You are starting on the journey of breastfeeding, and you want to learn about proper breast milk storage guidelines. This article will provide you with the tips and knowledge you need to pump breast milk and how to store it properly.
First off, congratulations! You are making the decision to provide your baby with the best food source possible, your breast milk.
In an ideal world we would be able to be with our babies every hour of every day, but unfortunately we may have to work. So you know you have to plan on creating a breast milk freezer stash to have on hand when you are not home.
But are you clueless as to where to start? Let me help you!
I am going to tell you exactly how I successfully breastfed and pumped for the entire first year. While working full time, I managed to build a breast milk freezer stash of over 700 ounces of breast milk in only a couple of months!
If you are looking to boost your breast milk supply and create a solid breast milk freezer stash, look no further, mama. I got you!
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines and Tips: How to pump more milk for a freezer stash
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When to start pumping
Begin pumping in the first few days after your baby is born.
This is when you are getting familiar with your breast pump. In the early days of breastfeeding your true milk has not come in yet, so do not be discouraged by output.
This time period is really just for adjustment, not producing huge quantity.
Some people have different opinions on when you should start pumping. For example, waiting until at least one month to reduce the risk of over supply and complications such as mastitis.
I can agree to disagree with this way of thinking, BUT, and this is a big BUT… if you want to create a breast milk freezer stash- making extra milk is what you want.
Breast Pumping Tips
It is really important to ensure that you are pumping enough once your true milk does come in so you avoid those possible complications.
By pumping from the beginning you are telling your body to produce more milk. More milk than your baby needs, but that is all the breast milk you will be able to pump and save!
- 6 Ways to Pump More Milk Faster
- Quick Tips for Storing Breast Milk in the Freezer
- Pumping Tips While Working Full Time
Read why I recommend using the Spectra S1 breast pump here:
When does “true milk” start to come in?
The first several days of breastfeeding and pumping, your body only produces colostrum. After about a week, your true milk supply will start to come in. *cue over supply time*
Your body will be in over producing mode. This is when the work begins.
As I mentioned earlier, it will be SO important to ensure you are keeping up with your pumping schedule, which I will talk more about next.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand mechanism.
It is very simple really. The more demand you place on your breasts, the more they will supply.
Pumping Breast Milk
Pump in between nursing sessions. Yes, even in the middle of the night. This is going to withdraw the extra milk you are producing and that is what you can start freezing.
Over the course of the next month or so your body will begin to regulate itself to meet the demands of your baby. It is important to breastfeed as much as possible during this time to establish your supply for the long term.
Once your baby starts sleeping longer stretches at night, you will at first need to continue to pump during the night/early morning before she wakes up. This is to ensure that your supply does not drop.
After about 4 months or so you may be able to drop a night time pump, but pay attention to the possibility of a decrease in supply. Use a pumping log to keep track of the times you pump as well as output.
Using this tool you will be able to notice your output trends. And easily identify any gradual or sudden decreases in breast milk output.
There are many apps you can use on your phone as well, but I found the old fashioned pen and paper to be easiest for me!
The first few months of breastfeeding are the most challenging BY FAR.
But if you put in the work in the beginning you will be so thankful in the long run. You won’t have to pump like crazy forever. Your body will regulate.
And the opposite is true. If you don’t pump enough then you won’t make the milk. It is a simple mechanism, remember that! Supply and demand.
When is the best time to pump?
Wake up before your baby does in the morning and pump, pump, pump!
The morning time is THE BEST TIME to get huge amounts of milk. Your prolactin levels (milk producing hormone) are the highest in the early morning, so take advantage of that! There were mornings I would pump 12 ounces in one session!
I loved early morning pump sessions. They were just the thing to get my confidence rolling and make me feel like I really had a hold on this whole breastfeeding thing.
Breast Milk Storage and Guidelines
Use these storage bags for your breast milk by Lansinoh.
They are excellent quality, and feature a labeled area for writing date and volume. They also have a double ziplock seal, and they have the ability to stand upright or lay flat for storage.
If you use a Spectra breast pump, these bags fit directly onto the flange. So you can pump right into them. Less bottles to wash = win!!
Storing breast milk
Importance of labeling the breast milk bags
Oh the things I learned when I first started breastfeeding. Why you need to label your bags was one of the first lessons I learned.
One reason why you should date and time your bags is because different times of day you will get different variations in your milk. For example, in the mornings you will tend to pump more foremilk.
What is foremilk?
Foremilk is more watery, thinner milk. Think of it as the beverage you have with your meal. While breast milk from later on in the day would be more rich in hindmilk.
What is hindmilk?
Hindmilk is the higher fat content milk. Think of that as the meat and potatoes of your meal.
Importance of Hindmilk and Foremilk
Notice in the picture above the bottom of the bottle of breast milk seems less white? That is the thinner foremilk. Pretty cool, huh? It naturally separates after being refrigerated for a bit. So it is important to gently swirl the bottles to mix the milk together before you pour it.
Sometimes the richer milk fat can get stuck to the sides of the bottles as well. Simply run the outside of the bottles under warm water and gently swirl the milk until it mixes again.
Both foremilk and hindmilk are equally as important! But you want to have a balanced meal for your baby.
Too much foremilk will lead to a gassy and fussy baby. It is so necessary to ensure a good balance of each type.
This is why you need to know what time the bag of breast milk is from because later on when you go to use the milk from the freezer, you don’t want to be giving your baby an entire bottle of what could be foremilk.
You want to be able to mix a bag from the morning with a bag from later on in the evening to create a delicious well-balanced meal for your baby.
Related: How to Pump More Milk
More tips on storing breast milk
A second reason to use the label on the bags is to indicate the amount of breast milk in the bags.
Maybe you are saying to yourself right now, well duh… And good for you if you are. But let me tell you when I was postpartum and sleep deprived I thought to myself, “I am always saving the same amount, so why write it”
And then I started pumping different amounts and realized- Oh. I get it now.
So maybe that seemed obvious to you, but if it didn’t, then you’re welcome.
It is also a good idea to freeze smaller amounts at a time to avoid wasting any when you go to thaw it. The bags hold 6oz, but I would generally freeze in 4-5 ounce increments.
The reason being, once you thaw breast milk it needs to be used within 24 hours.
How to store breast milk in the freezer
The best tip I have for you when it comes to saving space and having proper organization for your breast milk freezer stash is to use these containers.
The Lansinoh storage bags fit so perfectly into these I feel like they were actually made for this purpose. The bins are actually ice cube bins.
I first lay the bags flat in the freezer and once they are frozen I can stand them up in the bins.
*Pro Tip* Use a bread pan to lay your milk bags flat to freeze. This gives you a flat even surface. And you can stack several bags on top of each other.
Using these ice cube bins to organize my breast milk freezer stash was the best discovery I have made yet! (No exaggeration.)
I bought 4 of them (because I needed the space!) Each container can hold about 13 to 14 bags when filled with 4-6oz each.
This is BY FAR the BEST way to keep all of your milk organized.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
Breast milk can be stored in a regular freezer with a door (meaning not a deep freezer) for up to 4 months.
How long is breast milk good for? CDC breast milk storage guidelines
- 4 hours at room temperature, 4 days in the refrigerator, 6 months in the freezer
This means when you first pump your breast milk you can actually keep it out for up to 4 hours before needing to refrigerate or freeze it. You can keep fresh breast milk in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before needing to use it or freeze it. And you can store breast milk in a regular freezer with a door for up to 6 months. Guidelines for deep freezing are even longer than that!
Keep in mind, that when you take out a bag of breast milk from the freezer to thaw- it must be used within 24 hours! And also, once the breast milk has been thawed, it should not be re-frozen. That is why it is best to freezer breast milk in smaller amounts to reduce potential waste.
Related: Quick Tips for Storing Breast Milk
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines to Build a Breast Milk Freezer Stash
Using these tips I have been able to build a breast milk freezer stash of over 700 ounces of breast milk (and counting), in just my one freezer. I’m not saying this is going to be easy, mama. But it is doable!
If you put your mind to it and put the work in- it will pay off big time! My goal is to help you reach your breastfeeding goals. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!
It is never easy being away from your baby. But using these guidelines you will be able to create an amazing breast milk freezer stash, and continue to give your baby the best nutrients even while you are away.
Keep up the excellent work mama!
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