Following the birth of my first baby, the concept of building up a supply of frozen breast milk was one of the furthest things from my mind. It was as we were about to introduce my daughter to her first bottle that I realized I was missing a key ingredient: expressed breast milk.
Finding a time to pump without interrupting our schedule was a bit daunting.
Following the birth of our second child, I figured out a hassle-free way to pump and store extra milk while caring for two little ones.
Here are a few tips for pumping, storing, and building a frozen supply of breast milk.
How to Build a Frozen Breast Milk Supply
Begin Before Baby
Determining how to build a supply of frozen breast milk begins during pregnancy.
You’ll want to chat with your doctor, your friends, and research breast pumps. Purchasing one before baby arrives will allow you a chance to read the directions, sterilize the parts, and get comfortable with the idea that you will be spending many hours with the pump of your choosing.
The Early Days (or Nights) of Pumping
The early days of breastfeeding can be difficult; even with a good latch breastfeeding is initially uncomfortable. Fortunately it doesn’t take long before baby and I are feeling more comfortable during this feeding journey...that is, until baby sleeps his first four or five hour stretch between nighttime feedings.
Although sleep is wonderful, I find I wake up uncomfortable and engorged when baby unexpectedly sleeps a long stretch. Recently, I’ve decided to capitalize on this problem.
Instead of feeding baby equally on each breast as I would during the day, I do a full feeding on just one side. When baby is full, content, and drowsy, we lay him down and I pump the other side. While staying up a bit longer in the middle of the night isn’t my favorite activity, I can quickly get a good amount of milk by pumping the side I haven’t breastfed with.
How to Pump without Stress
As baby’s long stretch of nighttime sleeping lengthens, you’ll find yourself approaching daylight hours when he wakes up to feed. This is when the schedule of pumping daily really forms.
Use the engorgement of the early morning to your advantage. Set the alarm a touch earlier and sit in bed with your phone or a good book while you pump for your baby. Pumping at a consistent time will cue your body to be ready with a milk supply in the early hours.
While it’s nice to have an idea of how much milk you’d like from each pumping, focusing solely on the ounces you’re pumping can be discouraging.
Instead, have a set amount of time you plan to pump and wait a few days to see what the average amount you’re pumping is. If you’re needing more milk to meet baby’s needs or to increase your frozen supply, make sure you’re well-hydrated before going to bed. You can also gradually increase your pumping time in the mornings if needed.
How to Freeze Breast Milk
For ease when freezing breastmilk, place a predetermined amount of milk in each bag. We usually freeze five ounces per bag, so some days we may combine milk from the current pumping session with some from a previous session to make equal-sized bags.
This will make things easier when you go to defrost the frozen milk, as you won’t need to root around for a bag that’s just the right amount.
If possible, freeze your bags lying flat; once frozen you can sort them by month and arrange them however will fit your needs best.
Remember, you’ll want to defrost breast milk slowly either by running it under cool water or by letting it defrost in the refrigerator. Never microwave breast milk as this can cause hot spots and break down the antibodies present in the milk. Your frozen breast milk is good for 24 hours after defrosting so be careful not to defrost more than you need.
How do you balance building a frozen breast milk supply while caring for your little one?
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