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One of the most bonding things between a mother and baby is breastfeeding. This can be one of the easiest ways to feed your baby. However, many women reach a point where they need to begin pumping their breast milk. Sometimes it is because their body produces more milk than the baby needs. Or they may need to return to work and want to provide the liquid gold for bottle feeding.
For some mommas, keeping a stored supply of breast milk is done because they want to resume date nights with the hubby. Whatever your reason for pumping and storing your breast milk, we have compiled a few tips to help you get started.
Organizing Your Pumped Breastmilk
One of the most important things to remember when you are storing breast milk is to label your milk! There are many different types of storage bags you can purchase. Most of them have a designated place to write the date and time the fresh breast milk was pumped. Once you have labeled your container, you will want to keep your milk stored in an organized manner. That way you can always be sure that you are using the “First In First Out” method.
This simply means that the oldest milk should be the first one used. So you will want to use the milk that was pumped and stored last week before you use the milk you pumped and stored yesterday. Placing the fresh milk at the back of the freezer each time will help this process.
Breast Milk Shelf Life
When organizing your breast milk for storage, you will want to keep in mind its shelf life. According to the CDC breast milk storage guidelines, milk that is frozen should be used within six months preferably. Then milk that has been frozen and thawed should be used within 24 hours of being thawed. And lastly, milk that has been put directly into the refrigerator should be used within four days.
Any pumped milk that has been at room temperature or slightly lower should be used within four hours. One tip to help avoid wasting any of your pumped milk is to go ahead and freeze what you pump.
Thawing and Using Breast Milk
If you have started storing your breast milk because you have returned to work, instead of thawing the amount you think your baby will need while they are with the babysitter or at the daycare. Only thaw enough for their first one or two bottles of the day, this way you are only thawing small batches.
Let the daycare or childcare provider pull another one out to thaw each time they feed your baby. If you send an excess, you will be able to nurse your baby once you are with them for the next feeding. You can just put the leftover frozen milk from the day in your fridge to thaw. Then send it with your baby the following morning.
When Pumping at Work
For many women returning to work after giving birth does not mean no longer nursing or pumping. Thankfully, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) have provided certain guidelines protecting a mother’s rights. These guidelines allow moms to continue pumping and in some cases, nursing during the working day.
The guidelines include providing a private place that is not a bathroom. A room where a mother can pump without fear of being walked in on by other employees or members of the public. There are certain exceptions to the guidelines and each state may have additional laws or guidelines. Be sure to check with your local government to know what your rights are. Discuss with your employer to verify if your company has any additional allowances not mandated by the DOL or FSLA.
What You Will Need
If you know you are going to need to pump during the work day, be sure to bring your pump, pump parts, plenty of bags or containers specifically made for storing breast milk, and an insulated bag or cooler for the storage of breast milk once you have pumped.
A good electric breast pumps and a pumping bra can make the process very efficient and the best way to minimize the time you spend to be able to provide for your baby. If your pump fits you well it can effectively stimulate your milk flow. Also, having photos of your baby to look at can help your letdown reflex as well.
If your place of employment has a freezer, go ahead and put your lunchbox in the freezer. When no freezer is available, use the refrigerator. In the case that one of those isn’t available, be sure to bring a cooler to work with you with ice packs in it so you can store your pumped warm milk properly until you can take it home and freeze it. Keeping the temperature of the milk controlled until you can store it appropriately or use it to feed your baby in the next few hours is very important.
Freezing your Breastmilk
We have mentioned freezing your breastmilk to store it many times already. When it comes to freezing your breast milk you want to be sure that you are not only labeling and organizing your breast milk. Putting it in the freezer, you will also want to be sure you are using the proper type of storage container.
While freezer bags and Ziploc plastic bags may be your go-to for things such as ground beef or fruit. When you are freezing your breast milk these are not good options. There are special bags designed specifically for freezing breast milk which are thicker and made of a different material. They allow you to warm breast milk while it is in the bag.
Many of these breast milk storage bags also are designed to stand up, saving room in your freezer! There are other options for types of containers to store milk. Just be sure you are using one that has a good seal and is BPA-free.
It is a good idea to think about how much your baby takes at feeding and portion the storage bags accordingly, possibly in small amounts. This way you will not have excess thawed milk every time you prepare a bottle of breast milk. It is a good rule of thumb to leave about an inch of space at the top of the container. The space will allow you to flatten the top of the bag to remove all of the air from the package before storing it.
Best for Baby
When you begin pumping and storing, it is inevitable that at some point you will end up spilling some. This is most likely where the adage of “No sense in crying over spilled milk” comes from!
Even if you have a spill now and then, it is okay momma! Many mothers want to prolong their breast milk supply. This allows them to nurse their babies as long as possible, they know how healthy it is for their baby.
Taking the time and energy to have a pumping session in between breastfeeding your baby is the next best thing to nursing at every feeding. It does not matter how many times they may get a breast milk bottle feeding. You are still providing them their nourishment in a way nothing else can!