Feeding the Freezer

on July 30, 2014 in Breastfeeding, Collecting and Storing Milk, Pumping at Work

Many mothers are anxious to collect extra milk for their babies in anticipation of time apart. You may be thinking about being away for a few hours or perhaps you will be returning to work or school in a few weeks or months.

So when can you start pumping? When and how often should you express extra milk? How much should you store? How long is milk good for in the freezer? And when should you introduce a bottle to your baby?

You can begin pumping after the first 7-10 days post partum. The reason I suggest this is that your milk supply will most likely be well established. Pumping on a regular basis prior to this may lead to having an oversupply which can lead to other problems like plugged milk ducts or colic symptoms if the baby is drinking from both breasts and taking in more of the low fat milk than the fatty hind milk. On the other hand, you may need to pump milk earlier if you are experiencing breastfeeding difficulties and certainly, you can freeze any excessive amounts of milk that you express.

I think that the best time to express extra milk is during the morning hours, right after nursing. Most mothers naturally have more milk during the night and in the morning. Pumping in between nursings can be taking some of your baby’s next feeding. When you pump in the morning after a feeding the baby at the breast, you will most likely get just an ounce or two. But by doing this every day or nearly every day, the freezer will fill up quickly.

Most young babies will need about 3 ounces per feeding in your absence. So when you pump, place the milk in the back of the refrigerator and when you get three ounces, combine the cold milk and then place it in the freezer. Older babies usually will need about 3-4 ounces per feeding. (My son, who was huge, weighing 20 pounds at four months of age, never took more than 3 ounces for the entire time he nursed, well past 2 years of age.)

Milk can be stored in the back of your refrigerator for 3-5 days when the temperature there is 39 degrees F (or 4 degrees C).

You can store your milk in the separate freezer of your refrigerator in the back area for three to six months when the temperature is O degrees F (or -18 degrees C). Date your containers so that you use the oldest milk first to prevent any wasting of your precious supply. You may find that storing in bags, made especially for breast milk, will take up less space.  Using other types of bags is not recommended due to leakage of milk.  Leave space in the bag when the milk expands.  If you will be taking the milk to day care, put the baby’s name on the bags as well.  Placing the bags in a plastic container will help keep the milk safe from breakage.

Better yet is storing the milk in a free standing chest or upright freezer where the milk will be good for 6 to 12 months when the temperature is -4 degrees F (or -20 degrees C). If you don’t have a free standing freezer and you are running out of space for your milk in the freezer section of the refrigerator, you might invest in a small one or find a friend or relative who has one that you can store your milk in.

To be sure that your baby will not reject the bottle down the road, you will want to offer your baby an ounce of your milk every 2 to 3 days or so. While most all newborns will happily drink from a bottle, many babies will come to reject the bottle when a week or more has passed. One of the most common questions I hear from mothers is how to make their babies drink from a bottle when they have not had one for a while. This can be a very tough problem once the baby comes to love his mother and her breast. I do offer some help with this and other issues and problem on my blog “Offering Your Baby a Bottle”.