Preparing to Return to Work – the Breastmilk Freezer Stash
I see plenty of moms who are in the first week or two after their baby is born, and they ask me about establishing a “breastmilk freezer stash” in preparation to go back to work. If you don’t already know what I mean by a “stash”, go ahead and search google images for “breastmilk stash”. What you will find is a series of photographs of hundreds or even thousands of ounces of milk stacked together in breastmilk storage bags inside of a freezer. Here’s the thing. Having that much milk pumped and frozen does not help your milk supply, or your health in the long run.
Moms are shocked to hear me tell them that it is not a good idea to stockpile that much milk. First, when you freeze milk, you destroy the antibodies. All that work that your body did, monitoring for illnesses, and producing illness-specific antibodies. Gone. More importantly, when you force your body into a milk over-production, in order to build your “stash”, it puts you at risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. Especially in the first weeks of breastfeeding, when you are trying to get the right signals to your brain to stimulate enough milk production for your (usually) one baby, you don’t want your brain to get the signal that you need to produce enough milk for twins (if you are single pumping) or triplets (if you are double pumping).
So What is a Working Mom To Do?
You really only need enough milk to feed your baby for one work day away from you. A good rule of thumb is to send one ounce of breastmilk, for each hour that the baby is away from you. While you are at work, and the baby is in the care of someone else, you need to pump each time the baby eats, for a total of one ounce, for each hour you are away from the baby. Put your pumped milk in the refrigerator, and send that with the baby the next work day. (BTW, you can keep pumped milk in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. If you are lucky enough to only have to work every 6 days or more, I am jealous).
See, This Is Why I Want To Build A Freezer Stash Before I Go Back To Work
This seems like a great idea. BUT, if you are feeding your baby out of the freezer stash, and not pumping while you are away from the baby, your brain starts getting the message that you no longer need the milk. Every time you use milk from your freezer stash, your brain gets the message that no milk production is needed, and your milk supply goes down. Before you know it, your milk supply has dwindled to the point where your baby is no longer satisfied at the breast, and you find yourself supplementing with formula (or ironically, milk from someone else’s freezer stash).
Keep watching our blog for the next post in this series: Preparing to Return to Work- Helping Childcare Providers Understand How To Feed Breastfed Babies