Q: How much milk should I have stashed away in the freezer by the time I go back to work? How could I possibly pump enough to use for months of work?
One of the most common questions we see on our Breastfeed Chicago parent support Facebook group is about how large of a stash to have. The most basic answer is to have enough frozen for the first couple days of work and a few extra ounces for emergencies. A big misconception many people have is that they need to have thousands of ounces in the freezer to last for many months of work.
“Upon returning to work, new parents will be pumping every two to three hours and yielding plenty of milk that can then be used for their baby the following day,” said Melissa Block, a Certified Lactation Counselor, Breastfeeding USA Peer Counselor, and one of the moderators of our Facebook parent support group. “For example, milk pumped Monday will be used Tuesday. For this reason, a large freezer stash is not necessary to successfully continue breastfeeding upon returning to work,” she said.
You don’t want to spend your short maternity leave stressed about going back to work, right? We recommend pumping once a day in the morning after your baby nurses, starting around four weeks before going back to work.
Connie Chiavario, an IBCLC and one of the moderators of our parent-to-parent breastfeeding Facebook support group explains: “Milk volume is lower in the late afternoon and evening. It isn’t unusual to have to pump two to three times to provide enough milk for one feeding. If you remember this, it can help you figure out how to maximize your pumping sessions.”
Even getting one ounce per day pumping as you prepare to return to work would give you thirty ounces in the freezer in four weeks, which is enough for two or three days of work!
Having a large breast milk freezer stash can be comforting for many people returning to work. It might feel like a breast milk safety net or insurance plan. Just be careful — if you find yourself dipping into your stash all the time, your body will not get the signal that it needs to produce more milk, and your supply will go down. Adding pumping sessions is important if you need more milk. See these questions for more information about this:
- How much milk should my baby drink while I am gone?
- How do I make sure that my baby’s caregiver doesn’t overfeed my baby? My childcare provider keeps saying that I need to send bigger bottles! Help!
- How many times a day should I pump at work?
- Help! I don’t think I’m pumping enough! How do I pump more milk?
Going back to work and breastfeeding? This question is part of Breastfeed Chicago’s Ultimate Back-to-Work Breastfeeding Guide. Read the full guide to help the transition go smoothly!