedule
Schedules are a big part of new mom-ing. Sleep schedules, bath schedules, feeding schedules. They may seem tedious, but they really make life easier in the long run, so let’s talk about adding another schedule: the pump schedule. This schedule may look different for different people. Some moms prefer a set pumping schedule. Others prefer to pump when their baby feeds, which will help your production keep pace with your baby’s eating habits. Being a new mom is a great time of experimentation and trial and error. See what works best for you.
Introducing a Bottle
If you’re already an exclusive pumper, your baby is no stranger to the bottle. But maybe you’re currently breastfeeding and you’re looking to introduce your baby to a bottle so that you can prepare to return to work. Maybe you’ve discovered that breastfeeding just isn’t your jam. Whatever the reason, the timeframe on when to start varies from four weeks to six weeks. You want to be sure that your baby’s breastfeeding habits are established if you plan on breastfeeding and pumping, so if you’re returning to work, introduce a bottle one to two weeks before. After six weeks your baby’s reflex to suckle begins to wane, so if you’re looking to make the switch from one exclusive to the other, aiming for a time before your baby is six weeks old is ideal, according to experts.
Keeping Up Your Supply
Keeping up your bodily supply is pretty straightforward: the more you pump, the more you get. The best way to keep that supply up is to be good to your body. Eat plenty of healthy foods and drink a lot of water…like, a lot of water. If you’re looking to increase your supply, you can try breast milk teas, opting for oatmeal for breakfast and massaging your breasts before and even during pumping.
Keeping up freezer supply isn’t complicated either. Once you make a designated space in your freezer (highly recommended) it’s just a matter of routine.
Most mom’s choose breastmilk baggies for storage. Fill them with the amount that your baby usually eats and then anything additional that you pump can be put in another baggie. Storing in smaller quantities is usually recommended so that there’s less waste.
Write the dates on the bags.
Lay the baggies flat to freeze. Once they’re frozen, you can stand them up for the sake of saving space.
Rotate them so that the newest pumped milk is toward the back and the pouch that you’re reaching for is the oldest. This will assure that the milk won’t sit in the freezer too long.
Pump at work (or wherever it is while you’re away) and bring that milk home to add to your stash
Cleaning Your Equipment
Those breast pumps have a lot of pieces! How do you know which ones you have to wash every single time and which ones are good to wash once in a while? Check out this video for more info.
How Do I Store the Milk Safely?
Now that you’ve done the work, expressed the milk and collected enough for a feeding and for storage, you’re going to want to make sure that you store it safely, otherwise it’s all for naught. According to the CDC, freshly pumped milk can be stored on the countertop for four hours, depending on the temperature of your house (up to 77 degrees fahrenheit). Freshly pumped milk is good in the fridge for four days and the freezer for up to twelve months. Thawed milk is good at room temperature for one to two hours, in the fridge for about a day, and should not be refrozen. Leftover milk should be tossed after two hours, regardless.
Using and Rotating Your Stash
When you’re ready to dip into your stash, simply take the oldest portion (which should be in the front if you’re rotating via the method we mentioned above in Tips for Building Your Milk Stash), run it under lukewarm to warm (not hot) water or place it in a bowl of lukewarm water. Alternatively, you can thaw it in the fridge overnight. A microwave isn’t recommended since this method usually results in unevenly distributed temperatures, making it hot in some spots and cold in others. If you pick up the baggie and it looks questionable, give it a little swirl. Sometimes the milkfat (the super nourishing part) separates from the waterbased portion of breast milk. It’s totally normal and a simple swirl mixes it all back together. Then simply pour the milk into the bottle and you’re good to go!
Donating Breast Milk
Sometimes we get over ambitious with our ability to produce extra milk and our milk stash gets a little too big. When this happens, lots of moms choose to donate their expressed milk. A quick Google search will provide you with plenty of options for milk donation or you can check with your local hospital. Many children’s hospitals have breast milk donation programs. This milk can help nourish medically fragile babies and/or those that have been born prematurely and don’t have access to breast milk from their own mothers. Your extra breast milk, taking up all that space in your freezer where the ice cream needs to go, can have a huge impact on a preemie and could even help save a life!
Going the path of exclusively pumping is definitely a choice for the dedicated and strong-willed mother, so the good news here is that if you’re already at this point, pumping more to build a stash requires little extra effort. The payoff is worth it when you can rest easy at your work desk, at karaoke night or during that four-day stint in Topeka, knowing that your baby is getting the nourishment he needs. And in the realm of new-motherhood, having to worry about one less thing might be all the reason you need to put a plan into action.
Meghann Bernard is the health and wellness specialist and psychology professor at her local college. She is a certified health and wellness coach, certified yoga instructor, holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in both educational and health psychology. She, her husband and their four beautiful, spunky children live on a third generation farm in a small rural town and spend as much time outdoors as they can. Their favorite destinations for camping and hiking are the Adirondack and Thousand Islands areas. Meg has been writing since she was a child and is currently working on her third novel. She also enjoys playing violin, guitar, gardening, and her oldest son just taught her how to skateboard. She feels that being a parent is the most important and rewarding part of her life and after birthing four babies, she knows a thing or two about mom-ing. Best advice from one mom to another: when you become a parent, time starts moving in fast-forward. Before you know it, they’ll be grown and flown so enjoy every bit of time you have with them. It all happens so fast.