I have written about managing breastfeeding in general but wanted to write this post specifically to share with new mothers who are keen to build a freezer stash of expressed breastmilk (“ebm”). This is not something every mother wants to do, but its merits are:
- Having some breastmilk stored up for a rainy day could help provide baby with sufficient breastmilk should the mother suddenly falls sick and breastmilk production takes a hit, or need to be away from the baby for a period of time (eg. travelling overseas).
- The option to be lactating for a shorter period of time than they want their baby to be drinking breastmilk.
A freezer stash can be a nice-to-have, but overproduction brings about its own set of problems.
There are a number of ways to increase your breastmilk production through signaling to your body an increase in demand.
- Use a silicone suction milk collector on one breast while you are latching your baby on the other.
- If you have some sort of feeding schedule going, introduce 1 or more pumps in between the longest feeding intervals.
- Pump immediately after your baby has finished directly feeding from your breasts to ensure you are empty.
- After pumping till you are empty, rest 10 minutes and pump for another 10 minutes. Repeat if you can afford the time to. This is also known as “power pumping”.
Points (1) and (2) above work a little better if you prefer to latch your baby on demand and avoid using breastpumps as much as possible. However, if you want to build a large stash quickly, the key would be to keep emptying your breasts of milk in order to signal to your body to make more. As such, using a pump, or spending time expressing the milk by hand, would be necessary. If you are exclusively pumping, I find that pumping at very regular intervals also helps.
Now that you know how to start building a freezer stash, I shall share how I manage mine:
- Buy milk bags which can freeze flat, have double seals and are easy to label on with a ballpoint pen.
- Keep all your breastmilk in the fridge until you have an excess of 150-210ml to begin freezing your first bag, or pour this amount of freshly pumped milked into bags for freezing. Remember to ensure that all milk need to be at the same temperature before mixing.
- Squeeze out all the air from the milk bags in order to lay the bags as flat as possible for freezing.
- Once you have about 10-15 frozen bags, place them into large freezer ziplock bags or cardboard boxes to make “bricks” which can be labelled and stacked easily.
- Once you have been freezing for about 2-8 weeks, you can start defrosting 1-2 packets every day (and hence freeze more of your freshly expressed milk) in order to feed your baby a mix of frozen and fresh ebm. This is to prevent your baby from rejecting frozen breastmilk in future and also to rotate your stash.
- You may eventually need to get a dedicated freezer to store your ebm and so the “bricks” make it easier for you to move them around.
Take care not to drop any of your frozen bags of milk as it is very easy for holes to result. When defrosting milk, always place the milk bags on a bowl, plate or jar in case any of the bags leak. Never feed your baby milk from bags which leak as you are unable to ascertain exactly when the holes in the bag were formed and so you do not know if bacteria has entered the milk.