Are you looking to build your milk stash? If so, you’re in luck! This guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to get the most milk out of your pumping sessions. Follow these tips and before you know it, you’ll have a nice stockpile of milk saved up!
It can be hard to stockpile enough breast milk while breastfeeding or exclusively pumping. While a stockpile is not necessary for most moms, many mothers desire to have some extra milk in the freezer.
You may want to have a stockpile of breast milk ready for when your maternity leave ends. Or maybe you had a rough day pumping and don’t want to have to do it again the next day or you just want some extra milk “just in case”
Follow these tips to help you build a milk stash and avoid any potential stress down the road.
- When to Start Pumping for Storage
- Do you need a milk stash?
- How to Build a Breast Milk Stash While Breastfeeding Full-Time
- Use a Passive Collector
- Use a Silicone Suction Pump
- Pump After Feeding
- Prioritize Morning Collection
- Fictitious Feed at Night
- Hand Express
- Use What You Need
- Add in massage and compressions
- How to Build a Breast Milk Stash While Exclusively Pumping
- Storing Your Breast Milk Stash
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When to Start Pumping for Storage
This answer will be different for everyone, but in general, I would recommend pumping for storage when:
- Breastfeeding is going well
- Your supply has started to regulate
- You feel confident in your ability to produce enough milk for your baby to consume during the day
- If you’re going back to work – a month before you go back is a great time to start getting a little bit of extra milk in the fridge
Many mothers have an excess of milk in the first few weeks after giving birth, so it can be tempting to try and collect all of that extra milk while you have it.
However, this is not something I would recommend doing unless you absolutely have to, as it can lead to creating an oversupply, which isn’t ideal. There are some ways that you can collect some of this milk without impact your supply, which I’ll talk about in the next section.
Do you need a milk stash?
This is the question I always get – do I NEED a milk stash?
And honestly – no, most moms don’t need a huge freezer stash, and the expectation to do leads to unneeded stress, overpumping, and often, it causes moms to stop breastfeeding altogether because they feel they will never have “enough”.
Here are a few situations where a milk stash would be helpful:
- When you are going back to work – even in this situation, I don’t recommend trying to have a HUGE freezer stash. Ideally, you’ll pump fresh milk for your baby. If you are going back to work, I would recommend getting enough for your first day back, and then a 2-3 day emergency supply if you need it. Be sure to use our expressed milk calculator!
- If you plan to leave your baby at some point with a bottle and don’t want to pump.
- Emergencies – whenever I talk about freezer stashes, I have a mom or two that say, “I didn’t know that I would need a freezer stash, but then an emergency happened, and I’m so glad I had it!”. These situations do happen, though they are usually rare. If you are someone who wants to be prepared “just in case”, trying to get a little bit of extra milk in the freezer is a good idea.
- If you are trying to stop pumping at a certain point, it can be helpful to get a good amount of milk in the freezer so you can stop.
How to Build a Breast Milk Stash While Breastfeeding Full-Time
When you are nursing from the breast full-time, it can be tricky to know how and when you can collect extra milk.
One thing to keep in mind is that small amounts build up over time. Even if you are just getting an ounce (or less!) from these efforts, you can store them in a fridge (or a Ceres Breast Milk Chiller) and then pool them all together when you are ready to freeze them. You can also use something like the Ceres Chill Milkstache, which is a great way to store milk in smaller amounts. Use the code TBM15 for 15% off.
Here are a few tips for building a breast milk stash:
Use a Passive Collector
Passive collectors are designed to sit in your bra throughout the day and collect drip milk. These are fantastic for the early days of breastfeeding when you might be leaking more.
Make sure you empty these frequently to ensure bacteria doesn’t grow
Here are a few options:
Use a Silicone Suction Pump
This is one of the most popular ways for moms to collect extra milk. The most commonly recommended brand is Haakaa.
This suctions to the opposite breast from where you are nursing. It collects drip milk, as well as stimulates the breast to collect a little bit of extra milk throughout a feeding.
Many moms say that this is how they built up a nice freezer stash in the early weeks and months of breastfeeding.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep in mind that these DO stimulate the breast, and they sometimes can induce an oversupply – use with caution.
- Prioritize your baby eating first. Put this on the opposite breast after you’ve already nursed on it
Here is a great article about the Haakaa.
Pump After Feeding
This is one of the most classic ways to get a little bit of extra milk – pump after a feeding. I generally recommend waiting about 15-20 minutes.
While your breasts are never truly empty, sometimes when you pump too close when your baby wants to breastfeed again, it can make your flow a little slower which babies don’t always love.
You may not get a lot of milk from pumping after a feed, but it
Prioritize Morning Collection
The morning hours are when your supply will typically be at its highest – so make your prioritize your extra pumping during this time.
Fictitious Feed at Night
If your baby sleeps for a longer period of time at night, you may want to consider adding in a “fictitious feed”. This is where you pump at the same time every night
Hand expression is a great tool, and it can help you get a little extra milk after nursing OR pumping. I always recommend doing a little bit of hand expression to get extra milk. Here is more information!
Use What You Need
If you are pumping a lot of milk, it doesn’t mean you need to use all of it! Breastfed babies need about 24-30 ounces in 24 hours, which ends up being about 1-1.5 ounces per hour. Store whatever your baby doesn’t need – start with a smaller bottle and add more if needed (rather than feeding all that you pumped and having to discard the rest).
Add in massage and compressions
Massage and compressions are SO beneficial for helping with milk output. By adding these into your routine, you might be able to get a little bit of extra milk to store.
Your hands are always your best tool, but if you want a little bit of help, here are a few helpful tools:
How to Build a Breast Milk Stash While Exclusively Pumping
Building a milk stash while you are exclusively pumping can be tricky, since often you are pumping milk for the feed you are about to feed. However, if you plan ahead, you can make it work.
You can use several of the tips I mentioned above, but here are a couple of additional ones:
Add in an Extra Pump Session
Many pumping moms end up with a pretty reliable routine of pumping. If you find you are making “just enough”, you could try and add in an additional pump session.
Increase your supply
I know, this is easier said than done. However, if you are able to increase your supply just by a marginal amount, you might be able to store a little bit extra from each pump session. Here are some tips for increasing milk supply.
Some moms would rather stretch out the length of time they offer breast milk – even if they combine it with formula – than just feed breast milk for as long as possible.
If you fall in this camp, you could try offering formula for 1-2 feeds during the day and store the milk that you pump during that time for another time.
Storing Your Breast Milk Stash
Once you’ve pumped enough milk to cover your baby’s needs while you’re away, you’ll need to store it properly. Here are a few tips:
- Store breast milk in the back of the freezer. This is the coldest part, exposes it to less warm air when opening and closing the freezer, and it will help keep it fresher for longer.
- Label each container with the date. This will help you keep track of the milk’s freshness and allow you to rotate through it more frequently.
- Freeze in 2-4 ounce increments. This will help you to minimize waste and keep your stash for longer.
- Freeze your milk flat in the freezer
- Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months, though six months is ideal.
Here are a couple of posts on storage you might find helpful:
- 11 Best Breast Milk Storage Bags – Mom-Approved
- The Best Breastmilk Freezer Storage Ideas All New Parents Need to Know!
- Breast Milk Storage Guidelines: Tips and Tricks for Success
- How Long Is Warmed Breastmilk Good For?
Building a milk stash can be tricky if you’re exclusively pumping. However, by following these tips, it’s possible to build up your stockpile of breast milk with ease and feel more confident returning to work while knowing that your baby will have enough food while you’re away. If all this seems like too much work or you need help figuring out how
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Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.