As of today I have 426 ounces of breastmilk taking over my freezer!
Whether you are planning on returning to work or simply stocking up for a few date nights away from baby, having extra milk on hand is something many mamas aim to accomplish.
Now, if you don’t plan on going back to work, you don’t need an excessive stock pile. While I fall into this category, our situation was a little different.
Due to some breathing issues, my little Nora was in the NICU for 4 days when she was born. Her meals started out as formula through a feeding tube, then formula combined with what I could pump, then just to what I was pumping. Once the nurses saw that I was producing enough for her to get her needed mL’s, they removed her from the feeding tube and we began learning to breastfeed together.
Because of this, I was pumping the night she was born and every 3 hours from that point forward. I ended up coming home from the hospital with about 10 ounces of milk ready to go for my freezer stash (again, we were there a few days longer than normal so my milk had started to come in). Once I had started on my pumping schedule, I didn’t want to stop.
So I fell into a pumping routine and within 30 days, my freezer was full.
Chances are, it is more milk than Nora will need and have since started the donation process with milkbank.org. And as long as my milk keeps coming and baby girl is getting what she needs, I will keep donating.
UPDATE: I have completed the interview process with MilkBank.org and it turns out that the herbal supplements I take to support my supply are not approved supplements for milk donation. The woman who conducted my interview explained they have tighter restrictions on donated milk because the milk is mostly used to help premature babies in the NICU. Even Fenugreek and Mother’s Milk tea were considered no-no’s! No worries though- these are definitely still safe for full healthy babies!
When Should You start pumping?
Deciding when you start pumping is a decision you get to make as a mother. I have read many blogs of mamas who started pumping week 1 their baby was born (list of these at the end of this post) and built a freezer stash of 1,000+ ounces. I have also read about many mothers who started just 4 weeks before maternity leave ended and were still able to build up an impressive stash.
LivingWithLowMilkSupply.com does a wonderful job of explaining why pumping in those early days could have it’s benefits:
The milk production is calibrated within the first two weeks postpartum and in that period, your breast is busy producing milk-making cell to meet your baby demand.
After these two weeks (which is also known calibration phase), your breast will stop producing milk-making cell and your milk production will stabilize to meet your baby’s demand.
If you start pumping during this phase (in addition to nursing your baby), you will have a better chance of producing more milk making tissues in your breast.
A word of caution for those who are thinking of starting out from day 1, keep an eye out for signs of oversupply.
You may be thinking “Oversupply sounds great! I want that!”… but it can actually be pretty rough.
Oversupply can cause some issues for both mama and baby, including mastitis. With oversupply, your let down may be so forceful that it can cause baby to cough and gag. It can also give you too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk (where are the good stuff is). Kellymom has a great post explaining what over supply is and how to manage it.
So as you can see, there are benefits and downsides to starting on the early end of waiting until your body regulates the milk making. So when should you start?
The answer to the burning question…When you start is up to you based on what you are trying to accomplish.
If you need a huge stash due to your future plans, start as soon as you are ready. If you don’t need much, wait until you are more settled into a routine.
Now, I don’t mean to downplay my stash, but if you do the math, building this kind of stockpile in 30 days is not difficult. 400 ounces over 30 days is just 13 ounces per day. This is totally possible over multiple pump sessions (even if pumping 2-4 ounces at a time!!), and for some mamas, may be possible in just one early morning pump!
Now to get back to the details, there are three main areas that I feel contributed to being able to build my stash: my pumping schedule, my pumping tools and supplements used to promote
My pumping schedule
Once we were home and settled, I pumped 2-3 times a day, morning, noon and/or night. I would pump immediately following a feeding for about 12-15 minutes.
I would say I stuck to this schedule 72ish% of the time. There were plenty of days I was tired and only managed 2 pumps. There were days when my baby needed me more and I skipped afternoon and night pumping session.
Skipping a session here and there is not going to make or break your stash. First priority is always taking care of baby and mama.
Here is an example of a optimal day’s pumping schedule:
6 AM: Feed then pump
9 AM: Feed
12 PM: Feed then pump
3 PM: Feed
6 PM: Feed
9 PM: Feed then pump
Suggestions for pumping schedule
- The most important pump of the day is always morning time! I had a record 15 ounces in ONE morning pump!
- Some serious pumpers swear by the middle of the night pump. I did this for a short time with Emmy when I was working to increase my supply. It does work, but it’s tough. If you are working to increase your supply to build your stash, it may be needed. If you are just starting out, stick with a regular day time schedule and see how it works for you.
My Pumping Tools
Like a majority of mamas. I went with a well-known and trusted pump- the Madela Pump In Style Advance. The let down button really helped ensure I was getting the maximum amount of milk in the shortest time. I love the bag it comes with, even though I’ve yet to pump outside the home. Overall it is an affordable, reliable pump that I have been pleased with.
I got my breast pump for free through my insurance! Be sure to call yours to see what type of coverage you have!
One of the coolest gadgets I have discovered while breastfeeding is a Haakaa. A Haakaa is a silicone pump that attaches by suction to the breast that you are NOT feeding on. While feeding baby, the Haakaa collects all the milk that comes from your let down that would otherwise end up in your breast pad.
I found out about the Haakaa from the lactation consultant that helped me in the hospital. I ended up ordering one from my hospital bed and it was waiting for us when we got home! You can find them here on Amazon (cheapest price I’ve found so far)
Here’s what it looks like:
Just to give you an idea of HOW much this helped me build my stash… I get about 1.5-2 ounces in my Haakaa every time I use it, which is about 3 times per day. That’s 4.5- 6 extra ounces I am storing a day. Meaning 135 EXTRA ounces minimum in a month that would have otherwise been tossed in the trash with my breast pad.
My Milk Supply Supplements
While I would like to take all the credit for this milk makin’, I had a little help. I relied on a few supplements and some key liquids and foods to help keep my supply up.
64 ounces of water a day. That is what your body NEEDS to produce the milk. Water is the main ingredient in your breastmilk, so if you don’t give it to your body, it’s going to pull what it can from you (meaning you could get dehydrated easily) and then past that it just won’t produce. Get a water jug that makes drinking water easy on you. I have been using an Arctic cup for months now and am mildly obsessed with it. It seriously can keep a cup of water cold for like 8 hours straight.
The breakfast of breastfeeding champions. I eat 1/2 a cup of oatmeal every morning. I rotate between adding honey or brown sugar to sweeten it.
Let There Be Milk
I discovered Let There be Milk when I was breastfeeding Emmy. I’ve completely lost count of how many bottles I have gone through. I made sure I was stocked up before Nora arrived.
It is a concentrated supplement that is stacked with all sorts of natural supplements that help boost your milk supply. I have mentioned how much this product has helped me keep my supply high in many other posts and I cannot tell you how many positive emails I receive about the results readers see.
Any time I recommend this product, I always like to include a little warning: this product tastes like a pinecone. It’s potent and best chased with a whoooole lot of water. I always use the dropper to put the liquid as far back in my throat as possible to hopefully avoid tasting too much of it. It’s a strong taste but yields strong results. Just trust me on this one.
Find it on Amazon here.
Mothers Milk tea
Another staple in my morning routine with the oatmeal, Mothers Milk tea. Like the Let There Be Milk, it is full of all sorts of natural ingredients proven to help boost milk supply.
Again, the taste is kind of blah. Honey or your favorite sweetener will help it go down easier.
Storing all this milk was a challenge at first. I made a ton of freezer meals before having Nora so space was already scarce. Luckily I found a few hacks to help get things organized
My first time to future breastfeeding mamas- buy the Lansinoh breastfeeding bags over any other brand (I buy them in bulk from Amazon). I started out with a different brand that was smaller and those bags are a HUGE pain in the butt to store. The Lansinoh bags are much longer and freeze much flatter. See what I mean?
When labeling your bags, be detailed! If you plan to take your little one to day care in the future and send milk, write their name on the bag now. Always include the date AND TIME!
I used gallon sized freezer bags to store my milk. I numbered each bag in the order that they should be used and put the closest expiration date on the label. While I haven’t started using any stored milk to feed Nora (I have used some to make milk baths for Emmy), I plan to put the bag that is currently being used at the very top of the freezer for easiest access.
I hope this helps with building your own freezer stash! Be sure to follow me on Instagram as I continue on my breastfeeding and pumping mission!
Resources for your to read to better help you on your freezer stash mission:
Moms who pumped at different times with different results:
Resources to help increase milk production:
Resources relating to oversupply:
KellyMom- Oversupply and The Forceful Let down
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