When pumping to build a freezer stash, it’s best to pump one extra session per day, preferably in the very early morning (between 4 and 8 am) when your supply is highest. Most ladies feed their little one and then pump in an hour or so. You can also try feeding you baby on one side and pumping on the other side. Some people pump several extra sessions per day. The problem with this is that is can lead to an oversupply, which can lead to problems like leaking, clogged ducts, mastitis, and a foremilk/hindmilk inbalance. I started pumping for a freezer stash when Charlotte was about a week or two old. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a lactation consultant. Often, they are employed by hospitals and even local health departments. They are there to help you!!
I have saved well about 2000 ounces so far. That sounds like a lot, but babies eat about 30 ounces each day. My plan is to start weaning the daytime sessions at a year, and replace them with frozen breastmilk in a sippy cup. I would like to give sippy cups with breastmilk for as long as possible, but still plan to nurse in the morning and at night for a while. If Charlotte starts rejecting breastmilk, I can always donate the rest. But I digress. . .
When pumping an extra session for your freezer stash, don’t expect a ton of milk at first. Your body will step up and make more, but initially a few ounces is pretty darn good. I used the 2.5 ounce vials from Medela, and I would only get an ounce or two per side at first. That’s totally normal. If you keep at it, your body will realize that the session is coming at the same time every day and will step up.
It’s also normal to pump way less at your extra session than you would if you were pumping because of a missed feeding. If you’re out or at work and you pump, your body was ready to feed your little one. So, you’re going to get a lot more milk than you would at your “bonus” session. The milk that you produce then is in addition to the milk that you make for your little one.
I grew my stash by pumping an extra session in the morning during my maternity leave. After Charlotte started sleeping through the night, I started getting up at about 3:30 to pump. I know that it sounds terrible to disrupt my sleep, but there is no way that I can go 8-12 hours without pumping. It hurts. My body has also adjusted to this session, so the 10-12 ounces that I get every night is totally worth it. If Charlotte decides she needs to nurse in the middle of the night, I skip the pumping session. There were also times that I would produce more at work than she needed the next day at day care. That also went into the freezer.
It’s so important to keep things neat and organized, so that you’re not wasting milk. Initially, I froze milk in ice cube trays, so that I could thaw a cube (which is about an ounce) at a time and wouldn’t waste any. The problem with this is that it takes up a ton of freezer space. After the first few weeks, I started saving my milk in Lansinoh bags. Here’s how I do things:
1. I measure out the ounces using bottles, and write the date, ounces, and my name on the bags.
2. I pour the milk into the bags and seal them up.
3. I lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet to freeze them. I have a tiny cookie sheet that fits nicely in my side by side.
4. After the milk is frozen, I toss the bags in a plastic container in my freezer.
5. When the plastic container is full (about once a week), I vacuum seal the milk. I slide the frozen Lansinoh bags into a Foodsaver bag, and seal it up.
6. After I’ve sealed the Foodsaver bag, I write the oldest date and total ounces on the bag, and put it in the deep freeze.
7. Here is the final , completely nerdy step. I record the date and ounces on an Excel spreadsheet. I *heart* Excel. Don’t hate me.
According to my lactation consultant friend, milk that is vacuum sealed and in the deep freeze is good for a whole year. (Woot!) So, I’ll be fine using the first year’s milk into the second year.
When you need to thaw milk from your freezer stash, put the bag upright in the fridge overnight or in cool/lukewarm water. Do not put it in hot water – the bag will pop! After we wean from the daytime sessions, I plan on putting the bags of milk for the next day into a basket in my fridge to keep them upright. Keep in mind that thawed milk is not like fresh milk – it must be used within 24 hours of thawing. So thaw wisely, my friend!
For more information on how to use your breast pump, check out Moo! Pumping those Boobies.