This post was requested on the Hellobee boards!
When Wagon Jr. was born, I exclusively breastfed him, but we also bottle-fed him at least one feeding every day so that he’d always be used to both the bottle and the breast. I was blessed to have a more than plentiful milk supply — I actually had an oversupply and lots of clogging and leaking issues until I learned how to keep it under control!
I was a firm believer in supply/demand, so whenever Wagon Sr. fed Wagon Jr. with a bottle of pumped milk, I’d pump, then freeze and store milk for future feedings. After we established breastfeeding, every time Wagon Jr. woke up at night for a feeding, Wagon Sr. would get up and feed him a bottle and I’d pump. This was a little rough since we both had to wake up several times a night, but by the time Wagon Sr. had to go back to work, Wagon Jr. was down to only one middle-of-the-night feeding.
Once Wagon Jr. started sleeping through the night at 4 months, we switched up the process: my last nursing session would be around 4pm, and his bedtime feeding would be by bottle and I would NOT pump. I’d wait until I went to bed around 11pm and have a single big pumping session then, and we’d both sleep through the night. I’d wake up in the morning engorged, but then Wagon Jr. would have a nice big breakfast with nursing. This change was such a relief because I had been going to bed engorged after nursing him last at bedtime at 6pm, and when I’d get up to pump around midnight I’d be leaking all over. When we switched systems, I could pump and go to bed totally empty, and that was so refreshing.
Here are the supplies I used:
Here is the process I followed. (I wish I had pictures!! But this was 2 years ago!)
- Pump about 20 minutes (at my peak, yielding about 14-16 oz per session). I would always massage during pumping and wait for a second let-down to ensure as much emptying as possible.
- Fill as many breastmilk storage bags as I could to capacity (6 oz), label with date, and store in freezer (either lying flat or using the storage container gizmo to freeze as a flat card of milk). Never stand the bag up to freeze! The milk sits at the bottom of the bag, and when it freezes it expands, tearing holes in the bag, and causing leakage when you thaw. Plus, it’s much easier to store as flat cards rather than little dumpy bags.
- Transfer already frozen bags of milk into empty Fiber One boxes (the perfect size for milk storage bags!).
- Fill Medela bottles with Wagon Jr.’s current serving size (6-8 oz at his peak). Complete any partly-filled bottle from past pumping sessions waiting in the fridge first.
- Store in shelf in mini fridge, oldest bottle of milk towards the front.
At all times we had at least 3 bottles ready to go in the fridge, and if we started to run low I’d store pumped milk in the fridge rather than freeze for some sessions. My freezer stash just grew and grew, about 1 bag a day, until I stopped nursing around 7 months. The stash was enough to give him one feeding of thawed milk each day until after his first birthday. So Wagon Jr. was exclusively breastmilk-fed for the first 7 months, then moved to formula for all feedings except for one bottle of breastmilk until he was a year old.
We warmed both refrigerated and frozen milk in Red Solo Cups (any Toby Keith fans?) filled with hot water from the bathroom tap, and poured the milk into Playtex Drop-Ins for his feedings. We placed frozen milk bags into a larger ziploc bag first in case of leakage. Feeding directly from the Medela bottles would have saved a step, but we started and stuck with the Playtex Nurser system because that’s the nipple that he learned with. I absolutely love the Playtex Drop-Ins system listed above because 1) the bottles are gender-neutral and so darn CUTE! and 2) you only have to wash the nipples. You can also buy cheap drop-ins in bulk from BJ’s or Target.
I had a complex system of washing pump parts and bottles which included 3 large plastic bowls (one for clean pump parts, one for clean bottles, one to drop all dirty stuff after use), 6 sets of pump parts, and 10 or so bottles. When I used my last pump parts and bottles, I’d take the 3 bowls into the bathroom, fill them with hot soapy water, soak all the parts and bottles, then wash everything with bottle brushes. Then I’d line the “clean” bowls with paper towels and place everything in there upside down to dry. Having so many supplies meant only having to wash pump parts and bottles every 2 or 3 days. Once I had the system down, it was like clockwork! And having such a great, smoothly-flowing system made the very tedious and annoying task of washing pump parts and bottles not so bad.
The entire system meant never having to go downstairs for any part of it, except every few weeks when Wagon Sr. would sterilize all pump parts and bottles in the microwave. But all pumping, storage, refrigerating, freezing, thawing, feeding, and washing happened upstairs in our bedroom and bathroom!
I know all of this information might seem overwhelming, but trust me, once you’ve got a system down that works for you, it makes it all worth it.
Do you have any tips for building up a freezer stash?
Pumping & Increasing Milk Supply part 6 of 111. Increasing Your Milk Supply by Checklists
2. Pumping Up the Volume by Mrs. Bee
3. My Pumping System by mrs. wagon
4. Don't Pay for a Breast Pump Until You Read This by Mrs. Tricycle
5. More milk, more milk, more milk! by Mrs. Hopscotch
6. Building up a Breastmilk Freezer Stash by mrs. wagon
7. Exclusive Pumping vs. Breastfeeding by Mrs. Bee
8. How To Clean a Medela Pump by Mrs. Bee
9. My Pumping, Freezing, and Defrosting Strategy by Mrs. Bee
10. Project Milk by Mrs. Bee
11. Feeding and Storing Expressed Breastmilk by Checklists