Pumping Tips for the Working Mom: Building Your Milk Stash

I went back to work when Aiden was 11 weeks old. On top of the emotional stress of leaving him so early, I also had to worry about how he was going to eat! On top of that, I had a business trip to Dublin a few weeks after returning to work. In preparation for all of this, I had to figure out a way to build up a good stash of milk while still feeding him every three hours. One of the most common questions I get from new, or soon-to-be mamas, is how I built my milk supply to go back to work. It wasn’t easy, but here are some ideas for building your milk stash.

Pumping tips build stash

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Set-up:

I put all my supplies in a basket including:

  • My Medela Pump in Style Pump and parts,044
  • Two mugs to hold the flanges after pumping so I decrease the chances of spilling (trust me, crying over spilled milk is a very real thing!!)
  • Coconut oil (great for lining the inside of the flanges)
  • A few hand towels and a burp cloth in case of spills
  • Water and a snack

Putting everything in a basket made it easy to keep everything organized, and I could ask my husband to get my pumping basket if I was busy with the baby, and we didn’t have to worry that we would forget something.

When to Pump:

It is a careful balance to pump enough to make a little extra milk to create a stash, but not make so much that you are overproducing and uncomfortable. I found that pumping at some strategic times helped create this balance.

  1. Pump a little extra in the morning: After feeding in the morning, I would pump for an extra ten minutes on each side. At first I got very little to show for the extra pumping, but after a couple of weeks I successfully tricked my body into thinking that I needed to make more milk, and I did!
  2. Pumping one side while feeding on the other: During my mid-morning and late-morning feeds (when there is more milk), I would pump on one side and feed Aiden on the other, then I would alternate at the next feeding. This got me a few ounces to add to my stash.
  3. Pump before bed: Once Aiden started consistently sleeping 4-5 hours at night, I added an extra pumping session before bed.

058Storing Milk:

At the end of each day I combined my milk in 3 ounce bags (I like the Medela or Kiindle bags best), labeled them and added them to these Kiindle storage trays to freeze (I have two).

The next day, once frozen, I moved them to a soda can refrigerator pack from front to back so that the oldest milk was at the front of the box. This is an easy and inexpensive way to keep the milk organized. By the time I went to work I had about two weeks worth of milk stored up, which took a lot of stress off.  A little goes a long way as long as you give yourself several weeks. We had plenty for my return to work and my trip to Dublin.

Are you a pumping mama? What did you find worked for you?

 

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About Melissa

Hi, I’m Melissa! I am a mama to my baby Aiden Milo (born November 2015), and a police wife to my husband Dan. I started this blog because, after having Aiden, I quickly learned that exhaustion and baby brain causes you to forget some of the er-lovely (sometimes horrible and sometimes wonderful) details related to the first several months of raising a baby. Considering we may have more kids in the future, I want to document everything we do, so we remember what worked the first time around, and hopefully help other first time mamas along the way!
  • Thanks for the tips! Going to add that morning pump in TODAY! Hope it works:)

  • I just had a *DUH* moment! Why didn’t I think to keep everything handy in a basket? I love this! I’m going basket shopping today. Thanks!

    • I know! It took me a few weeks and a bunch of trips to get missing pieces to figure that one out. It makes everything so much easier!

  • These are great tips! I did many of the same things!

  • I would have given ANYTHING to have your super stash! I did pretty well before heading back to work with my daughter. It is hard to fit in those extra pumping sessions!

  • I am proud to say that I exclusively pumped through two children and worked full time! The key for me was my golden rule – pump every 3 hours for the first twelve weeks. Morning and night, every 3 hours. My kids drank a TON of milk and some days it was tough to keep up and other days we had extra, I always made sure the freeze the extra on the good days for emergencies.

    • You are a super mama! That is amazing 🙂 That is a great point about pumping every three hours morning and night!

  • Mal

    This is great advice. It is such a tough thing building up stores!! My biggest issue is caregivers taking out too much to give him and having it go to waste. Its such a tough thing because you know that they mean well but they just don’t get it! This stuff truly is gold!!

  • These are such great ideas, especially the basket with essentials (mugs to prevent spills= genius!!).

  • I tried to pump when I returned to work but I would get so busy I wouldn’t do it until I got really uncomfortable. Then my milk ended up drying up. It was super stressful. These tips sound good though. I will try them with this baby.

    • Yes, I struggle with that too. I had to learn the hard way that I have to make time to leave and pump. I realize some don’t have that luxury, but even leaving for 15 minutes is better than nothing! Good luck!

  • I had the hardest time with this when I returned to work!

  • Great tips! It can be so tough to be a working mom while breast feeding.

  • I am pumping at work as I type. Since I work my babies tended to fall into a feeding schedule at home and I just pumped around those times (before and after expected nap times) when I was at work. The beginning is tough but once they start food it becomes much easier to keep up at work.

    • Totally agree. It does work a bit better to try to keep with their schedule. You go mama!

  • Reading this I am even more happy that I had the chance to stay at home for 1 year and breastfeed my girl without pumping.

    • Yep, it’s definitely tough! That’s great that you had the opportunity to stay home.

  • Meg

    I pumped inconsistently with my two boys, but I always tried to have a small stash on hand so that if I left them with Dad or with a sitter, they could easily feed the baby. I never tried pumping on one side and feeding on the other, but I may try that the next time around 🙂

  • I worked really hard to build a stash before I went back to work and did all of the things you pointed out! Thanks for sharing.

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