As a breastfeeding mom, having extra milk in my freezer gives me some serious peace of mind. It may seem overwhelming at first to add pumping into your already full schedule, but it is possible to store up a solid stash with as little as 15 minutes a day.
At some point, you’ll probably need—and want—to be away from your baby for more than the few hours between feeding sessions. Whether you’re going back to work, going out on a date night, or just looking for a little break to yourself, a freezer stash can help.
Read on for six tips to start yours.
1. Pump One Side While Nursing on the Other
Oh, how I wish someone had told me this with my first child. It’s so simple. It seems so obvious to me now. Once my baby started sleeping through the night, I’d regularly wake up engorged. Failing to put breast pads to absorb leakage at night guaranteed I’d wake up in puddles.
My point is, first thing in the morning, milk volume tends to be the highest, especially if you’ve gone through the night without a feeding. I found that my little one did not need—and would not eat—even close to all of the milk my body made overnight.
As long as your baby is getting enough on one side, simultaneously pumping the other is my favorite way to store up that stash because it is so efficient. Here’s to getting a few precious minutes back.
2. Replace Your Pump Parts
I thought my supply was dipping when I was pumping significantly less than normal on a week-long work trip. It would have made sense considering my stress level, jet lag, less-than-stellar travel nutrition, and being away from the baby for the longest amount of time yet.
It was none of these things; it was the duckbill valves on my Spectra S2. They weren’t as efficient as they once were.
A few days into the trip, I noticed I felt uncomfortably full within less than a few hours after having just pumped—completely out of the realm of normal for me. After a quick Google search essentially recommending that I order all brand-new pump parts, I decided I’d start with the duckbill valves. If that didn’t work, I’d move on to the next parts.
It worked, and my pumping output went back to normal immediately. $12.99 well spent.
3. Start Early
While lactation experts generally advise waiting a few weeks to start bottle-feeding if you can, there’s no reason you can’t start pumping right away—other than the sheer exhaustion of having a newborn, of course. In the throes of newborn exhaustion coupled with a toddler sleep regression, I started pumping at two weeks postpartum.
In one pumping session, I typically pumped between two to three ounces, which didn’t seem like much to me at the time, but did, in fact, add up quickly. When I left for a long weekend for a friend’s wedding sans baby at 10 weeks postpartum, I had more than enough to leave with my husband. By the time I left for a week-long work conference and weekend getaway with my husband at seven months postpartum, I had more than enough to leave with my mom to feed the baby.
4. Stick to a Schedule
Find a time that works for you and stick to it. Schedule everything else around it. If you pump at the same time every day, your body will learn to anticipate needing to produce milk at that time. Most experts agree that milk volume is highest in the morning, so aim for morning hours to get the most out of your pumping session, if possible. I pumped every day at 8am between my daughter’s 7am nursing session and her 10am nursing session.
Another perk of pumping in the morning? None of the crazy that comes up later in the day will get in your way of storing up your stash.
5. Drink Enough Water
Since breastmilk is about 90 percent water, it makes sense that experts stress the importance of staying hydrated, especially if you are exercising. In fact, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ve probably already noticed an increase in your own thirst.
When you have a million and one things on your mind and you’re lucky to get even a few moments to yourself, hydration is easy to forget. One way to remember is to drink a glass of water for each feeding.
So, get a cup you love and some fun, reusable straws and drink up—you’re more likely to drink more from a straw than if you’re just sipping. And yes, plain old water can get a little boring. Add some fruit to mix it up a bit.
6. Pump on Your Commute
Obviously, it goes without saying that your first focus and priority should be on driving safely, so if you find that pumping interferes with that—this option is not for you.
When a friend first suggested this to me, I thought she was joking. She was not. Being the huge fan of maximizing time that I am, I gave it a go.
The Willow or the Elvie breast pumps are the best option for both moms who are driving themselves and for moms whose commute includes public transportation. These are wireless, on-the-go pumps that fit directly into your bra. Great news, right? Well, sort of. First of all, they’re expensive, ringing up at $499.99. Second, many moms find that they pump slightly less using one of these options than they do with their regular pump.
It may not be the best way to get the most milk, but it is better than nothing, so if you find yourself squeezed for time and need to snag a few extra ounces, this could work for you.
Read More: 47 Things to Do While You’re Pumping