• You Don't Need a Freezer Full of Breast Milk Bags When You Return to Work

    So how much breast milk should you have stored before returning to work?
    by Rachel Perez .
  • You Don't Need a Freezer Full of Breast Milk Bags When You Return to Work
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  • Breastfeeding moms who are heading to work after a maternity leave have this concern often about their breast milk: How much stash do I need exactly? The good news is you don't need to milk yourself like a cow to make sure your little one will have the liquid gold that he needs for the time you're away. As one breastfeeding mom's post on Facebook points out, you don't need to fill a freezer with breast milk.

    "I wanted to show moms what a 'going back to work' stash normally looks. It seems as though no one is posting about their completely normal and adequate 'freezer stash,'" Whitney Callahan wrote on Facebook. "This is 16 ounces of milk, and it is completely adequate for moms' the first day back to work," she added.

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    According to Whitney, an average baby consumes one to 1.5 ounces per feeding. If mom were away for nine hours, the baby would need only about 13 ounces of milk. It would give your baby a three-ounce cushion in case moms get stuck in traffic or liquid gold gets spilled.

    In a Filipino setting, a new mom who's returning to work will leave a 2-month-old baby who probably feeds every two to three hours and consumes about four ounces per feeding. If she is away for eight hours, she only needs 12 ounces per day.

    "If mom is pumping to make up missed feedings while away from the baby, she will get what she needs for the next day," Whitney assured fellow nursing moms. "Preparing to leave baby is hard enough without the pressure to fill a deep freezer," she stressed.

    The post serves as a reminder that not every mother produces the same amount of milk. "The posts of crazy amounts of milk from moms who over produce have given us all unrealistic expectations for our bodies. All we need to make is what our babies eat," Whitney stressed. "Moms need to know they are enough."

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    Whitney's post received mixed reactions. Many moms were elated and thankful to know they're not alone and that there's no need to panic if they'd only managed to pump a small amount of breast milk. 

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    Other moms weren't convinced, citing that many nursing moms who return to work experience diminishing supply —and it's a valid concern. However, you only need enough milk for your baby for the hours you're away. When you are back home with your little one, continue direct breastfeeding and latching your baby. Remember, direct breastfeeding signals your body to produce more breast milk.

    Experts suggest that nursing moms who will return to work pump breast milk in between direct feedings after the baby's sixth week. You can also try expressing milk from one breast as your baby latches on to the other breast. Two weeks will be enough time for you to work up to the amount of breast milk that you can be comfortable leaving with your baby.

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    Whatever your baby didn't consume in the first day, leave it in the freezer for the next time you're off to work. Add the breast milk you expressed while you're in the office to replenish your stash.

    When it comes to storing breast milk properly, Dr. Teresa Maria Ribaño, a pediatrician and lactation consultant at Makati Medical Center, recommends the "Rule of Threes" or "Three hours, three days, three months."

    "If the milk stays in the room temperature up to 30 degrees, it’s good for three hours," she explained during Makati Medical Center's first leg of the "Pregnancy & Beyond" series. "If you put it in the refrigerator, it’s good for three days. If you put it in the freezer, it’s good for three to six months," she added. (Read more about expressing and storing milk here.)

    It is not hard to end up with a lot or even just enough to be able to relax a bit. Remember, your benchmark is your baby's feeding pattern and not how much milk is stored in other moms' freezers. 

    Read how to preparing to go back to work while continuing to breastfeed here and here.

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