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)

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Packing a Daycare Bag – For an Infant

Daycare bag contents

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I’m back at work now, fortunately only part time this year. 1-2 days per week Taylor attends a wonderful daycare/infant center right down the street. Do I wish I was with her instead? Yes, with all my heart. Do I feel confident that she is getting good care, socializing and developing without me a couple days per week? Absolutely. They do tons of developmental activities, she has an assigned “caregiver” who feeds her and puts her down for naps, and she gets a chance to socialize with the other infants which is nice for Taylor since she doesn’t [yet] have a sibling around. The other days she is with my mom, her Grammy, and my husband who works from home – huge blessings for our family.

Nowadays I feel like a total bag lady – my diaper bag, pumping bag, gym bag and now a daycare bag all have to be organized and prepared for each day before leaving the house. I posted about what I pack in my pumping bag HERE. I always make sure everything is ready to rock before I go to bed at night – if I leave that until the morning it’s highly likely I’ll forget something. If your mornings are anything like mine, there is way too much going on to with too little time to be sure everything makes it in the bag and out the door.

If you’re a new mom with a baby who will be in day care for part or all of the work week, I hope this post gives you some ideas for packing up your own bag before heading back to work.

A lot of the bags I looked at for Taylor’s daycare bag [like this one from Skip Hop which was a good price point] didn’t have quite the dimensions I needed to fit her milk cooler in the bottom. I purchased this bag by Bebamour because it a) had TONS of pockets and storage space, b) could be worn as a backpack [essential for getting out of the house with all those bags AND a baby/carseat!], c) a very reasonable price for the quality, and d) almost exactly the right amount of room to fit the cooler for her milk in the bottom. Plus, I think it’s super cute:

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Now, on to the contents of Taylor’s daycare backpack:

Daycare bag contents

1.The “Just In Case” gallon ziplock bag:

In this Ziplock I have a tube of Vaseline, MAM pacifiers [the only kind she’ll occasionally take], butt paste [this smells INFINITELY better than Desitin, IMO], mini hand sanitizer [I buy these in bulk and stash them everywhere] and disposable diaper bags.

2. SleepSack Swaddle

3. Bottles of milk and cooler

4. Warm weather spare outfit in a Ziplock

5. Cold weather spare outfit in a Ziplock

6. Wet/dry bag for bottles or clothes with spit up on them [darn you acid reflux!]

7. Comotomo Bottles:

We tried several different kinds of bottles, and this is the one Taylor took to consistently. The other brands that were recommended for breastfed babies may work for your babe, so I’ll link them here in case you need reference: Tommee Tippee, Lansinoh mOmma and Breastflow.

8. Wipes

9. Bibs [I adore these by Copper Pearl] & burp cloths [we use cloth diapers because they’re cheap and very absorbent!]

How does it all fit? Well, it was hard to get a good shot but you can hopefully see that I put the empty bottles in the front compartment [when I pick up Taylor + bag, the bottles are in the wet part of the wet/dry bag], the “Just In Case” ziplock is in the other front pocket, the cooler sits at the bottom, and all the other compressed ziplock bags +swaddle + wipes are in a stack turned sideways to the tight side of the bag. The wet/dry bag is wedged between the cooler and the side of the bag for easy access.

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That’s about it! If you’re sending your babe off to daycare for the first time like I am, I hope you both have a smooth transition.

Am I missing anything I could add to make my/Taylor’s life more organized? 

xo, Ashley (1)


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Working Mama’s Pumping Bag

Working Mama's Pumping Bag (1)

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T minus 5 days until the bliss that is Maternity Leave ends, and I return to work. True to the OCD that is within, all my bags are packed and ready to go: gym, daycare, meals, work/computer, and the subject of today’s post – the Pump Bag! I’m a complete amateur at this working mama thing, so preparing ahead of time makes me feel more confident about the transition back.

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Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote

These days, most insurance covers a free breast pump. I chose to purchase my own because I wanted to have it from day one after Taylor’s birth, in case I needed it. Also, I liked the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump {not the one covered by my insurance} because it included a spacious tote that was also conspicuous enough for me to bring anywhere I needed to. It has a nice amount of space to store all the gear I need:

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The contents of my Pumping Bag.

 

1.Wet/Dry Bag: These bags are über convenient. I also have one for my daycare and diaper bags as well.

2. Extra Pump Parts: I bought an extra set of pump parts so that I don’t have to necessarily wash the parts after each pump. I can just put the used set in the Wet/Dry bag to wash when I get home and use my second set for the next pumping session at work. I also keep two extra bottle lids and filters in the dry pouch.

3. Breast Pump & Accessory Wipes: This is another convenient way to keep everything clean and sanitary, without having access to a sink when you’re on the go. If I’m not on the go, and at my office, I’ll wipe off my pump parts before putting them in the wet/dry bag and put the bag in the refrigerator to keep it sanitary until the next pump. At night, I wash everything with soap and warm water at home.

4. Nursing Cover: In case I need to pump in my car or other non-private location.

5. Disposable Nursing Bra Pads: Because, leaks.

6. Snacks! – Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar: These protein bars are seriously delish – they have tons of flavor options and taste just like a wafer cookie, I swear.

7. Mini hand sanitizer – I like this alcohol free version.

8. Cooler and extra bottles

9. Hands-free pumping bra: This is an absolute must have item. I can still work on my laptop or make phone calls, while taking care of my other business : )

UPDATED 8/27/2016:

After being back at work for a month, and temporarily not having a private office to take care of business, I decided to transfer all the contents of my Medela tote {see above} into a larger, more inconspicuous, purse-looking bag. As I move throughout the office to whichever destination I end up in for the particular pumping session, no one is the wiser that I’m not just carrying a purse.  I found the perfect one on Sole Society:

I also came up with another time saver {and reason for needing a larger bag!}. I now store my pump parts in this Skip Hop cooler in between sessions, essentially utilizing it as a mini fridge. This saves me from needing to wipe down and sanitize in between pumpings!

I hope that this post was helpful for any nursing mamas preparing to head back to work, or gave ideas to add convenience for those who already have returned!

What do you pack in your pump bag? I can’t be the only perma-hungry nursing mama out there – what are your favorite healthy, go-to snacks?

xo, Ashley (1)
PS The tote I use for my pumping bag is this one by Sole Society, but here are several others that would be super cute:

If I could go back and do it again, I’d snag this tote for my pumping bag/purse!


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