Building Your Milk Stash Before You Go Back to Work

One of the biggest stressors for working, breastfeeding moms is how to build a substantial milk stash in the freezer by the end of maternity leave. But between feeding your baby around the clock and all the other to-dos that make your days zip by in a blur, it can feel pretty daunting. Luckily, you don’t have to be attached to your pump 24/7 to get there.

Why do I need to store milk?

  • So you can rest assured there’s plenty of milk for your child’s caregiver to use throughout your workday (that doesn’t involve you frantically pumping at 5am for just two more ounces!)

  • If you have to travel and will be away from your baby for a long stretch

  • If you have to take medication that isn’t safe for breastfeeding

  • If you spill an entire bottle on the counter by accident, you won’t feel as devastated knowing you have backup, and then some


Planning Ahead is Key

Whether you received a pump as a gift from your registry or for free through insurance (as of 2010, the Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover the costs of a breast pump), start pumping early on in your maternity leave so there are no surprises. This gives you ample time to become a pumping pro, get your baby accustomed to drinking from a bottle, and build your freezer stash.

It’s All About Baby Steps

By pumping just once a day, over the course of several weeks, you’ll build up a serious supply. Let’s do the math: if you pump even just two ounces each morning, by the end of the week you’ll have 14 ounces. Do that for five weeks and voila—70 ounces. There’s an entire workweek of milk!  Not too shabby.

Whatever you do, don’t overdo it and start pumping a zillion times a day. That will mess with your milk supply and totally exhaust you. If you have a low milk supply, talk to a lactation consultant about the best approach to pumping. And don’t be hard on yourself if you have to supplement with formula. However you feed your baby is the right way to feed your baby.

Be Consistent

Pick a time of day that’s easy to fit in a pumping session and consider it part of your schedule. Lots of moms find that pumping right after the first morning feeding or late at night once your baby is sleeping longer stretches produces the most milk.  Even if you think you aren’t getting much (which you may not in those early weeks), your supply will increase over time.

Get Organized

Once you’re done pumping, put your milk in a breast milk storage bag right away. Make sure you write the date and amount of ounces. Tip: freeze milk in various increments, not just what you use for a full bottle. Sometimes your baby may want an extra ounce or two. So rather than having to defrost four ounces, you can grab only what you really need and not waste a drop.  (They call it liquid gold for a reason!)

Create a dedicated space in your freezer for your milk. Avoid putting it on the shelves that line the door, or haphazardly sandwiching it between the waffles and the veggie burgers. Some people like purchasing a storage container like this one, which keep the bags flat, orderly, and separated from other items in the freezer. Or, get creative and DIY like these clever hacks on Pinterest. No matter how you do it, place the containers in the back of the freezer, where the temperature is the coolest.

If you’re really going for a major stockpile, invest in a small deep freezer. Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months. However, using it within six months is optimal.

Nothing provides a sense of accomplishment quite like a neat stack of breast milk bags in your freezer. And it will provide a huge sense of relief when you head out to work each day.