Are you trying to stockpile breast milk for your baby, but don’t know where to start?
Or you are struggling to pump in between feeding because it seems that baby wants to nurse every time?
Or you never get a chance to stockpile because your baby always wake up right after your pumping session, so then you give her your expressed milk?
In this post, I would like to share my tips on how I stockpile my expressed breast milk right from scratch.
Please note that I am not a typical mom with abundant milk supply. Psst.. I never need a breast pad because I never leak, even a drop! My boob rarely seems full either, yet I’m making milk. My average pumping yield is less than 1 oz when I pump in between feeding. Are you a mom like me? If yes, then I believe you will love the tips that I’m going to share. Let’s start!
Some background story
I started pumping milk for my baby when she was 3 days old. She was severely jaundiced. And my milk has not come in yet. If I don’t make enough milk for her, she would definitely need to be admitted to hospital for photo-therapy.
What pumping equipment did I have at that time?
I have an Avent manual breast pump at hand and some Avent VIA system. On day 5, I decided to borrow my sister’s Ameda Purely Yours breast pump. It is a dual electric breast pump that allows me to pump and nurse simultaneously, or pump and multi-task with other stuff.
If you are trying to establishing your supply, I would strongly recommend you to use a heavy-duty dual electric breast pump, such as Spectra S1 (read my full and detailed reviews here). Otherwise, personal breast pump (either electric or manual ones, depending on your preference) should be good enough.
#1 It all begins with a few drops, don’t underestimate it
I started pumping using a manual pump and manual expression, even when my milk has not come in (so, I pumped colostrum). I literally got only drops of milk, maybe just enough to fill in one tea spoon, but I didn’t give up.
When her jaundice seems to get worse, I borrow my sister’s Ameda pump and diligently pump while nursing her a few times a day. I also pumped at least 20 minutes for each session even though I only get drops. This is to stimulate my breast to produce more milk. Then, I feed all my expressed milk to my baby so that her body could eliminate bilirubin and get rid of jaundice as soon as possible.
It finally paid off. In two weeks my daughter was finally jaundice-free.
After that I keep pumping regularly every day to maintain my milk supply and slowly build my freezer stash. The amount of my expressed milk is still pathetic, but I can see that it is slowly increasing from a few drops, to 2.5 ml, to 5 ml, then 10 ml. Occasionally I would get 1 oz (~30 ml) in one pumping session, but that was very rare.
So what is the lesson here?
I made mistake with I had my first baby that that a few drop is insignificant, so I didn’t pump at all prior to start working. As a result, majority of his milk intake came from formula.
With my second, I value every drops of milk. I didn’t give up easily even though I only got drops. I didn’t stop pumping even though I only get less than 1 oz. I am grateful with what my body can make and continue to pump.
My mom once told me, that my dad saw me pumping, and he thought I would be able to get one bottle full of milk per pumping session. Oh so wrong.. Yes, at the end of the day I may get one bottle of milk, but typically that is after combining milk from multiple pumping sessions, 3 or even more.
So, if you get drops of milk, or just enough to wet the bottom of the bottle, don’t worry. You are not alone. Continue to pump and you will slowly see increase in your pumping yield.
On a side note, if you are one of lucky moms who can pump more than 1 oz milk per session, listen to me. You are so lucky! Yes, you are. I envy you and a lot of mother do.
#2 Start early
If you are pumping to build stash before you return to work, start early. Do you know that frozen breast milk can last between 3-6 months in regular freezer and even 6 – 12 months in chest freezer. I know some of you can take a long maternity leave and may think that you don’t need to pump too early.
Let me tell you two facts:
- The amount of milk we pump is rarely matched the amount of milk baby is able to remove from breast, typically it’s only half or even third. If you don’t have a lot of stash of expressed breast milk while you plan to be away from baby for a long time (say, for work or study), you will run out of expressed milk very soon. Then, you’ll either need to:
- pump like crazy a whole lot of times during the day, at night (including wee hours!) and even on weekends to supply enough milk, or
- supplement your baby with formula or donor milk
And really, these two will add a lot of stress, not to mention the stress you experience when you start being separated from your baby. So, act smart by start pumping early and build your freezer stash slowly, and keep stress away.
- Milk production is at its highest during the early days after your baby is born. The calibration phase, where your breast is measuring how much milk to make and how much prolactin receptors it needs to have to to make this amount of milk (think of a factory and how it measures how much machinery it needs to invest), starts from baby’s birth until 2-3 weeks postpartum. You definitely want to take advantage of this phase and tell your breast, ‘Hey, I need more milk for my stash, please make more milk for me’.
While some moms can easily increase the amount of milk she makes way past these calibration phase, a lot of others will easily reach a plateau and unable to make more milk beyond what it currently has.
Which type are you?
Do you easily make more milk or the one that easily hits the plateau?
If you don’t know the answer yet, it’s better to assume the later right? And that means it will be easier for you to stockpile your breast milk early.
#3 Pump early in the morning
This is the golden tips that every mom should do. Typically, your milk production is at the highest early in the morning, because prolactin level (the hormone regulating your milk production) is at its peak. So, wake up early, feed your baby, have a warm drink and nice shower, and pump. From my experience (and other moms’ experience), the highest pumping yield comes in this time. Say, if I am pumping 3-4 times a day (in addition to direct nursing), I would get 60% of total expressed milk from my morning pumping session. So, please don’t skip this.
Tips: I notice that my baby sleep deeply early in the morning (at least 2 hours uninterrupted). Knowing that she won’t wake up any time soon, I can afford to pump 1 hour after the last feeding, and get more milk.
#4 Pump when your baby naps
Young baby naps a lot, and you can take advantage of that to do pumping when baby is napping. If you aim to build a whole lot of stash, aim to pump at least 2x during baby’s nap time. If you can afford more, good for you.
Note: if you are stay at home and do not leave you baby frequently, pumping once in the morning is usually sufficient.
I read a lot of tips on how you should wait at least one hour after last feeding before pumping. This tips, however, does not work for me.
Why? Let me tell you.
I found that even though my baby naps a lot, the nap does not last long, especially when she is put in her crib. In her early days, typically she would nap on crib for 15 minutes or so, then wake up.
if I wait for an hour after feeding her, she would already wake up and ready for the next feed (yes, she nurse that frequent). There is no way I would be able to pump!
So I found what works for me is to pump right after she napped on her crib. Usually the moment or a few minutes I’m done pumping, she would cry for me and wanted to nurse.
As she grow older, the nap time extends, and I can do more things (other than pumping) while she naps, and I can schedule pumping with longer gap, not right after I put her to nap.
#4 Pump and nurse simultaneously
I love to do this when my daughter was a newborn. I would nurse her in one side and pump on the other side. There are some advantages of doing this:
- Easy to achieve let-down As your baby nurses on the other side, she will stimulate let down for both breasts. No need to rely on the pump or other stimulation methods to achieve let down, yay!
- Research has shown that removing milk from both breast simultaneously increase the total amount of milk, compared tomilk removal from one breast after the other. If not, why breast pump manufacturers create a double electric breast pump.
- Time saver, this is my favourite. By nursing + pumping at the same time, you save a lot of time!
One of my close friends actually used this method to build up her stash prior to returning to work. She told me that she will hooked her self on pump every time she fed the baby. Even if she only got 10-20 ml of pumping milk per session, doing this religiously for almost every feeding (with typical newborn nurses between 8-12 times a day) gave her at least 80-160 ml every day. That is one bottle of milk per day already. By one month, she has saved at least 30 bottles of milk! Isn’t it awesome?
Now, let me tell you something. While this method is my favorite during newborn phase, it doesn’t really work well for older babies. They tend to get distracted with breast pump noise (click here to check the nearly-silent breast pump model) and may interfere with pumping process (such as pulling the breast shield, tubing, or get fascinated with all the buttons on the pump motor). Yes, my baby did that.
Now that I’ve given you several tips to start building your stash, let’s talk about problems. Let discuss about typical issues that mom encounter when stockpiling breast milk and how to tackle it.
#1 My baby wakes up right after I finish pumping and want to nurse
If your baby wakes up right after pumping, and want to nurse, then nurse her. Don’t be afraid that she’s not getting enough milk. She will. Remember when I told you that pumping does not really remove all breast milk and you typically get half or one third? After all, your baby is the one who can empty breast most effectively. So, your breast still have milk and keeps producing milk.
You may argue: ‘But she looks fussy and seems not getting enough milk if I nurse directly after pumping’
Since the amount of milk left in your breast is less compared if you start nursing with full breast, it is normal for baby to be fussy because the milk flow is slower. But, rest assured, your breast continues to make more milk to adjust to baby’s demand. Keep nursing her and she’ll get the milk she wants, albeit in longer period.
The analogy of nursing with full breast is like when we buy food from a fast food restaurant, we get our food real fast because they already prepare it and ready to go.
When you nurse with rather empty breast, it is just like when you order from normal restaurant, you got to wait a bit longer because you need to wait for the food to be cooked before you can enjoy the meal.
Some babies are more impatient than others when milk flow is slow. For this impatient baby, consider nursing while rocking your baby (use a good baby carrier such as ring sling or baby wrap to keep your baby comfy). I found that my baby soothed easily when she’s in a carrier, in close contact with me.
#2 My baby is so fussy so that I gave her the milk I just pumped
As said before, milk flow becomes slower when you nurse directly after pumping. Some babies can take this, while some baby are not.
I don’t really recommend you to give your pumped milk if your baby actually gain enough weight and growing well (no feeding problem whatsoever).
Here are alternative things that you can do:
- Consider pumping one side so that baby can take the other side that is fuller
- If you typically aims multiple let down during pumping, consider to aim only one let down instead.
- Pump after feeding your baby. You may not getting much milk by doing this (remember that baby removes milk pretty effectively from breast). But by pumping after you feed, you are telling your breast to produce more milk. Slowly, your milk supply will increase and so will your pumping yield.
#3 My baby woke up in the middle of pumping
There are a couple of things that you can do:
- If there is some body else that you can ask to take care for the baby for a couple of minutes, you can ask for help to attend the baby while you pump.
- If you are alone and your baby wants to nurse, you can continue to pump and nurse simultaneously. Note that this option is not for every one. Some moms feel awkward on doing this and I can totally understand.
- Stop pumping and attend your baby. After all, you can continue and do your pumping later. Your baby is important and she needs your care and love.
Do what you think is most appropriate for you and your baby’s condition. Every mom and baby is unique, and so don’t feel like you should do it always the same ways as the majority do.
So there you go, a few do and don’t tips on how to stockpile you breast milk and build your freezer stash. I hope you find it useful and if you have any question, feel free to ask me in the comment section. I would be very glad to help you out.
And don’t forget to come back here next week because I will be sharing with you my actual story on building my freezer stash, complete with the lesson learnt and things that I would do differently if I would start it all over again.
UPDATE: If you still need help on building your stash, check out my Ultimate Guide on Building Breast Milk Stash here (Hint: There’s a FREE download to get you started).
Do you have any experience in stockpiling breastmilk? What do you think the most important tips to do in building your freezer stash? Share with us here!