How Much Breastmilk Should I Store Before Returning To Work?

Sooner or later, you are going to need to head back to work. This means that you are going to need to start building yourself up a nice stash of breastmilk to ensure that your beautiful baby continues to have all of the food that they need. But, how much breastmilk should you store before returning to work?

It is advised that you do not store more than 4-5 days of breastmilk. This is enough to keep your baby fed. Obviously, you are at work so you won’t be able to constantly pump breastmilk as if you were at home. However, you will still have opportunities to do so. 4-5 days of breastmilk ensures that you won’t run out, even if you have a lull in the pumping process. It also means that your stored breastmilk will remain fresh. 

Let’s answer a few more burning questions that people often have related to the storage of breastmilk, shall we?

How Much Breastmilk Should I Stockpile?

It is going to be dependent on two things:

  • How hungry your baby is
  • How much breastmilk you can produce.
  • Whether you are going to be supplementing with powdered milk. 

There are some women that only ever store enough breastmilk for the next day. So, if you are heading to work on a Wednesday, you would pump all you need on Tuesday.

We tend to recommend that people give themselves a buffer, though. Store 3-4 days of breastmilk and you should be fine.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to store weeks’ worth (there are some women that do this). A few days is more than sufficient. 

Benefits Of Having A Breastmilk Stash

Having a breastmilk stash has several benefits.

Perhaps the main benefit is that once you head back to work, you probably won’t have the time to pump breastmilk as you did in the past. It is a very energy-intensive process, and there are some days when you simply cannot be bothered to do it. When you have a few days of breastmilk in storage, it means that you can have those off days (although, you will need to catch up eventually). 

It also means that the caregiver for your child has ready access to breastmilk. They won’t have to use powdered milk, which isn’t always great for a baby’s stomach.

Of course, you also get the major benefit of having an emergency stash of breastmilk available just in case there is an emergency at work, or you get stuck in traffic. It means that your baby isn’t going to go hungry! 

Breastmilk storage

When To Start Pumping For Storage

Most people will start to pump for storage around 4-weeks after they start breastfeeding. You can start a little bit sooner, but 3-4 weeks seems to be about the sweet spot since many women will return to work roughly around this time. You don’t need to be putting masses of it into storage. Just a bottle here and there.

If you are not going to be freezing the breastmilk (i.e. you want that breastmilk to be as fresh as possible when your baby drinks it), then you should only be putting the breastmilk into storage 3-4 days before you use it. After that, the breastmilk will probably need to be thrown away.

If you are building up a serious stash of breastmilk, then you will need to freeze it. It doesn’t really matter when you start to pump it here. Breastmilk can store in the freezer for 8-12 months. Although, if it defrosts, it will either have to be consumed within a day or so or thrown away.

So, really, the choice is yours. As soon as you feel comfortable having some spare milk that you can put into storage, then you can start to do it.

How To Build A Breast Milk Stash

This will be dependent on how you are nursing your baby.

When you are building up a stash, remember that your baby’s immediate needs always come first. This means that you are not putting anything into your breast milk stash until your baby has eaten.

In an ideal world, you will be pumping around 3 times per day. You will want to do this every 2-3 hours. At the most, you should be pumping for around 15 minutes at a time. 

At the same time, you will want to be nursing your baby with fresh milk, straight from the breast. Anything that you pump after that will need to go straight into storage (normally right in the freezer). If you do this, you should start to have a decent breast milk stash within a week or so. Certainly enough to keep your baby fed for a couple of days if you can’t nurse them for whatever reason.

Remember, you should never overpump yourself. If you do, then you could end up causing some rather serious and painful problems in your breast. As we said, 15 minutes is all that you need.

How To Store Your Breast Milk Stash

If you are storing milk only for the next few days, then we suggest that you just stick the breastmilk bags in the fridge. They should keep fresh in there.

For anything that needs to be stored for longer periods of time, you will need to use the freezer.

Remember, once breastmilk has thawed, it is going to need to be used within a day. This means that you only want to store enough in a breastmilk bag to cover a day’s feedings. If you store too much, then you are just throwing breastmilk away. So, carefully measure the breastmilk into each bag to ensure that you have roughly the right amount (have a small amount extra, just in case your baby is extra hungry).

When you are defrosting a breastmilk bag, you can leave it in the fridge. It should take a few hours to properly thaw.

Final Thoughts

You don’t need to store a huge amount of breastmilk before you return to work. In most cases, having 3-4 days worth in the fridge is more than enough. However, if you want to freeze some extra, the breastmilk will keep fine in the freezer for up to a year. It may be worth building up a stash around 3-4 weeks after you have given birth.