Breastfeeding Article Disclaimer: I’m a firm believer that fed is best; that each parent should do what needs to be done to properly care for herself/himself and for her or his child. I write about breastfeeding because it’s my personal experience; never to shame and never to divide. Please help keep this community positive by choosing not to participate in the shaming of another parent or another parent’s choices—here or anywhere. We are all in this together.
Breastfeeding is challenging. Breastfeeding when you have a naturally low milk supply is even harder. Trying to produce enough milk to feed your baby AND build up an emergency freezer stash of breastmilk when you have a naturally low milk supply can seem downright impossible (even when you’re using all the tips and tricks to boost your breastmilk supply that you can think of).
Let me say this to you now, mama-with-the-low-supply: it’s not impossible to build that freezer stash!
But—let me go ahead and say this to you, as well—it won’t necessarily be easy to build up a freezer supply of breastmilk, either. But we’ll go through some things that were complete game-changers for me when it came to building my freezer supply.
First, a little back story. (I’ll make it quick, I promise!)
When I was breastfeeding my first born and I was wrapping up my maternity leave, I had maybe 4 or 5 ounces of breastmilk in my freezer, if that. Nowhere near enough to get her through 9-10 hours away from me. My partner, who fortunately was at home with our girl, had to literally come to my workplace and pick up milk several times during the day for the first few weeks I was back on the job until I was able to get caught up on my milk supply, and eventually get a small freezer stash built up.
With my second daughter, I was determined to build up a supply from the first week we got home from the hospital.
I researched, I experimented with different diets, different schedules, and finally got into a rhythm that allowed me to:
- Give my second daughter an all-breastmilk diet, as was my personal goal
- Build up a perfectly respectable freezer stash before I went back to work 2 months after giving birth (100 oz., which, for mamas with a low supply is no easy task!)
- Get a decent amount of sleep (no middle of the night pump sessions)
Not too bad, right? It was important to me to find a balance between feeding my little one, building up a freezer stash, and not losing my mind while doing so—which is exactly what I did!
Enough talk, though. Let’s jump right into how I made this happen. If you’re a mom, you’re busy, so not time to waste on rambling.
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How to Build a Breastmilk Freezer Stash With a Naturally Low Supply
1. Nurse and Pump at the Same Time
You may have heard this idea thrown around before on other breastfeeding articles, and for good reason: it works! Or at least it did in my case, and in a very big way.
Since breastfeeding is a supply and demand system, the more often you have something (either your baby or a pump) trying to get breastmilk, the more you’ll produce. So by nursing your little one on one breast and pumping the other one, you’re pretty much tricking your body into thinking you have twins. (Mamas of multiples would need to consider adding some pump time after each nursing session, alternatively, to get sort of the same effect.)
When I did this, a nursing session typically went something like this:
- Nurse baby on right breast; use breast pump on left breast. Go until baby pops off.
- Switch. Move baby to left breast to nurse; use breast pump on right breast. Go until baby pops off.
- Take a look at baby after she pops off the second breast. Is she still giving feeding cues? Fussing as if she’s hungry? If so, offer her a bottle of the expressed breastmilk to drink. If not, you’re done!
- Put expressed breastmilk into fridge and allow to chill completely before freezing.
When your breastmilk supply is naturally low, you’re always concerned about whether or not your baby is getting enough to eat. To save myself a bit of stress, I offered a bottle of the expressed milk after duel nursing/pumping sessions quite often, just to make sure I wasn’t taking something that my baby needed right then. In most cases, my girl would fall asleep on the second breast (ah, milk drunk), and like heck I was waking up a sleeping newborn. A few times in the beginning she did take a little bit from the bottle, but never all of it.
And that, my friends, is how you start to build your stash.
2. Find the Breastmilk Booster That Works for Your Body
Lots of foods are believed to boost milk supply naturally—wheat germ, flax seed, Brewer’s yeast, Mother’s Milk tea, to name a few. I went through and tried a whole bunch of boosters one at a time, which I fully recommend (as long as your doctor okays it—always check first).
The one that worked best for me? Oatmeal.
I made overnight oats, oatmeal smoothies, bowls of hot oatmeal topped with berries…you name it. And it worked.
My increase wasn’t massive and I didn’t suddenly jump up to producing 8oz. a pump session (or anywhere close to that), but I did see about a half an ounce increase in each pump session which, over the course of the day, actually does add up!
One big thing to keep in mind is that when your supply is naturally low, it’s very possible that your increase will be small, if you have one at all. It’s not a bad idea to try a bunch of different boosters and see if one works for you and your body. Everyone is a little different, so the same things don’t necessarily work for everyone.
3. Celebrate the Small Victories
Building up a breastmilk freezer stash when you have a naturally low milk supply isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen quickly.
Every half ounce, every quarter ounce that you produce is something that you should be proud of. Think of your expressed milk that way.
Mentally change “Dang it, I only pumped half an ounce.” to “Woohoo! Another half ounce for my baby!”
It may seem a little bit silly, but a mindset change can actually reduce your stress and anxiety (which is already higher than normal when you’re taking care of a new baby), and a reduce in stress and anxiety can, in turn, help you relax and express more milk. And we could use ALL the help we can get in that department, am I right? 😉
Were you able to successfully build up a breastmilk freezer stash, even though you had a low supply? How’d you do it?