Breastfeeding: Pumping and Storage

I know, I know. The last thing you want to do is sit behind this machine milking you. There are many different ways women have found to make breastfeeding work with your schedule without having a baby attached to you 24/7. I have found it extremely helpful to fill my deep freezer with breast milk in those first few months after the baby is born. After about month 4 I lose my stamina for the breast pump. I hate the sound of it, my attitude lowers as my milk supply lowers, and I just get plain tired of it. However, I’m also of the mind set that you just never know what could happen. With my First child I got very sick with a virus for almost 2 weeks. I did everything I could just to keep my milk flowing. With my second he absolutely refused to nurse at 9 months old. I could not get him to latch or be interested no matter how hard I tried. For these reasons I find it extremely useful to have some breastmilk stored away for those difficult days.

Why is pumping important?

My husband and I have a system worked out. For the first 3-4 months of my child’s life I take my own “maternity leave” as a stay at home mom. There is a small window of time where you can fool your body into thinking your baby needs more milk than it does. My husband is so amazing and so supportive and this would not happen if he was not on board. During those first few months he works overtime to help with housework and caring for our other child. He hates the breast pump just as much as I do but he see’s the value. A freezer full of milk is just that much less money we will be spending on formula. I will never regret the decision to pump like a crazy woman for those first few months, and here is why. I always had a freezer full of milk. I’ve even been blessed with the opportunity to help out my new mom friends by gifting them some of my milk until their milk came in taking so much stress off of them. I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity of donating milk. Donating is something incredibly important to me as I’ve known so many babies that need that milk in the hospital including my own son.

How much should I pump and how often?

My sister in law gave me this advice. Start pumping right away. I thought she was crazy. After I brought both babies home I would nurse, and then I would pump after every daytime feeding. I found this little supply and demand trick extremely useful as I had to give my daughter a bottle to supplement her feeding because she had a hard time latching on for the first few weeks of her life. My son was born with jaundice so it was important for him to eat and poop as much as possible. He received donated milk in the hospital. I stocked my freezer full of breast milk with both of my children because you never know what could happen. And if you’re planning on going back to work after you have a baby and want to give your baby breast milk you REALLY need to be proactive about a breast milk storage plan.
I am a stay at home mom and I still use an entire freezer full of milk. However, I have friends who will go back to work full time after their 12 week maternity leave, they look at pumping as their “job” during those first 12 weeks. That is when they fill their freezer so when she does go back to work she’s not stressed about finding time to pump and work at the same time. If you are planning on going back to work you will need to find your own schedule and what works for you. Remember: the most important thing is FEED THE BABY. Whatever works for you and your family is what should be done. And no mom should feel guilty about that.

How do I store frozen milk?

If you are planning on pumping and freezing your milk I would suggest reevaluating your freezer storage. When my husband and I first purchased our condo one of our “must haves” was a garage that could fit a deep freezer so we could always have half a cow in our freezer. Yup, we like beef. Once we started having children I went out to the freezer and we had to evaluate where we were going to put all this milk. As a first time mom I was not prepared for the amount of milk I needed to freeze. I didn’t know all the tips and tricks for milk storage and I ended up over donating milk with my daughter. Once you donate the milk, you can’t get it back. So as our freezer filled I kept donating thinking I would just keep pumping but then I really burned out on pumping. Then I got sick. Twice. Then I wanted to go away on a girls weekend. And my freezer supply was gone. So it’s best to really think about milk storage and how to do it. So here is my system.

1) Buy milk storage bags. I like to use the Lansinoh storage bags or the Up and Up target brand works great as well. I use Dr. Brown’s bottles and I have the 4 oz. and 8 oz. I freeze my milk in 8 oz increments. These bags will fit 10 oz but I found that 8 oz lays nice and flat as well as defrosts nicely. It’s also easier to count how many ounces you have frozen if you freeze your milk in the same amount. Whatever works for you, do that.

2) Lay your bags flat to freeze. This saves so much space in your freezer so your husband can freeze all the frozen apples he wants. Not that I speak from experience or anything….

3) Keep those Amazon shipping boxes, shoe boxes, breast pad boxes, whatever kind of boxes you may have before baby gets here. I used them all and I used many different sizes. Once I had a full box of flat frozen breast milk bags I would reorganize my freezer and put that milk in the bottom (if I wasn’t planning on donating it). And then start again. Freeze flat, box up, rearrange freezer, and place in bottom of freezer. I label each box so I know which milk needs to be used first when it comes time to use it or donate it. USING boxes to store the milk also helps decrease the amount of broken bags.

A picture of my freezer. There was a box on top of the lansinoh box but my son already drank it. A freezer can fill up fast!

Why is it important to have a plan for breast milk storage?

I have to tell you ladies, the last thing you will want to deal with after you bring your new baby home is breast milk storage. Usually after a few months of being a new mom I get the question, “What do I do with all of my pumped milk?”

As a first time mom, I did not have a plan. I did have the large freezer but I still didn’t have a plan and I didn’t have any idea how much milk I was about to produce. IT. IS. A LOT. Especially if you have been following my previous posts and started pumping right away.
So, why is it important to have a plan? Learn from my experience. Broken breastmilk bags are no fun. You also end up wasting milk if you aren’t good at pouring out of those bags, then it drips down your arm, and it’s 5 am and you have a screaming baby in your arms as you maneuver a broken bag and milk dripping all over your kitchen. I paint a nasty picture, don’t I? Yup, my husband and I both know this scene so well. And it ain’t pretty.
My next bit of advice, is freezer space. With my first child I just threw those bags in the freezer. It was a disaster. The bags were all different shapes, my freezer was full immediately so I ended up donating a TON of milk. (Which is awesome and generous but I was more careful about milk donation with my second child.) Because of this, I pumped more than I wanted too. Pumping wasn’t such a big deal when milk just comes flowing out. Then I hit that 9 month nursing strike and had to break that pump out again. I had a terrible time trying to get milk to come out. I would pump in 10 minute intervals. I even changed my diet and made all those delicious lactation recipes on Pinterest. Giving myself small breaks. Doing my best to get my supply up and my daughter refusing to eat on her own. To you ladies out there whose babies breastfeed easily throughout that first year, I applaud you. I am not one of those mom’s.

If you do not have room in your freezer for your milk, consider donating it. There are so many babies that can use that liquid gold. Ask your lactation consultant for more information on milk donation.

There you have it my friends. If I could have a conversation with each of you reading this, I would. FEEL free to leave commens below with your questions and concerns! I would be happy to trouble shoot with you in your specific situation.

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