Back to Work: How to Store Enough Milk for Your Baby

storing breast milk

breast pumpBreastfeeding can present challenges for many new mothers, especially when it’s time to return to work. The experts at The Lactation Connection share time-tested tips for storing breast milk for back to work. 

By Robin Hollen, RN, IBCLC

For many new mothers, maternity leave never seems long enough. By the time you’re required to return to work, you have likely established a breastfeeding routine with your baby and addressed nursing concerns ranging from milk volume to tender nipples.

Now you may wonder how you will be able to return to work while continuing to nurse successfully. First: Breathe. Reflect on how much you have successfully accomplished! Now, let’s prepare for one more hurdle.

First, determine how much milk you should have available in your absence. Your baby’s weight generally dictates the approximate amount of milk they are consuming in a 24-hour period. If you will be gone for 1/3 to half a day, the amount of milk you are storing must reflect that time gap. For example, if your baby weighs 12 pounds when you return to work, the baby is consuming between 26-32 ounces of breast milk per day. On that first day back, you will need to have about 10 ounces available if you will be gone for an eight-hour time period, and roughly 15 ounces if you will be gone for 12 hours.

Storing Breast Milk for Back-to-Work

How do you build your milk reserves? With the help of a breast pump and planning. If you pump one extra ounce per day, you will need two-to-three weeks for building and storing a one-day breast milk supply for your baby. Remember, after that first day back, you pump Monday for Tuesday and the cycle repeats for each day you are separated. If possible, speak to your human resources representative at work about a private place where you can pump, as well as where you can store your milk.

Although this sounds simple, moms are often very concerned with having “enough” milk when they return. If you want to start pumping for work once breastfeeding is established – meaning you are not sore and your baby is growing well, then pump once in the morning as supply is the highest and save that milk. If you start loading your freezer, consider pumping less times per week to avoid any waste.

Stimulation is also critical to maintaining milk supply. If you typically breastfeed 10 times per day, then you must continue to stimulate 10 times in 24 hours. Be open to nursing more at home and pumping at regular intervals during the day.

The Lactation Connection offers breastfeeding forums at 4 p.m. Tuesdays at the Renown South Meadows campus and 11 a.m. Thursdays at Renown’s main campus. The forums offer a venue to ask questions about how other mothers managed that first day back to work and all of its inherent concerns. The Lactation Connection store, located at The Shops at Renown, also provides breast pump rentals and supplies, scale for drop-in baby weight checks, a certified nursing bra fitter, and other services. Call 775-982-5210 for information.