How I Built My Breastmilk Freezer Stash

Freezer Stash - How I Got to 500oz Before Returning to Work. Including my step-by-step routine and the products I used. |iheartmomlife.com

Going back to work after having a baby is tough.  For a breastfeeding mommy knowing that you have to pump enough today so your baby has enough to eat tomorrow is even tougher.  Sound stressful?  It can be, especially if you are a type-A worrier like me. So what is a working, breastfeeding mother to do?  Enter the “freezer stash.”  This is a stockpile of frozen milk that gives you that all important buffer/sanity-saver just in case your output one day is less than what you need.  But how do you go about building a freezer stash?  There are lots of different ways, some harder than others. In this post I am going share what worked for me with baby #1 and then the changes I made for baby #2.
With my first baby born 05/2011 I was able to build up a pretty good freezer but looking back, I think I made it a lot more difficult on myself than it needed to be.  Basically I just continued to get up at 3am to pump once baby #1 was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks.  This single session would yield anywhere from 8-10 oz in about 10 mins but meant I was losing out on precious sleep and was totally reliant on the baby sleeping through the night well before returning to work.

With baby #2 born 12/2015 I was four years older and I’d like to hope a lit bit wiser.  This time around I started pumping immediately after our first morning nursing session at week 3.  For us, this was about 6:30 am.  I did this for a couple of different reasons:

  1. I wanted to establish a strong enough supply at that first feeding so that I would have enough excess to pump after nursing.
  2. According to Kellymom.com your body naturally produces more milk in the early morning hours. I have always found this to be true.
  3. Because I am older now and we already have one child I did not want to choose to lose out on sleep.  Believe me, I need every minute I can get.
  4. I didn’t want to count on baby #2 sleeping through the night.  Good thing I didn’t because she wasn’t consistently sleeping through the night until 3 days before I went back to work.  If I would have waited I would have been in big trouble.

Once my supply was well established I was able to pump anywhere from 6-9 oz after nursing each day.

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This was my routine:

    1. Nurse baby
    2. Strap on hands free pumping bra
    3. Pump for 10 mins. While I was pumping, I would talk to the baby.  She seemed to enjoy this special time each morning and it made the pumping time go by super quick.
    4. If necessary combine bags to equal 4oz (I always freeze in 4oz increments since that was what worked best for baby #1)
    5. Refrigerate overnight
    6. Move to the Kiinde Keeper in the deep freezerKiinde_Keeper
    7. Once I had 6 pouches frozen I would combine those into a gallon size freezer bag.  The ones with the expandable bottom work best.  I numbered and dated the bags with a sharpie to make it easier to know which bag to pull next once I started using the freezer stashReady_Freezer

And that’s it!  Pretty simple right?  Using this process, I was able to get 500 oz in the freezer before I went back to work with minimal effort and no lost sleep.  If we were planning to have another baby this is definitely the method I would use.  If you have any questions, just leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to answer.

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20 Comments

  1. 1

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been online for 4 hrs trying to figure out the whole breastfeeding situation. Question, did you pump both breast after the morning feeding or just one?

    • 2

      No problem Betsie! After the morning feeding (both sides) I double pumped using a hands free pumping bra. This way I never ended up lopsided.

      After returning to work I started feeding on just one side and then pumped the other side. I switched it up because I wanted to be sure my little one was getting enough of the hind milk to keep her full and satisfied. If I could go back in time I would probably have done it this way instead of nursing & pumping both sides every day. I hope this helps. Just let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. 3
  3. 5

    You said you stored in 4 ounce portions. What did you do with the extra milk if you had any? How did you get through the night without pumping?

    • 6

      Hi Myndee! I would save any excess milk in the fridge overnight and combine with what I pumped the following day to make a 4 oz portion for freezing. So if I pumped 6 oz I would immediately freeze 4 oz and then put the extra 2 oz in the fridge. Then they following day let’s say I pumped 7 oz. I would first add 2 oz to the milk in the fridge to make that a 4 oz portion and freeze then I would make another 4 oz portion to freeze and the remaining 1 oz would go in the fridge for the cycle to repeat itself the following day.

      As far as pumping at night, initially I was nursing at night so no pumping required. Once the girls dropped their night feedings my body naturally adjusted to that. The first few days I was uncomfortable but I just made sure to completely empty both breasts at that first nursing and pumping session.

      I hope this is helpful! Just let me know if you have any other questions. I am happy to help 🙂

  4. 7

    My son is 4 months old and I go back to work in about 6 weeks. I have about 12 bags of milk in the freezer, but I would feel less anxious with a lot more. I have started feeding him solely from one side during the night-time wakings and then pumping the opposite side the next morning. Sometimes, it is as long as 12 hours without one side being pumped/nursed. Then I do the opposite side the next day. I get anywhere from 5-7 ounces each morning when I pump. Do you think this is a decent strategy? Or am I dropping my supply by not pumping/nursing for such a long period of time? Thanks in advance!

    • 8

      Hi Jen! I’d be worried about impacting my supply by going that long without fully emptying especially at 4 months. We are at 8.5 months now and the longest I go is 10.5 hours over night. If you modify to nurse both sides at night and then nurse from one side and pump from the other you should be able to build up a very good freezer stock over the next 6 weeks. The most important thing is to protect your supply in the process.

      I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any other questions, I am happy to help troubleshoot.

  5. 11

    Hi Rachel! Glad I found your post. My question is toward the pumping in the morning. Do you pump both breast after baby feeds from both. Or let baby feed from one boob while pumping the other? Then pump the other breast when baby is done?

    • 12

      Hi Gisette! I am glad you found my post too 🙌

      For the first three months (while I was on maternity leave) I would nurse the baby from both breasts and then pump in the morning. This worked out great for us and gave me a really strong supply (we are at 10 1/2 months now and still going strong) in addition to my freezer stash.

      When I went back to work I started to nurse the baby on one side while pumping on the other side to save time in the morning. If she wanted to nurse more, I would just let her nurse the side I pumped as well. This also worked great but you need to make sure you are alternating sides each day. I hope this helps! Just let me know if you have any other questions.

  6. 13

    Once you went back to work, did you pump throughout the day as well when you were away from baby? Or you only pumped after the morning session?

    • 14

      Hi Jenny! Once I went back to work, I made sure to pump on the same schedule she would nurse if I was at home. This meant pumping 3x a day initially then after she was 6 months I was down to 2x a day and just last week (10.5 months) we dropped to 1x per day. I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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  8. 17

    Thanks for your info! I’m currently pregnant and trying to plan out what to do once baby is here and I have to go back to work when he/she is 4months. I guess I’m confused, but when you started did you feed on both sides and then pump both side after? I’ll only be working four days a week and very close to home so luckily need to pump and store for those few feedings when I’m not home. Also when you pump at work you would just follow the schedule as if you were home with baby correct? So far your schedule sounds better than others I’ve read where you pump after every feeding! Thank you!

    • 18

      Hi Christina! Congratulations on your pregnancy! I am so glad you found this post helpful.
      When I started I nursed the baby on both sides and then immediately after nursing I pumped with a double pump using a hands free pumping bra so I could still interact and play with the baby. Once I returned to work I pumped at the same times that I would nurse the baby when I was home. It’s really important to do this to keep your supply up. If you have any other questions just let me know. Thanks!

  9. 19

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