Making It Work: Why I Avoid The ‘Freezer Stash’

Close up of mother holding pump while expressing milkEmily Hahn, Mount Holly Springs, Pennsylvania

Editor’s Note: The author shares the experience of returning to work, pumping, and providing enough breast milk for the following day without maintaining a supply of frozen breast milk. Many parents who pump do rely on and maintain a supply of frozen breast milk to meet their infants’ needs. The following link provides guidelines for the proper storage of expressed milk:

When my first child was born six years ago, I barely knew what a milk storage bag was, let alone a “freezer stash.” After seven weeks, it came time for me to return to work. I scarcely had time to become comfortable breastfeeding and even less time to acquaint myself with using a breast pump. I was determined, however, that my baby was only going to drink breast milk and resolved to make this happen in the ways I knew possible.

I took my responsibility to pump at work very seriously. I wanted to make sure that I continued to produce enough milk to feed my baby every day. I worked in an urgent care clinic at that time, and there would be busy days where the rooms would be stacked up with patients. If I had not gotten a chance to pump in the last three hours, though, I would take the time that I needed to do so. I was acutely aware that if I didn’t pump, my baby wouldn’t eat the next day while I was at work. Eventually, I ended up with a few bags of milk in the freezer when my daughter’s milk intake varied, but I found the process of thawing and bottling the milk cumbersome. I focused instead on feeding my baby—not the freezer—as I provided each subsequent day’s milk with my pumping efforts from the day before.

When my second child was born, she never went more than three hours without nursing. I intended to pump and store extra milk before returning to work, but I was just struggling to survive and that never happened. So again, I took my mandate to pump every two to three hours at work while away from my baby and followed it. Some days, it meant staying up late at home to do work that I couldn’t get done during the day, but I met my goals of feeding her only breast milk until she was 12 months old. I focused on feeding her from the breast whenever we were together and only using expressed breast milk when we were apart. This worked well.

With my third child, I again considered pumping to stash extra breast milk before returning to work. But my husband reminded me: “You didn’t ever use the frozen milk,” recalling the several bags of outdated breast milk I discarded after the previous children had weaned.

In the short term, if I didn’t pump, the baby didn’t drink my milk. That was motivating for me, and I was able to keep my milk supply up to meet my long-term breastfeeding goals. I didn’t get caught up in the effort of freezing and thawing. I didn’t worry about a power outage or space for a second freezer. I remembered to have faith in my body – faith that it would continue to produce the milk that my baby and I requested.

That is the reason I pump – to preserve that relationship and nourish my baby when I cannot be with him. In the end, that is what counts.

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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