If you’re breastfeeding a new baby, chances are at some point you’ll need to have someone else feed your baby. If you’re like millions of other moms, you may be wondering about how to pump and store milk, whether you’re going back to work or would like to be able to be away from the baby for a few hours without them starving. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed or provide their pumped breast milk to their babies exclusively for at least six to twelve months. Many moms are able to do this and many are not. Each mom’s situation is unique and one size definitely does not fit all. With my patients I like to make sure it’s a guilt free zone because everyone is doing the best they can for their little ones.
Some moms offer one feeding of pumped milk or formula each day while breastfeeding at all the other times. Others are only able to breastfeed or use pumped breast milk once each day and use formula the rest of the time. No matter what your situation is, there’s information here to help you navigate the world of pumping and breastfeeding.
There are a few babies who are models of flexibility and will take a bottle anytime you offer it, no matter when or how often. If you have one of these babies, you may be able to offer a bottle of pumped milk once a week and not worry that your baby will eat. If this is your situation, you’re lucky. However, if you’re like many moms with a baby who prefers to stick with their routine, you may find it difficult to switch from breast to bottle unless you also develop a consistent pattern.
Most babies develop the flexibility to nurse at the breast and drink pumped breast milk or formula from a bottle if the bottle is introduced at the right time and provided at least once each day. Some babies tend to be just like Goldilocks in the story of the three bears. You can’t introduce the bottle too early. And you can’t introduce the bottle too late. The timing has to be just right!
Too early. If you introduce a bottle of pumped milk before your baby is three weeks old, it may lead to nipple confusion, with the baby seeming to wonder what this new thing is and refusing to drink from the bottle.
Too late. If you introduce a bottle of pumped milk after six weeks, your baby may be set in her routine and be unwilling to try something new. This often leads to the baby refusing to drink and lots of tears from both mom and baby.
If you know that you have to return to work and will be offering bottles while you’re away from your little one, it’s best to introduce the bottle prior to the six-week birthday. If you’re reading this and your baby is older than six weeks, don’t give up; try anyway and offer pumped milk or formula in a bottle every day. Sometimes babies take the pumped milk or formula better from someone other than mom, so do get help from your partner or family.
Getting Ready to Pump: Tips and Techniques
- Pump in the morning. You’re likely to have more milk in the morning as a result of your rest throughout the night. Even if you were up multiple times, any rest will help you make more milk.
- To build up your supply and help your body get used to producing more milk, try to pump thirty minutes to one hour after the first morning feeding and at about the same time each day. This may not produce much milk for the first few days, so don’t worry. What this does is stimulate more supply in the next three to four days.
- Regular pumping each day at the same times stimulates more supply. Remember that producing breast milk is all about demand first, and then supply.
- The percentage of fat is usually higher with early morning milk. Even a little sleep helps moms make richer milk with more fat. If you’ve noticed that your baby takes a longer morning nap and goes longer between feedings in the morning, it’s a result of the added fat content in your morning milk.
- By the end of day, many babies nurse frequently and may be a little fussy. They may want to eat every hour. If you’re able to provide a bottle of the pumped milk, with lots of nutritious fat from the morning, around dinnertime, you may be able to alleviate some of your baby’s hunger and need to eat frequently. This also gives you a little break, especially if someone else provides the bottle.
- Try to offer one bottle each day. Babies are more likely to stick with their routine and are less likely to refuse the bottle if they have a consistent experience. Some babies get out of practice if they go more than three days without a bottle.
- Encourage your partner or other family members to feed the baby with your pumped milk. Feeding a baby is a wonderful opportunity to connect and gives mom a much needed break from round-the-clock feedings.
- Many babies insist on mom, and they won’t take a bottle of pumped milk if they can smell or sense that she’s nearby. If this is the case, then it’s a good time for you to take a shower, or take time to rest, eat, recharge, care for any other children, or get out of the house for a break.
- As you become more comfortable with pumping, you may be able to pump just before or just after breastfeeding and not need to wait thirty or more minutes. Some moms are able to pump, breastfeed, and then pump again in the morning to build up their supply.
- Pumped milk may or may not separate into two layers: a thin bluish or white layer on the bottom and a thicker, yellow creamy layer on top.
- Pumped breast milk is like liquid gold. It takes a lot of time and effort to pump; so to avoid frustration from having to throw out unused milk, only store two to four ounces in each container. Label and date the container.
- It’s safe to store pumped milk in glass or hard plastic containers, milk storage bags, or plastic bottle liners. Look for ones that do not contain BPA.
- Only keep a few days supply of milk in the fridge so that it doesn’t go bad.
- Have most of your pumped milk available in freezer to thaw if needed.
Your breast milk is safe:
- At room temp for six to ten hours.
- In the fridge for five days.
- In the freezer compartment of a refrigerator for two weeks.
- In the freezer for three months.
- In a deep freezer for six months.
When thawing milk:
- Place the container of milk in a pan of hot water that has been removed from the heat.
- Or hold the container under cool water, gradually increasing the temperature of the water to warm.
- Shake well before feeding baby.
- Frozen milk that has been thawed can be stored safely in the fridge for up to twenty-four hours.
- Remember, babies can drink milk or formula that’s at room temperature, it doesn’t have to be warmed up.
- Do not thaw breast milk and then refreeze it.
- Do not thaw or heat breast milk in the microwave.
- Do not place breast milk over a heat source.
- Do not place the container of breast milk in a pan that’s over a direct heat source.
- Never put nipples in the microwave as this can degrade them.
- You can get more information on breastfeeding from my Personal Guide to Breastfeeding