Building A Breast Milk Freezer Stash On Maternity Leave

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At my daughter’s two month check up, her Pediatrician asked if I had started working on a “freezer stash” to prepare for my return to work and the inevitable dip in my milk supply that would go along with it. I thought, ‘ummmm what the heck is a “freezer stash”?’ but replied, “no not yet, but I will soon.” I knew going back to work in 7 weeks would be an emotional rollercoaster anyway, but I hadn’t yet begun to worry about how to mitigate a potential dip in my supply when I initially returned. I have a goal of breastfeeding Taylor for her first year of life, and I didn’t want those first few days back to work to sabotage that goal. The minute I got home I commenced a frantic Pinterest search for how to create a back stock of breast milk while I still had time on maternity leave. My worry fueled me to make the time for and routine to create a freezer stash over the next 40 days or so and, little by little, I ended up with just shy of 100 ounces by the time I went back to work.

I’m so glad that I took that time, even though pumping when you’re home with your baby is super annoying (my hat is off to you if you’re an exclusive pumping mama!), because it alleviated the pressure to pump enough when I first returned to work – that transition was stressful enough already! Fortunately, with the help of my AMAZING and delicious lactation cookies I have been able to keep up with Taylor’s demands thus far, but the stash has come in handy for other reasons I hadn’t thought of:

  1. when my husband and I have gone on a date night a couple of times and my mom has watched her. For me, it’s nice to have that freedom every once in a while.
  2. my hubby has fed her a bottle of my milk at 3AM and so that I could get a full night’s sleep when I was on the edge of total exhaustion during the 4 month sleep regression
  3. to mix in with the homemade baby food I’ve been preparing. I’m only able to pump just enough for the next day at work.
  4. when Taylor had a particularly hungry day and my mom, who is a saint and watches her when I’m at work now that she is no longer at daycare, needed to give her an extra bottle beyond what I’d pumped the day before at work. I’m definitely a “just enough” pumper!

You can read more about my workday pumping routine here, and what I pack in my pumping bag here.

I’m not an expert, but if you are going to be returning back to work soon, I hope some of my experience and resulting advice will help you build up your own freezer stash and have the comfort of knowing you’ve got a backup while you’re getting back into your work routine. We mamas have enough to worry about, right?!

Tips For Building A Freezer Stash

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Pump in the morning after putting baby down for 1st nap –

Milk supply is at it’s highest in the morning hours, so this is the time I noticed I would get the most bang for my buck. I usually kept the bottle of pumped milk out until I was certain she would stay down for her nap for a while. If she woke up hungry, I didn’t want to be “out” of milk. No one wants to be tapped out with a cranky, hungry baby! As a side, but very important note, do NOT pump during a growth spurt as your baby will need all the milk you can supply (unless you have an over-supply of breastmilk).

Pump in the evening after putting baby to bed –

Each night I would strap on my handsfree pumping bra, settle down into our comfy couch, and watch a show with my hubby whilst pumping for 20 minutes, or until both sides had emptied. Often I would feel discouraged because I would get so little in the evenings (1-2 ounces), but trust me it adds up! You can always leave that milk in the refrigerator to combine with the next session’s liquid gold before freezing.

Label your storage bags before pouring in the pumped milk –

I label my bags with a Sharpie, noting the date, time and ounces. Some people note the exact time, but I just delineate between AM and PM. This is important so that you know which milk to use first.

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Store the milk in 2 and 3 ounce increments –

Storing milk in 2-3 ounce increments limits the potential for waste. If you fill each bag up to capacity and then thaw it out when needed, but your baby doesn’t eat all of it you can’t re-freeze or refrigerate it and it goes to waste. I froze a few 4-5 ounce bags, but mainly in smaller amounts. Here is a useful link I reference for how much milk to feed at what age.

After filling the storage bag, lay it flat to freeze –

After you make sure the bag is TOTALLY sealed (I put that in all caps because I’ve lost milk to a false closure – R.I.P.) lay it flat to freeze. Once frozen it is much easier to line up your little milky soldiers:

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Store the milk storage bags in reverse chronological order –

You want to be using the oldest milk first. Breast milk can keep in the freezer for up to 6 months, so you’ll walk to keep track. Here is a link from KellyMom.com that gives great guidelines for storing and handling breastmilk, including how long it can keep in the freezer.

That’s how I built up a freezer stash while on Maternity Leave!

I’m definitely not a lactation consultant or expert by any means, but I thought I would share my experience with you in case you find yourself in the same situation (returning back to work) and with the same goal (maintaining your breastfeeding relationship) and want to start your own stash. I know that having one definitely decreased my anxiety about returning to work, and has continued to feel like a safety net for us over the last few months.

If you’ve been through this already, I would love to find out what worked and didn’t work for you in building up your own freezer stash. Or, if you have any questions – I’m here for you!

Thank you for reading.

xo, Ashley (1)

Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in:


A Letter To My Baby Girl

Sweet Taylor,

This time next week I’ll be back at work, and our sweet time of being together all day, every day will have ended for now. It went by way too fast.

These have been the 15 best weeks of my entire life, and I don’t want them to end; If I could freeze time, or put it on a loop so that I could continue experiencing the joy and wonder of getting to know you these last few months, I would. We spent mostly simple days together, learning how to be a mama and baby, but they were absolutely perfect. I will treasure every minute of this precious quarter of a year forever.

Figuring out how to meet your needs has been the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but the one that has given me my greatest sense of purpose. I had the privilege to change hundreds of your diapers, nurse you whenever you felt hungry, and comfort you when you [and sometimes I] cried because we were both getting used to everything being so new/disorienting. I spent countless hours just watching you in awe, and sometimes disbelief, that I really get to be YOUR mama. I haven’t been perfect, but I have tried my very best to take care of and love you well.

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It has been amazing to watch you literally grow and change every day. I loved “chatting” with your 8 pound little self after reading stories on the big bed in your room. I was so thankful to you for the gift of rest when you slept through the night at only six weeks old! I felt as if my heart would explode when you unexpectedly giggled for the first time on our walk to Starbucks downtown – I’m waiting to hear that again. Even when I knew I had things to get done, I chose to nap with you in my arms in the middle of the day – I would let them go numb because I didn’t want to move and wake you.  I was so proud of you when you discovered your hands and the things they could begin to do – you’re so smart!
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When your cute little side smiles turned into big, whole body grins I absolutely melted.
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I felt so excited when one day I rolled you over and you pushed up from your tummy and happily looked around at your toys after screaming for 12 weeks every time we tried…I can’t wait for you to figure out how to translate your crazy hip thrusts into a roll or something – please save that for a day I’m home, okay? Every day it’s something new and exciting with you, and my heart swells with pride.
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In a week I go back to work, though thankfully part time so that I have more time to be with you. It’s going to be tough on both of us at first, but I also know that you’ll love having special time with Grammy, your Daddy is working at home and can play with you during the day, and that you’ll meet new friends at your daycare. I hope you’re inspired by and proud of me someday for being strong, independent and successful; when you grow up I want you to take advantage of opportunities and pursue your dreams, education, goals and passions just like I have. But the most important thing you should know is that I love you to the moon and back; Thankfully, I do like my job, but I LOVE being your mama more than anything in this world.
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Since your birth I have spent almost every hour of every day by your side, and never once did I wish to be anywhere else. Know that when I’m not with you, each second I’ll wish I were.
Every day of maternity leave my full time job has been to make you feel like you are the most loved baby in the world. I PROMISE you that job will not end because I go back to work – that’s for life!
I love you with all of my heart, and I can’t wait to continue getting to know you every day and being your mom. It is such an honor.
Love Always,
Mama
P.S. I’m so thankful to your daddy for making it possible for me to take this time off to be with you, and learn how to be your mom. He supported me every day in many ways [filling my water bottles, giving me a yummy glass of adult grape juice, playing with you in the middle of the day so I could take a shower, etc.]. He loves you so much, and I know he would do anything for you. When you smile, his faces lights up with happiness. I’m so glad he is your daddy and my husband. We both love you so much.
Mamas, I would love to know how your transitions from maternity leave back to work went. What helped with the adjustment? Leave me a comment – I would really appreciate your advice : )

Working Mama’s Workday Routine – Pumping & Breastfeeding

A sample schedule of a working mom who pumps at work in order to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with her baby.

I’ll say up front that I’m pretty much OCD when it comes to organization  [e.g. I make crazy timelines and spreadsheets for things that don’t require them]. Organization is a large part of what makes me good at my job, and most of what drives me crazy about myself because my wheels never stop turning…. So, naturally, I’ve outlined a routine for work days in order to feel more confident about returning in a week [waaaaaa!] and making sure Taylor is set up for success when I’m away from her.

Figuring out how to pump & breastfeed while working is going to be a challenge, but it’s something that I really want to continue to do for my daughter. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to go back to work on a part time basis for this first year as a transition, have a hubby who works from home, and also to have the help of my Mom {Grammy} who will watch Taylor two days of the week. Anyway, I hope my OCD-ness can help my fellow working mamas navigate your returns to work, whether you are pumping/breastfeeding or using formula to feed your babe.

I utilized the sample “Baby Sleep and Feeding Schedules” from Baby Center. There are schedules for 1-12-month-olds with stay-at-home or working moms who either exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump or formula feed. If you’re looking for something like I made below, this is a great resource!

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My pumping bag, believe it or not.

Here is the approximate schedule we’ll keep for workdays:

Workday Routine: Breast-feeding + Pumping Mama of a 3.5 Month Old

4:00 a.m.: Nurse, put the baby back down to sleep, leave the monitor with hubby, pump, then get ready for the gym.

4:30 a.m.: Mama gets in her workout at the gym or out in the garage. Or, work on blog stuff.

6:00 a.m.: Mama starts a load of laundry, showers and gets ready for work.

6:30 a.m.: Baby girl wakes up and watches her mobile until Mama is finished getting dressed and readying bottles for daycare or Grammy.

A sample schedule of a working mom who pumps at work in order to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with her baby.

7:00 a.m.: Nurse.

7:20 a.m.: Out the door to drop baby off at daycare by 7:30 and/or head to work if Grammy is coming.

8:30 to 9:45 a.m.: Baby [hopefully] naps.

9:45 a.m.: Baby eats 4-5 ounces breast milk. Mama pumps at work around this time.

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Comotomo – a great bottle for breastfed babes

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Baby [hopefully] naps.

12:30  p.m.:  Baby nurses or eats 4-5 ounces breast milk. Mama pumps at work during lunch or goes to daycare/home to nurse.

2:00 to 3:00 p.m: Baby [hopefully] naps.

3:00 p.m.: Baby eats 4-5 ounces breast milk. Mama pumps at work, if possible.

If I could go back and do it again, I’d snag this tote for my pumping bag/purse. Click on image to shop!

5:30 p.m.: Mama picks up baby at daycare or returns home if Daddy got her earlier.

5:45 p.m.: Home, nurse.

6:00 p.m.: Put pumped milk in fridge, freeze any extra milk. Baby takes a catnap or has playtime with Daddy.

6:45 p.m.: Start bedtime routine – bath, change into overnight diaper & pj’s, read a book, swaddle, sing Good Night song.

7:00 p.m.: Nurse. Baby falls asleep nursing or needs bouncing on the yoga ball [unless we decide on some type of sleep training, at which point we would put her down drowsy but awake to fall asleep on her own, I think!]

7:30 p.m.: Baby [hopefully] asleep by this time.

7:30 to  9:30 p.m.: Mama prepares pump bag/daycare bag/bottles and lunch for the next day, lays out workout & work clothes, and folds dry laundry [thanks Hubby!]. Reheat prepped food [Sunday/Tuesday], order in or crockpot for dinner. QT with Hubby.

10:00 p.m.: Bedtime

4:00 a.m.: Wake, nurse, baby goes right back to bed. Start all over again : )

You can see exactly what I pack in my pumping bag and how I pack it in this post.

Working Mamas, I want to know – how do you structure your week days? How do you get in your “me time” and maintain balance?

xo, Ashley (1)

Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in:


A sample schedule of a working mom who pumps at work in order to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with her baby.

 

Maternity Leave Routine for Mama + Baby

new mom's example of the routine she established with her newborn during maternity leave.
The first 3-5 weeks with Taylor were an oxytocin-laced, exhausting haze. Normally one who loves routines and schedules, I had none. I was nursing and changing diapers around the clock, often didn’t even know what day or time it was, was recovering physically/emotionally in big ways, and certainly didn’t have time to even think about a routine or what that might include.

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Solo coffee run w/ 2 week old = I’m a bad @$$.

The first few weeks with a newborn are pretty much survival mode – you just do whatever you have to do to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat and sleep, and that you are getting some amount of food/sleep in yourself. If that means spending way too much money on takeout every night, co-sleeping when you intended to use a bassinet, not leaving the house ever, feeding every 45 min because that’s what baby needs, etc., well, so be it! – whatever works for you and your sweet baby, right? Not to mention, many newborns [mine included] pretty much sleep ALL day long, so trying to complete some sort of activity or outing during their über limited wake time seems ridiculous. Thinking back, it was pretty amusing how accomplishing the simplest things made me feel SUPER proud of myself in those first few weeks – like the first time I left the house with Taylor without my hubby for a coffee run and neither of us was in tears the entire 45 minutes.

It took about a month for me to emerge from the haze and get into a groove with Taylor [and AJ], but I love what we have going on now. We have been loosely following an Eat, Play/Activity, Sleep routine that shows up in a lot of popular baby-management books such as Baby Whisperer and BabyWise. I say loosely because, as much as I want to help Taylor develop a predictable routine and give our days some structure, I am actually on HER schedule and sometimes she has needs that don’t line up perfectly with my plan [duh]. For example, when she goes through a growth spurt, or has a short feed upon waking up, I know I may need to break the routine and feed her again before she goes to sleep so that she doesn’t get hungry and wake up from the nap prematurely. Overall though, non-militantly following an Eat, Play Sleep routine has worked well for us and I imagine it will be even more useful as she gets a bit older.

Obviously, the strategy that works for us certainly won’t work with every baby + mama for any number of reasons, but I do think establishing a routine when you feel ready is really helpful. The whole point of this post is to share an outline of one of our days to give you some ideas for the of the sort of routine you could establish early on in your maternity leave, with one baby [you supermoms with more than one simply amaze me – how do you do it?!].

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{Credit: Precious Little Sleep}

Before getting to that, I have to say that I made a lot of mistakes didn’t know a lot of things that were impacting our ability to get into a routine in those first few weeks – particularly related to sleep. I’ve since spent a lot of nursing sessions reading up on helpful baby sleep stuff and pinning articles to my Baby Sleep Pinterest Board. The HANDS-DOWN BEST baby sleep resource I have found is the Precious Little Sleep Blog, Podcast and Facebook group. I would seriously like to bear hug the author. Her 0-3 Months Newborn Baby Sleep Survival Guide has been invaluable for me; when I read through one of the posts in the series which included the chart, “Baby Sleep: How Much, When, How Long,” I realized just how short a newborn’s wake time actually is. I was actually keeping her awake too long, which was leading to a lot of unnecessary fussiness – the poor thing just wanted to sleep. Live and learn! I have used that chart, in addition to getting to know Taylor’s cues, to structure and adjust her Eat, Play, Sleep schedule according to her wake times.

Now, on to a typical day-in-the-life of Taylor [11 weeks] + Ashley, Maternity Leave style!

7:30AM – EAT, PLAY

When I notice Taylor is awake on the monitor I usually turn on her beloved projection mobile, which I can do from my iPhone [soooo 2016.]. This buys me about 15 minutes to wake up myself somewhat, and it absolutely delights her to watch those little woodland creatures floating around up there. One of my favorite parts of the day is saying good morning to her.

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T lovin’ her “Woodland Animal” friends.

Next, I change her out of her overnight diaper [I just use a diaper one size larger than she wears in the day] then feed her, unless her last feeding was more than two hours prior to waking [at this point she typically eats once during the night between 3:30 and 5:00 AM]. I watch the Today Show/news during her feeding and think about the day ahead. Once she is done with her breakfast, she sits in a bouncy chair [or her Daddy spends time with her if he is available!] while I grab coffee and something quick to eat -narrating my actions to her all the while. Following our breakfasts we lay on the bed in her room and read a book or two and “chat” – which is adorable.

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Baby Bjorn Bouncer on loan from my BFF.

9:00AM [or as soon as she shows her “I’m sleepy” cues] – SLEEP

At 11 weeks old, Taylor is usually awake an hour and a half – give or take 30 minutes so, we get ready and go for a walk through the park to downtown where I [more often than I should] grab a decaf Americano at Starbucks and she takes a snooze. One of her daily naps is in her stroller for the duration of a 2-4 mile walk, usually in the morning. Yes, I have read this is not as restorative as a stationary nap in a bassinet or crib, but Taylor is getting in her sleep and I’m getting in my cardio – win, win!

If she is still sleeping when we get back to the house I start some laundry, tidy up the house and/or myself, scroll through social media or work on blog stuff.

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Must be nice to be so stinkin’ cute!

11:00AM – EAT, PLAY

After Taylor wakes up from what is usually a fairly long nap, she eats her second breakfast. While she eats I think, pray, brainstorm, watch TV, read Pinterest articles, etc. I change her diaper after she eats and put her in an outfit for the day which is inevitably more stylish than my own. And, yes I usually keep her in her Wondersuit most of the morning because they are so darn comfy and cute.

Next, Taylor has playtime under her play mat – this includes a few minutes of “tummy time” which is as much as she will tolerate at this point. But, we’re working on it!

She loves this play mat!

12:15PM – SLEEP

Taylor starts acting sleepy [yawning and looking off into the distance] so I take her to her room, turn on her white noise machine, swaddle her in her Halo sleepsack swaddle and bounce her on the yoga ball until she nods off, then transfer her into her DockATot in the crib. I think I will eventually [4+ months] use some type of sleep training to help her learn to self-soothe, but for now I’m doing whatever works to help her get all the sleep she needs.

3:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Yes, she does take one really long nap most days – hence, how I’ve had time to develop this blog; the girl likes her sleep! When she wakes up, she eats again and then I change her diaper. We’ll usually spend some time on the floor working on motor skills – I like to go through the daily suggestions on the Baby Sparks app. At this time I’ll usually take her out for a Target, Whole Foods or other errand run.

4:00PM – SLEEP

Taylor almost always falls asleep in her carseat during our errand-ing. If we haven’t run an errand I’ll do our quick nap routine of sound machine/swaddle/bounce/put down in crib or swing and she’ll take her nap at home. This is when I’ll usually sneak in a quick workout in the house or outside in our garage gym [watching the monitor, of course!].

5:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Time to eat and have her diaper changed again! She tends to cluster feed/tank up between 5:00 and 7:00, and sometimes even grabs a cat-nap, so I just follow her cues and feed/put her down for sleep on demand between now and her bedtime. AJ is typically done with work by now, so Taylor gets to spend special time with daddy [lucky baby!]. If I didn’t workout earlier, and it’s a day I’ve planned to, I’ll get that in while they have their time together.  Oh, and if it’s a bath day (read about our bath time routine/essentials in this post), this would also be the time we give her one. I tried giving her a bath as part of her nighttime routine a couple times, but she gets so pumped up in there it didn’t  seem like a  very good “wind down” activity for her.

7:00PM – SLEEP

You can read about Taylor’s bedtime routine in this post. Establishing a night time routine early on is so important to a good night’s sleep for you and your little one.

I know that our current routines and rhythms will change once my maternity leave ends at the end of July, so I’m soaking up our sweet days together – the ones when we do a whole lot, and especially the ones where we do a whole lot of nothing but be together.

UPDATE [August 2017]: After going back to work for a year (which ended up being A LOT harder on my heart than I anticipated), we decided as a family that I would stay at home with Taylor. This was a BIG decision for me (read about that HERE), but I’m glad I made a leap of faith. We moved cities and changed up our whole lifestyle, but the time I now have with Taylor is worth all that change. If you want to follow along with my journey from career mom to stay/work at home mom start with THIS POST.

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Precious time with T.

What kind of routines and schedules do you use with your littles?  I’m curious to hear about your experiences with Babywise, Baby Whisperer, or other methodologies. What has and hasn’t worked for you? 

xo, Ashley (1)

Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in: