Are you returning to work after having a baby recently? I so get it, mama! So many mothers return to work just a few short weeks or months after having their baby. It always seems too soon. That’s why you may want to start building a breast milk supply stash a few weeks before you go back.
You can never spend enough time with your newborn baby snuggling and nursing. Sometimes the days may feel long, but the years are short. Take it from me, mama!
How Soon Can You Start Pumping for your Stash
Because it takes up to three months for your milk to regulate, you may see increases in your milk supply during this time. If you don’t need to return to work before 3 months, I suggest you don’t start pumping until your baby is at least 6-8 weeks of age. This is because you want to establish a successful breastfeeding journey. The first several weeks (and even more so, the first several days) are so crucial. You and your baby are still learning each other during the first few weeks.
You also don’t want to introduce any artificial nipple (like a bottle) or pacifier in the first few weeks. You can read more about when to introduce a pacifier here if you choose to do so.
Why Build a Breast Milk Supply Stash
You may want to build a stash even if you’re not returning to work or school. You may just want some time for yourself a couple of hours a week. If you have a few ounces of milk available, you can step away if someone is able to watch your baby for you. You will want to pump every time that your baby would normally nurse, or he/she receives a bottle while you’re away. Generally, that means every 2-3 hours when they are one year or younger. Once they are over a year and/or eating complementary foods and over six months of age, you can go a little longer in between pumping or nursing sessions- usually 3-4 hours.
- Back to Work- If you have to go back to work, you will want to build a supply so you have breast milk available for your baby. Even if you can’t nurse your baby, breast milk still contains all of the same wonderful properties that your baby needs. If your baby is going into a daycare setting or a setting with other children, breast milk will help him/her maintain a healthy immune system as well. Studies have shown babies are less sick and have fewer ear infections when they consume breast milk.
- Back to School- If you are returning to school, you will want to build a milk supply stash so you can be away from your baby without having to worry about
- Mama’s Day Out- Sometimes you may just need some time to yourself. If you have breast milk and a babysitter available, you can go get your hair done, get your nails painted, or simply go to the grocery store in peace.
- Medical Procedures- Sometimes you may have to undergo unforeseen medical procedures where you’re not able to breastfeed. If you have breast milk available for your baby, you can still provide breast milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most medications are deemed safe to use during lactation.
- Milk Baths- This is a fun way to celebrate your baby’s milestones. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest and other mama blogs that show babies in tubs or basins with everything from flowers to cookies and diluted breast milk.
- Milk DIY Products- Breast milk is great for topical skin issues like eczema. You can make your own soap out of breast milk. Here is an easy recipe for you from Practical Self Reliance.
How to Build a Breast Milk Supply Stash
If you’re trying to build up your breast milk supply stash, there are a few ways you can go about producing more milk, without adding too much stress for you. Realistically, you only need a few days extra worth of milk for your baby. It’s best if you’re giving your baby the freshest milk while you’re away as it is made exactly for his/her current growth and nourishment needs.
- Use a milk catching device like a Hakaa or something similar on the opposite side while your baby nurses.
- Try hand expressing to produce more milk than pumping. Your baby is much more efficient at getting milk out than any pump will be.
- Make sure your flanges or shields fit properly. Aeroflow has a great article on proper flange size fitting here.
- Pump first thing in the morning when your breasts are the fullest.
- Pump before going to bed to ensure your breasts are less full. They will never be “empty,” because your body constantly works to produce milk as more milk leaves your breasts.
- Utilize double stimulation (pump on both sides at once) to increase prolactin levels by three times and stimulate greater milk production.
- Ensure you’re eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and nourished.
Tips for Pumping at Work
- Once you return to work, pump every time your baby would typically nurse to maintain supply. You may notice a slight dip when you return to work, this is normal and happens to some women. Don’t lose hope! Just keep pumping every 2-3 hours and as needed.
- Set an alarm or add a calendar notification to remind you to pump at work, otherwise, you may get busy and forget. This is when your supply may dip because you’re telling your body not to produce as much milk.
- Listen to music, daydream about your baby, watch videos of your baby, use visualization techniques, and cover up your bottles so you aren’t focused on the amount being pumped.
- You don’t need to sanitize your pump parts 3 times a day, just rinse them after each use and stick them in the refrigerator in between pumping sessions.
- Bring a small lunchbox/bag to store your milk in the refrigerator. If you don’t have a refrigerator to use, just bring a couple of ice packs to keep your milk cold.
Tips for Storing Your Breast Milk
- Buy freezer safe, sanitized bags. You can get disposable ones that come pre-sanitized or reusable ones that you sanitize yourself.
- Only freeze the amount of milk in each bag that your baby typically drinks in one bottle or session. This will prevent unnecessary waste.
- Freeze your bags flat in the freezer to maximize storage space. Once the milk is frozen, you can move it upright to make more room.
- Get a deep freezer if you want to store it for a longer duration.
- Write the date and ounces on the bag.