Breastfeeding

Down with the freezer stash!

A freezer stash. (Photo via Flickr Creative Commons)
A freezer stash. (Photo by Daniel Lobo via Flickr Creative Commons)

The “freezer stash” is that stockpile of milk a mom has amassed, usually before returning to work, that she can rely upon to feed her baby when her own fresh milk isn’t available. It can be helpful for calming the anxiety of the time when you leave your pumped milk at work, unrefrigerated, and it has to be thrown away. Some people recommend freezer stashes for more not-so-inevitable times, such as unexpected surgery. But it’s not a necessary thing that needs to be checked off your list before your leave is up.

A few compelling reasons to turn away from this idea of a freezer stash are:

  1. It puts a lot of pressure on moms to pump, pump, pump away during a time when they’re often still learning how to make breastfeeding work and getting to know their new baby. Having a new baby can be tiring and frustrating enough; why add pumping sessions to this mix? All a baby needs when he is away from his mother is enough milk to get him through the day, not enough to get him through a week.
  2. Extra pumped milk, even if it comes from a baby’s own mother, is a supplement to what is being produced at the breast. It doesn’t matter if you have breastmilk or formula in a bottle; when you dip into your freezer stash because you need a little extra, that is milk that your baby is taking that is not giving your breasts the message to make more.
  3. Not having a huge freezer stash takes away the temptation of skipping a pumping session or giving an extra bottle. Both of these things can negatively impact your milk supply, especially if done often.

How much milk does your baby need when you go back to work? He needs enough to get through the day, and that’s it. You’ll need to pump a little bit in addition to nursing to get that amount, but it doesn’t have to be anything extreme. Get, say, 24 ounces in there, and you’re golden.

Now, if you’re one of those women who express milk like the most dedicated of dairy cows and cannot possibly use all of the milk you collect while it’s fresh or if you have some extra every once in awhile, pop that stuff in the freezer. Maybe you’ll find a use for it in your own home, or maybe you’ll choose to donate it to a milk bank or do some milk sharing. I’ve seen some freezer stashes to be proud of. But should every mother have one before returning to work? No, especially if building one is stressful, because the return to work is stressful enough. Keep enough milk on hand to feel confident that your baby will be fed if, for some reason, your fresh milk isn’t available. Otherwise, use the time you have with your baby to be with your baby, not a pump. The less stress, the better, for everyone.

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3 comments

  1. I agree that no one should force themselves to pump to build a "stash" if it's stressful. But pumping immediately after nursing is a good way to build supply if you need to do that. I think it's important to keep in mind that some moms have low supply for various reasons, and pumping may be an important tool to help raise supply. Personally, I pump 5 times/day in addition to nursing so that I can signal my body to make more milk. I give some back to my baby via SNS in the evenings, when he is hungrier and my supply is a lot lower, but I inevitably end up with some that I have to freeze. I'm saving it for a rainy day. I may donate it eventually or give it to him when he's over a year old–hopefully then I can drop the middle of the night pump at least! 🙂

  2. Yes, it's a useful tool to use if you definitely have a low milk supply. This is a different issue from the idea of having to have a bunch of frozen milk on hand before going back to work. 🙂

  3. Yesssss. Thank you! This is why you’re my favorite place online for all things nursing… You inevitably cut through the insidiously harmful nonsense.

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