For many breastfeeding or exclusively pumping moms, having a freezer stash full of breastmilk would mean that they do not have to be the only one to feed the baby. It can mean convenience and peace of mind as you transition back to work or head out on vacation. It can also mean freedom as you wean from the breast to either use formula or another milk of choice as your baby grows up. Whatever it is to you, building a freezer stash takes some time and planning.
Here are a few tips to get started:
Don’t skip any feeding or pumping sessions
If you want to build up a solid milk supply and be able to have extra for storage, it is important to pump pump pump! There are a few ways to go about this: you can pump after you nurse or you can add extra pumping sessions in to your day. Pumping after you nurse may take a while to get a full feeding’s worth of milk built up. If your baby usually eats about every 3 hours, try pumping during naptime or at night before you go to bed to get your freezer stash started. You want to think about it as “getting ahead” so that any extra milk you have you can freeze and save. Once your pumping sessions are “ahead” of when baby needs to eat, the freezer stash will start to build quickly.
For me, I exclusively pumped so it was a little different than a lot of moms’ experiences, but I always pumped every 3 hours no matter what. Once I had more than one feeding in bottles in the fridge, I would start pouring them in freezer storage bags and freezing them.
Clear out space in your freezer
You will need space to lay the bags flat to freeze. After frozen, they can be stored upright but it is way easy to store and thaw them out if they are frozen flat. Get a box about the size of a shoe box or a 12-pack soda can box to store them in. I also liked to put them in a gallon sized Ziploc bag labeled with the month it was pumped, this made it easy to see when it needed to be used. Milk can be kept frozen in a regular freezer for up to 6 months and in a deep freezer for up to 12 months.
Make sure you get good quality bags and do not reuse bags. Label the bags with the date you pumped it and baby’s name if you will be taking them to daycare.
Drinking lots of water and eating healthy foods will impact your milk supply. Get in the habit of drinking water all day long. Get a cute cup to put water in and carry it with you everywhere. This is very important. Don’t leave your house without your water!
A lot of moms like to drink lactation smoothies or eat lactation cookies to keep up their milk supply. Check out the awesome smoothie recipe at the end of this post on pumping. Many other moms like to eat oatmeal, take fenugreek, or drink Gatorade, dark beer, and lactation tea,
The website Kellymom was recommended to me by a lactation consultant and has a lot of great information and additional resources for building up your supply and for a variety of breastfeeding related questions.
Make a plan that works for your family and your schedule and stick with it. Always pump on schedule and always drink your water. Keep going until you get the amount of milk stored that you want or when it is just not working for your family anymore.
Save everything you pump. You can add them together in the same bag to freeze but most of the time, freezing less than 6 ounces at a time is best. When it comes time to thaw it out, it will be easier to thaw and help prevent the bag from leaking.
These are only suggestions, everyone’s body responds differently to breast pumps. Some women may not have “extra” milk to build a freezer stash with. Make sure you call your doctor or lactation consultant if you feel like you need additional help.