It's a thought that strikes fear in the heart of every pumping mom: wasting hard-earned breast milk. We know moms who really have cried over spilled or wasted milk!
Here are a few tips for making the most of your pumped milk, and avoid seeing any go down the drain:
1. Freeze and defrost in small amounts.
Freezing in small amounts (two or three ounces depending upon your baby's age) will allow you to defrost only what you need. You can even store a few bags of 1-2 ounces for times when your baby just wants a small amount.
2. Prepare, or ask your caregiver* to prepare, small bottles.
Try two to three ounces for a younger baby, and then prepare more small amounts if the baby is still hungry.
3. Date all milk, and ask your caregiver to use your oldest milk first so that none expires.
And of course, be sure you're storing your milk in a bag or bottle that will not leak.
4. Nurse your baby just before leaving and right upon your return.
This will help keep your milk supply up, and may mean less bottle feedings while you're gone. In Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, recommends nursing twice before leaving your baby with a caregiver – once upon waking and once just before drop off. She also recommends choosing a caregiver close to work in order to cut down on travel time.
5. Ask your caregivers to time bottle feedings so that your baby is ready to nurse when you come home.
In other words, ask them to avoid giving a big feeding right before you arrive.
6. Make sure your caregivers understand milk storage and feeding guidelines.
Uninformed caregivers may assume that unused defrosted milk (not heated) must be discarded, for example.
7. Ask your caregiver to use paced bottle feeding.
This method allows babies more control over their intake of breast milk by responding to their cues, and may also prevent overfeeding. Since paced feeding also mimics feeding at the breast, it can also support the breastfeeding relationship and help babies transition back and forth from breast to bottle. In Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, Nancy Mohrbacher recommends using a bottle with a slow flow nipple to allow the baby a chance to feel full before eating more than she needs.
8. When storing milk in the freezer, double check your freezer doors before going on trips.
You may even want to ask a neighbor to call you if there is a power outage so that you can have the milk transferred to a home with power.
9. And of course don't forget to nurse frequently when you're home.
These feedings keep your supply up, and may even mean that your baby needs less pumped milk during the day.
* We have written this post with moms who work outside the home in mind, but we know that some moms exclusively pump and also want to make the most of their pumped milk!