Storing Milk for Getting back to work

1st trial pump at 4 weeks post-delivery
As a FTWM (Full Time Working Mommypreneur) I have been expressing breast milk for the time when I am away for work or business sessions. Because this would be my 37th month (2 kids combined) of breastfeeding and because a big part of that 37 months I have been expressing breast milk for my babies, I can definitely vouch, beyond any doubt, that breastfeeding is completely do-able for working & entrepreneurial moms. :) 

It does takes some planning and discipline and I assure you that with some practice, it becomes like second nature in no time.  In this post, I am hoping more mothers returning to work after their maternity leave will continue to breastfeed for as long as they can. 

Three and a half years ago, I still remember that it was quite stressful, being an inexperienced-first-time mother and my milk supply was not "enough" (I will write about why I self-led myself into this vicious cycle some day) then. I was so worried if I could store any expresses breast milk (EBM) by the time I am back at work. For my eldest, I mixed feed in the first 2.5 months and by the 3rd month I managed to exclusively breast feed my son thereafter. Yaayyy! It was such an achievement for me then. :)

When my son was 6 weeks old, what I did was, every day, I would pump whenever my son was fussy on the breast and given Formula Milk or Infant formula (FM) in the bottle (long story on this...) and freeze this as my storage when I get back to work. Even then, by the time I went back to work, I managed to store a few days worth of frozen breast milk (FBM) for the boy. So, if you are like me, mixed feeding, storing milk is possible this way. Now, this is completely fine, after all breastfeeding is NEVER an All-Or-None thing. Any amount of breast milk is good.

The second time round, it was much easier as having gone through all that "self-inflicted" vicious cycle with my son, I exclusively breast-fed my daughter from Day 1. I only started pumping for storage at week 5. As you can see in the picture above, this was what I got after 5 weeks of just direct latching. Relax... when you start pumping for the first time, as your breasts will take a little time getting used to the pump. ALWAYS remember that the best pump is your baby (if your have been latching all along). 

So, I suggest that you aim to store one feed per day and pump when you feel the fullest, like when you wake up in the morning. Alternatively, you can pump to store during the 12.00 a.m. to 5.00 a.m period as that will help stimulate your production because the hormone that tells your breasts to make milk, Prolactin, peaks at this period. Do not feel too anxious (I know it will be hard for first time mothers) and get overzealous and start pumping round the clock to get a full freezer of FBM. By storing one feed daily, by the time you get back to work, you would have stored at least 14 feeds already. Trust me, having an oversupply is no joke!

Another way of storing is tandem pumping, where as you latch your baby on one breast, you pump the other side. This is like double pumping and it will also stimulate your production as it is like kinda like "tricking" your body into thinking you are feeding twins. Also, you benefit from the natural "let-down" that is contributed by your baby's suckling. You can set the pump up on one breast first and secure the pump parts properly before putting your baby to the other side, using a football hold. This too, takes some practice and if you don't think you can juggle baby and pumping at the same time, start with the above suggestion first or pump right after you latch. You will not get much when in the beginning, but have faith, it will increase gradually. For me, it progressively went from 0.5 oz to even 4 oz after I latched my baby. 

How do you know how much to store for one feed? Typically, at 2 months or so, between 2.5 oz-4 oz is probably a good estimate. I always store by amounts needed in one feed, either in storage bottles or storage bags. This way, you just warm enough for one feed at a time and making it easier for the caretaker to pour all the contents into the feeding bottle at every feed.

While storing, you can mix pumped milk from different sessions into one bottle to make up to one feed. Just ensure the milk is chilled to the same temperature before mixing and keep the date and time of the first pumped milk for reference. I also adopt the LIFO (Last In, First Out) as opposed to the FIFO (First In, First Out) method of using my EBMs, where I feed the freshest ones to my baby. That's because the freshest EBM is always better. 

How long do you pump for each session? It depends on your pump and if you are using a manual pump or a single electric pump or a double electric pump (I use Medela Freestyle) or manually expressing with hands. Generally, I suggest that you pump for about 15 minutes for each breast. If your pump has a 2-phase function, where for the first 2 minutes (Stimulation phase) it goes through a rapid pumping motion to stimulate a let down, and then a drawing milk phase (Expression phase) with a longer suction, then you can do this:

FBM can be stored by up to 12 months in a deep chest freezer
2-5-2-6 i.e. 2 minutes of stimulation followed by 5 minutes of expression, then repeat 2 minutes of stimulation and then another 6 minutes of expression. I find this works quite well for me and all it takes is 15 minutes. You do not need to stop the pump at all, just press the stimulation button at the 7th minutes and stop at the 15th minute mark. 

By the time I started work, I had managed to have more than 20 feeds of milk, as you can see in the right side of my deep chest freezer, varying from 2.5 oz to 5 oz each.

Slowly and steadily, your body will get used to the pump and storage will eventually build up. On the first week of work, I managed to keep about 30-45 oz of milk at all times in the chiller section of the fridge and my son had one feed of EBM every day. :)

Chilled EBM can be kept for up to 5 days before transferring to the freezer

When you are pumping, you do not need to wash your pump parts every time after your pumped. Just keep the parts in a zip lock bag and chill it in the fridge (Place the EBM in the inner part of the chiller where it is the coolest). You can then use the pump parts for another 2-3 sessions before washing them at the end of the day. I wash and sterilize my pump parts once a day only. Any time-saving tip is great anytime right? :)

Store your pump parts into a air tight container
 All the best mommies! Drop me a line if you have any questions. There are a lot of variations to this depending on your situation and I can't possibly write for all of the different scenarios. More updates on breastfeeding to come. :)

Great links to refer to for Storing milk before starting work:


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