How To: Breast Milk Freezer Stash
So you've committed to breastfeeding. I don't know whether to congratulate you or start commiserating.
What I DO know is you need a freezer stash.
What: Your breast milk, in your freezer.
Why: It may not seem that way right now, but one day, you're going to want to leave your house, and leave your baby in said house (proper supervision, please - the dog does not have thumbs). When you do, the baby will continue to require sustenance. If you have decided you are the only source of food for your baby, then your choices are clone yourself so the boobs will continue to be on tap for Junior, or the more affordable freezer stash.
How: This is easier than you think. The main thing is to start small. Do not pull your pump out, dial that sucker up to maximum (oof I'm cringing) and pump through the tears. You do NOT want to convince your body that you've just given birth to sextuplets. Engorged boobs hurt. Talk to your doctor, or more likely, your pediatrician. She's heard it all.
If you can, invest in a small manual breast pump. I was gifted this one. No, you won't use it forever. Unless you live in Brooklyn and count rooftop beekeeping and artisanal bathtub cheesemaking among your hobbies. People who get joy from handmade everythang should live their best lives.
When you're breastfeeding, especially at the beginning, your baby may not take both breasts in each feeding. Doctors like to tell you to offer both breasts. I'm not saying they're wrong. I'm saying that offering is not the same as getting the baby to imbibe from Lefty and Righty in the same feeding.
Since you're likely switching off each feeding, you will have one food providing lunch, the other sitting there impatiently with all its delicious milk, chock full of nutrition, and having a clear case of FOMO. Ouch. Take your little pump, squeeze the silicone body, and put it over your nipple, pressing it against your gigantic breast. Release. It will now hang off you via suction. Often in the beginning, as baby nurses both breasts start leaking, including the one NOT in use, and you don't have to go any further.
If nothing is coming out, try squeezing and releasing the silicone body a few times. This pale imitation of a baby's sucking power (which is MIGHTY) should get your boob going. Don't forget, Junior is mowing down on the other boob. Your boobs are excited! They are ready to give forth delicious milk milk. They want your baby to pop off your boob, drunk on milk, dribbling, eyes unable to stay open with the awesomeness that is YOUR milk.
Bottle-feeders, formula or breastmilk, I see you. Don't worry, your baby will also hit the bottle like it's literally hitting the bottle. Babies are little milk thieves. They're like, gimme the milk milk and no one gets shit on. Oops. I lied about that last part. BUT GIVE IT TO ME. They will desperately try to get their mouths on any nipple in the vicinity, and they only care about ONE THING - DOES IT COME WITH MILK? Don't believe me, put a baby on a non-lactating chest of any gender. That little rooting survival mechanism will try to make the nipple give. It will get pissed when it does not. Just feed your baby and yell La La La when others try to tell you you're doing it wrong. Your baby will bond with you and be securely attached, I promise.
Back to manual breast pumps: you're not trying to drain it, you're just collecting what would likely have dribbled out anyway. During my first breastfeeding journey, I did not know this trick, and would have to press spit up cloths against my boob, lest I WEAR my hard work and stink of crusty dried milk. Cute.
Now you're looking at the half an ounce you've accumulated. Step one, hand it off to your partner. I don't care if they're lying in bed because it's 1am. Let them participate in the joy of managing a baby's nutritional needs as soon as possible. If they don't jump out of bed to collect your milk GOLD with all the perky energy of bunny heading for another bunny during Bunny Mating Season, I give you permission to throw the nearest projectile in a direct collision course with your partner's head. On top of all your other efforts, you are creating your baby's only source of food. They can walk to the kitchen. Or order a mini fridge and make like you sleep in a college dorm.
Now your partner should put the milk in something. You want this something to go in the freezer. You can buy specialty milk bags (I totally did). You can buy ones that are basically Ziplocs. You could probably just use Ziplocs. This is not an ad for Ziploc. It's just the brand that has been imprinted into my brain. It sounds like a town in the Southwest US. Maybe an Oryx lives in Ziploc, Texas. I don't know. Is Texas the Southwest? Or just the South? Questions I cannot answer.
Just think to yourself, I am going to put a liquid in this storage item. Said item needs to be able to be frozen without busting open. I will also want to defrost it at some point, as babies do not like slushies. Self, what would work best for me? You need to have some way of noting the date. Grab a Sharpie. You can always put a little piece of masking tape on your bag if the marker is rubbing off.
You also want to think about how you will stack these bags. I'm talking about a freezer STASH here people. You will have more than one bag. Laying it flat while it freezes, then stacking them is usually your best bet on space saving. Cardboard shoeboxes are an easy way to make little breast milk treasure boxes. Take the lid off and stand your bags of gold up like little soldiers. Or, lay them down on top of each other flat and put the lids on, and stack the shoeboxes.
You also want to consider your freezer. Stand up freezer? Chest freezer? Those freezers that are under the fridge, or on the left side while your fridge is on the right? There's a lot more options than when I was a kid and your freezer was a little door that swung open on top of your fridge, and maybe it had a shelf in it.
Your ideal freezing situation is as far back/down/away from the freezer door as possible. You are storing liquid gold that you collected BY THE OUNCE. You want this shit to stay frozen. I have an additional stand up freezer (adult life goals) that we rarely go into. My mother once went in for an ice pack, shut the door, and did not notice that a loaf of bread had slipped, with the plastic end of the bag between the freezer door and frame. Stuff started melting. Including my breast milk. Luckily we noticed quickly and were able to use up the melty bags within 24 hours.
Oh yeah, everything has a time limit.
It's like this. You can have fresh breast milk hanging out on your counter for about four hours. You can have breast milk hanging out in your fridge for about four days. Depending on your freezer situation, you've got 9-12 months (a really deep freezer you barely enter gives you more time, a smaller freezer you open on the daily less).
At some point, you may find yourself using an electric pump. If baby is on the boob and happy about it, I wouldn't rush. Give your boobs some time to settle. After 6-8 weeks, they hopefully have figured out roughly how much to make for your little love. Try throwing a pump in after baby's breakfast. That is, let the tiny ravenous monster feed to his content, then pump out what's left. Most folks are max milk in the morning. Take advantage of this. Feed baby as normal throughout the day.
When it comes to pumping, your average boob-owner probably doesn't want to add in any more extra pumps, unless supply is not where she wants it to be. I'll let someone else explain power pumping to you. Besides an extra post-breakfast pump, you probably want to keep up your regular feeding schedule.
If you are away from baby during a regular feeding, congratulations! Thanks to your freezer stash, you should have some milk that can be defrosted and used by your chosen caretaker (still not the dog, thumbs required for bottle operation). Be sure to pump at roughly the same time, as your boobs do not take well to skipped meals.
Personally, I was able to build up freezer stashes with both kiddos. Once I went back to work, I found that my supply dipped a bit (stress, lack of time, oh yeah, WORK) and I was no longer able to sock away that little bit extra. I could rest easy, however, that if I ever had a bad day and got stuck in a long meeting and couldn't make it to my pump on time and my boobs starting testing the staying power of my blouse buttons and I was grit-smiling through the hallways because I was going to burst - my freezer stash had my back.
Oh yeah, and don't forget to eat.