Everyone talks about having
a terrific freezer stash ready for when you go back to work, but the freezer stash deserves a bit more discussion than just
“more is better”. A lot of thought should go into how this frozen milk is used once you return to work.
Let’s start with
my story – when my son was 6 months old, I started to have trouble pumping
enough for him at daycare. But I had this great freezer stash, so I figured I was all set, I’d just send in extra milk
from the freezer until my supply came back up. I was just adding about 2oz/day to what I was pumping the day before, but I
just couldn’t get my supply back up. I was still pumping the same amount as I had been before my supply dropped –
what the heck was going on? I was proud that my son was still getting 100% breastmilk, and thought I had been doing OK. I
was determined not to give my son formula because of a family history of milk allergies, so I called a lactation consultant
to ask what else I could give him – a little rice milk? I even considered goat’s milk. My freezer stash was dwindling
rapidly at the rate of 2oz/day, and I couldn’t see any way to build it back up!
The LC asked me a bunch of questions
about how much I was pumping and how much he was drinking, and after talking with her for about an hour about what I needed
to do, I finally figured it out!
So – here’s what I learned.
Every day that I was sending milk to daycare from the freezer stash I was telling my body that I needed 2oz less to feed my
son. However, my son wasn’t getting the message that he needed 2oz less to eat – because he was still eating the
same amount! So his demand was outstripping my supply by 2oz every day that I went to work and pulled one of those precious
bags from the freezer! It’s pretty easy to play this out to its natural conclusion if you think about it. Your body
isn’t getting a signal that it should be making more milk; you keep taking milk from the freezer and not putting any
in, and gradually the freezer stash diminishes till it’s gone – then what? Unfortunately, most moms recognize
the problem when the freezer stash is almost gone, not when they start using it – which is when the real problem starts,
the problem of a supply-demand imbalance.
So, a note: What’s the darn freezer stash for, anyway? Well, here are
- You leave all your milk sitting out on the counter overnight and have to toss it
- You spill a whole
bottle down your best suit while pumping (the dry cleaning is a separate issue!)
- Your daycare has just heated and started
a bottle as you arrive, and that whole bottle has to be tossed so you can nurse (the far better choice, and a good use for
the freezer stash).
- You go out and really tie one on at the bars, and want to pump and dump and feed your baby a bottle
instead of getting her tipsy.
- You miss pumping one day, you know you’ll pump enough the next day, and you just
have to add a little bit to cover. Caution: here starts the slippery slope! Pump extra the next day so this doesn’t
get to be a habit (see above).
So – the next time you’re ready to reach for milk from the freezer, think
about addressing the real issue first – that you’re not pumping enough. There are plenty of ways to fix this,
but most involve a little ‘tough love’, and a cooperative daycare provider can be a big help. See Supply Boosters for lots of tips on increasing the amount you pump (or decreasing the amount you need to...)