Got Milk?
October 26, 2011 7:39 AM   Subscribe

How much breastmilk do I really need to send to daycare each day? And how much should I have in the freezer? And all sorts of other questions.

Little Miss is five weeks old. Last week I started pumping to build my freezer stash. It took me about five days to get the first 2 ozs in the freezer. In the last two days, I've gotten 2 ozs in for a total of 4 overall now.

I pump primarily after a feeding or during a feeding. If after a feeding, I get about 0.25 oz from both sides combined. If during, I get almost 0.5 oz from the side she's not eating on. I pump anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes, and at night try to pump a bit longer. I try to be consistent about the time for at least three of my pumping sessions each day and squeeze the others in when I can. But it's hard with both the baby and the toddler.

I'm worried about what how much I'm getting out now means for when I go back to work. I know right now she's eating all the time or using me for a pacifier and that she's most likely a frequent snacker -- taking a lot of short frequent meals rather than a few big ones so there really is no in between feedings time, except when she's asleep in the sling which is when I get Toddler Zizzle out of the house for a few hours for his sake. All this is likely contributing to how much I can pump in any given day right now, but when I hear that women are pumping entire bottles in ten minutes, I get concerned about how much I'll be able to pump at work. I'm fortunate in that if necessary I can do shorter more frequent pumping sessions if I need to at my job rather than three twenty minute sessions.

But as for what to send to daycare, I've read to send anywhere from 12 oz, divided into 3 or 4 bottles, and as much as 20 oz divided into 5 bottles to daycare every day. What really do I need to send? If I can pump an oz a day until I go back to work, that'll give me enough for the first day plus around 20 oz in the freezer, but won't leave much for testing out bottles before hand, though I'm hoping to pump more each session as I get used to the pump and to maybe up my oz/day to 1.5 or 2/day gradually during the rest of my leave.

I currently use a Medela Pump-in-Style-Advance, and it's new. I also need a larger flange size, so I got that and I play with the suction levels and going back and forth between the let-down mode and the suck mode. I also have an Avent manual pump that I have found to sometimes be faster, though I still get about the same output and it's harder on my hands. I'll continue to experiment with both.

I think it's important to also mention that Little Miss is a slow, but healthy, gainer. Her lowest weight two days after birth was 7lbs90z. Her birthweight was 8lbs. She's about 8lbs5ozs now and she did gain an inch in length since birth. No one from the LC to our nurse practitioner is concerned about how much she is gaining since she is just perfect and looks it otherwise, unlike her brother at this age who wasn't gaining and didn't look good. And once those issues were resolved, he never was a chubby baby, either, so I think my husband and I produce leaner babies.

And as of now, I go back to work December 5th, but I may be able to stretch it out until the beginning of January depending on how much sick/vacation time I have left.

Toddler Zizzle's significant weight issues necessitated putting him on formula by 14 weeks old, so this is all new stuff for me. I'm not having any supply problems this time.
posted by zizzle to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Ask your daycare. They'll best know if you need to send in more or less.

Be careful about freezing in that frost free freezers cycle the temperature above and below freezing. This will shorten the lifespan of frozen breast milk.

Mrs. Plinth, ever in the school of "if a little is good, a lot must be better", pumped enough milk for twins for 6 months, thereby providing 12 months of milk (our first didn't nurse well, but did better drinking from a bottle). We had to buy a chest freezer, which she filled. I swear, I am not making this up. You don't need to do this.

Our second thrived on both homegrown and formula. No big deal.
posted by plinth at 7:45 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

She is about to hit the 6 week growth spurt, hence the constant nursing. Building up your supply. Keep pumping when you can, I also had more luck pumping during a feeding. Once her growth spurt hits, you'll be able to pump a little more and things will settle down. At least until she starts getting ready for the one at 12 weeks. :-) Look at for lots of info about the growth spurts and pumping. You're doing great mom!
posted by pearlybob at 7:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry if this is obvious and not what you're asking: Now you're only pumping the extra milk after feeding a baby. When you're back at work and the baby is drinking bottles, you should be pumping an entire feeding's worth. So it'll add up really fast. In theory, you are just pumping enough for the first few days of daycare plus some extra for backup or growth spurts. When you're working you'll pump each day for the milk for the next day at daycare.
posted by artychoke at 7:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

For a week or two before you go back to work, you could try having your husband bottle-feed her with your expressed milk once or twice a day so she gets used to it. You'll be able to see how much she drinks during those feeding sessions and that will help you know how much milk to send to daycare. (Amount she drinks at one feeding x number of feedings she will need while she's away from you)

This is just my opinion based on personal experience and anecdotes from friends, but I think regardless of what kind of pump you use or how your supply is when you're nursing, women vary widely in terms of how much they produce when pumping. With my first kid, I was able to pump 6-8 ounces at each pumping session. With kid #2, I got about 2-4 ounces. We ended up supplementing with formula after a while because I couldn't keep up with the pumping. As you know, it's not the end of the world.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:09 AM on October 26, 2011

If I recall correctly, West would go through about 15 oz of milk/formula at daycare every day. I know for a fact that I'd send in a small bottle of pumped milk, about 5 oz., every day, and for the rest he got formula (the # of formula ounces was around 10-ish, give or take). I found I could reliably pump 5-8 oz every day, pumping once a day for 15 minutes. Just as a data point, I was never able to pump much when I was on maternity leave (admittedly didn't try -that- hard because the pump, I hates it with a fiery passion), but saw my pump output increase once I was back at work.

If it were me, I'd bring in a few more bottles than I thought necessary the first day, with smaller quantities distributed in each, so that if she doesn't go through all of them you can keep them there for the next day, and after a week or so you should get the flow of how many she goes through.

I hope the transition to bottle feeding goes smoothly for you, it was a... struggle, to say the least, for us. Days of my maternity leave in the last week or two were comprised almost entirely of screaming (from the baby, not me, though sometimes I felt like it) because dude was hungry and did not want bottles. If you need an ear to listen you know how to find me!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 8:20 AM on October 26, 2011

I panicked two weeks before I went back to work b/c my frozen supply was nil. My goal was to have a one-week surplus before going back to work. My daughter was also a constant snacker, making pumping challenging! We tried a bottle at 6 weeks just to get her used to it, but after that she took a bottle maybe 2-3 times a week till I went back to work (at 12 weeks) b/c I didn't want to waste my surplus!

The amount that you'll be able to pump at work may be wildly variable depending on time of day (I could get 5-6 oz first thing but maybe only 2 oz later on), while my good friend could pump 8 oz in 10 min 3x day. I tend to be pretty militant about breastfeeding vs formula so I was very committed to pumping, which meant that I pumped 3x day at work plus 1-2x overnight ... but I'm not sure if I'd do the same with a second kid, b/c SLEEP IS SO PRECIOUS!!!

Basically, what artychoke said is dead on -- when you're pumping while you're at work, you'll likely get a lot more b/c you'll be pumping EVERYTHING.

As far as how much to send to daycare -- what worked for me (b/c of her snacky nature) was to send 5 frozen bags of 3 oz each (when she was little). She never even came close to drinking 15 oz in a day when she was that young, but it made me feel more comfortable.
posted by oh really at 8:25 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have my kid's daycare eating records here (I didn't save them - in his "storybook" they pasted in special days' sheets):
Age 4 months: 3 4 oz. bottles a day
Age 10 months: toast and apple, 2 oz. bottle, 4 oz. bottle, applesauce, 4 oz. bottle
Age 1 year: oatmeal apples, 1/2 oz bottle, 2 oz. bottle, cheese, yogurt, crackers
Age 1.5 years: quesdillas, apples, cottage cheese, yogurt, 3 oz. bottle

As I recall, I sent 4 4 oz. bottles of pumped milk when he was little (and often 1 bottle would stay in the fridge until the next day, but I wanted one just in case) and then I'd send 3 when he was a little older. And then on Thursday night, I'd check to see what the inventory was before bottling it up. And we also had formula there in case something happened or dad forgot the milk bag.

IMHO, at this point, there is no need to build your freezer stash too much. I'd personally just start pumping once she's in daycare at about the same times that you would have when she ate at home.
posted by k8t at 8:33 AM on October 26, 2011

This is just a datapoint, but some babies do what's called "reverse cycling" where they don't eat all that much during the day when they're away from you, but then they make up for it in the evenings / overnight by nursing up a storm. This is the kind of baby I have.

He literally only goes through 2-3 of these 2.7-oz bottles per day and always has. I was so worried about how much to bring to the sitter's on my first day back at work (when Baby Rabbit was nine weeks old) so I made sure to have ten of those bottles, PLUS a few of the frozen 5-oz bags because you just have NO IDEA how much your baby eats when you breastfeed, it's not like your boobs have a gauge on them, amirite? has guidelines for how much milk a baby needs which may help you.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:41 AM on October 26, 2011

If you're concerned about the output you're getting with your pump, you might get better output from a hospital-grade pump. If you tell your doctor or midwife that you're having supply issues, often they can get you such a pump for free or cheap through your insurance. It's very stressful when you know there's milk in your boobs but you can't get it out--and pumping under pressure is awful! So I say get the best equipment you can and see if it helps.
posted by tetralix at 8:53 AM on October 26, 2011

I made an LC say "wow!" when I told her how much milk I got out of a typical session, but I only ever achieved those feats at work (The LC said that an average mom gets 2 oz per side per session when away from the kid). Mine's a snacker like yours and on the first half-day away I had 6 ounces after pumping every chance I got for a few weeks. It also took my body a while to get used to letting down for the pump, which may happen for you. Things really got going smoothly after a week or two at work.

To figure out what he needed, we did a trial run one afternoon--my husband took the baby for 4 hours, I pumped twice and slept, and we basically just poured that pumped milk right into the baby. It was good for number-checking, good for the luxurious nap, and also good to see that I could make more than a teaspoon at a go.

Amounts to send are really variable. 20 oz of breast milk for a 3 month old sounds like a lot (that might be a formula number, which is a totally different beast.) T was on the far upper end for these things because he's a big guy that *loves* milk, and was in the 15 oz/day range, and was getting about 20 at 6.5 months when we started sending solids. The daycare was able to store an extra frozen bag in their freezer for emergencies, they only ended up using it once or twice, I think it was a growth spurt time and I was running late to pick him up.

And, everyone has a different idea of an appropriate freezer stash. I was just barely keeping up at the very beginning, as I said, and ended up a little bit ahead by the 4 or 5 month mark (maybe 30 ounces, enough so that if something terrible happened and I needed to be away from him for a day, he'd have enough.) By the time he was doing well with solids I was down to absolutely none because I wasn't keeping up and we'd had a couple of bottles go to waste for various reasons. Then he took to solids, and often didn't take one of his bottles at daycare, so I banked the extra. I maxed out around 80 ounces and then just started pumping less. I'm actually using up that stash right now as I pump wean (he's a year old in less than a week). I'm planning to leave 5-10 ounces in the freezer in case I'm not there at bedtime, but that's about it. Some moms feel safer having a wall o' milk, though.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:07 AM on October 26, 2011

Pumping info from my wife's lactation consultant:

* when pumping, start fast with light pressure, and when the milk lets down, slow down but increase pressure. This is (typically) what babies do).

* babies (typically) feed every 3 hours, and are often hungrier in the afternoon/evening (between 5 and 9pm with baby light thief)

* mothers produce little around midnight, but a lot at 3 or 4am. You could rest at midnight and bottle feed, then breastfeed + pump at 3 or 4.

*moms produce based on demand - if you breastfeed and pump more, you (should) produce more.

Mrs. light thief has highs and lows - she was getting a good store of frozen milk stashed, but had some slow days and we used a bunch from the fridge. We have formula as a back-up (her midwife/doc says that giving baby even a bit of breastmilk with mostly formula will supply "90% of the benefit" of breastfeeding).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2011

In addition to the great advice in this thread, please call 1-877-4-LALECHE to speak with a volunteer like my wife, who is or was a breastfeeding mommy, in your area, who has been through this before. It sounds to me like you're doing everything right, your baby and your body know what they need. Those estimates for how much milk to send to daycare sounds a little high, even, so you'll be fine.
posted by Straw Cab at 9:32 AM on October 26, 2011

This might sound weird, but make sure you send slow flow nipples to daycare, even when Little Miss is a bit older. When my little guy was 6 months old, they were telling me I needed to send more milk (I was already sending four 4-5oz bottles) until I realized that there were some medium flow nipples mixed into our stash. Once I weeded them out, I started getting one full bottle back every day (and still do at 8 months).

Also, file for future reference: many women (at least, me and several other nursing moms I work with) hit a pretty major supply dip around 7-8 months. Seems to be a combination of starting solid foods + return of the period hormones. I'm not a huge fan of herbal supplements, but Fenugreek is BRILLIANT for keeping your supply up.
posted by somanyamys at 10:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

One more thing... I know that the whole formula vs. breastmilk thing is really touchy, blah blah blah. But I found that I was actually able to pump MORE milk once I gave myself permission to supplement with formula if I had to (stress/worry is a major supply killer for me).
posted by somanyamys at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2011

Zizzle, you are doing an amazing job! Keep up the good work. A few tips, courtesy of my IBCLC:

-- The three tenets for successful long-term breastfeeding are: establish, maintain and protect your supply.

1) frequency > duration. Right now, the baby is doing a great job of boosting your supply by wanting to nurse frequently. This will slow down as the baby gets older and will want to nurse every three hours or so while awake.
2) You can help maintain the supply when you return to work by pumping as frequently as the baby nurses.
3) Protect the supply by nursing/pumping frequently, and avoiding foods with mint or sage which can reduce supply. Yes, this means is especially hard as we head into the holidays, with Thanksgiving dressing/stuffing and Christmas candy canes and bark.

Kellymom can help with exactly how much to send. We found it helpful to send a small 1-2oz "snack bottle", when the baby might have a four hour stretch from the last full bottle to dinner.

somanyamys is right about the slow flow nipples. They prevent overfeeding, satisfy a baby's need to suck, and can help reduce spit up due to overfeeding.

My LC also suggested that a good freezer stash is as little as a day's worth. Just be sure to lay the bags flat -- for storage space and to put less pressure on the seams!
posted by hmo at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'll want to join this Yahoo Group for excellent pumping advice:

And by all means buy, borrow or steal these flanges because they are much, much more comfortable and may help you produce more milk:

You will also want to ask your daycare what their policy is on DISCARDING MILK. Some daycares do not return or save milk that you send if the baby doesn't drink it.

And finally, it's not the end of the world if baby zizzle ends up drinking a bottle of formula every now and then. You may prefer to have him drink a bottle of formula rather than send a bottle of breastmilk to the daycare with him if that breastmilk will go down the drain. The important thing is, if you want to keep up your supply, for you to keep pumping while you are separated.

Good luck and enjoy!
posted by bq at 11:07 AM on October 26, 2011

We hired a LC to help me figure this stuff out and I found her so reassuring. My LC had decades of experience and said that it was super common for women to have ample milk for their baby, but have a harder time producing for the pump. Nursing is a complex biological/emotional/hormonal thing, and I think the way people kind of blithely act as though you will easily be able to produce just as much milk for the pump as you do for the baby is not all that helpful. Or accurate.

My takeaways from my talks with the LC: a full supply for a nursing mother is 24 ounces per 24 hours. So a handy rule of thumb is that your baby will need about one ounce per every hour they're away from you. (Something you may have to talk to your childcare provider about, if people are used to the big formula bottles.) She reminded me to "send what you pump", whether or not that seems like "enough". As long as you're semi-close to the 1 ounce per hour rule, your baby can shift his or her heavy feeding times to when they're with you.

In pumping discussions I always got really freaked out by women who were like "Oh, I pump like 20 ounces in a session!" when I would work so hard to get like two ounces, but after a lot of research I decided that I am actually a much more common thing in terms of response to the pump than women who have a really easy time. Or, as the LC said, when I tearfully admitted that I had a hard time making enough milk for the pump and it was really worrying to me, "Oh honey. Everybody feels that way."

Good luck!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:52 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

First off, just keep pumping. You've already more than doubled your output in the first week. Eventually your body should start making more for the increased demand.

Can you pump one side before a feeding? First thing in the morning? That way you get at the milk when you are fullest and bursting at the seams (or was it just me that felt that way?) and the weakness or ineffectiveness of the pump's suction won't matter as much. Then feed your daughter with the other breast, because her suck is more powerful, and more likely to produce a second letdown, if she needs more than one breast's worth. This was more or less my technique. I fed her on one side and pumped on the other as soon as we got up in the morning, after I'd had a few hours rest to to re-fill. (My daughter was also an all-day snacker, so the longest time between feedings was probably 4 - 9 am-ish.) I was one of those women who pumped really easily, though, and make other moms feel bad.

I wouldn't worry too much about having a huge stockpile. You basically need to be a day ahead, plus an extra couple days worth in case of illness or growth spurt. I had a three month supply left in the freezer when my daughter weaned. (I think I really went for it because it was the one thing I knew for sure I was doing well as a mom.) Once she was off the breast she very quickly lost interest in breastmilk from a bottle or sippy cup so I had to dump it all down the drain. It just about killed me.
posted by looli at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2011

Wow! You are doing a lot of pumping! I am impressed! That takes a lot of dedication.

My numbers agree approximately with the one oz per hour rule. My 7-month old is in daycare from 9-5:30. I send 8-11 oz, split into three bottles. He usually eats it all. I was concerned that he needed more, so I sent some extra a few times. He did not eat the extra. The amount he drinks has not changed with the introduction of solids, although we are taking it really slow. My baby is largish.

I have no freezer stash at all. We wasted it all teaching the baby to use a bottle. Instead, I have a small amount of formula I keep at daycare and at home just in case. I used it once when I left my expressed milk in the car all night.

I also like the pumpinpal flanges.

Finally, I second the advice to pump before feeding a couple times to build up a small stash. The baby will be more effective at getting out what the pump leaves behind. My baby has never seemed dissatisfied with what he got while nursing, even if I had pumped beforehand.

Good luck!
posted by pizzazz at 1:52 PM on October 26, 2011

I did 16 oz for the first few days, split into 4 bottles. This was too much for my little one, and I ended up going down to 3 oz in each bottle before too long. Sending frozen was also huge, they were happy to store it, and it took some pressure off. I hated the idea of it getting

Also, I know this isn't the question you're asking, but the PIS was awful for me. If you have the $30 to drop on a hospital rental, you might want to try it. I went from being able to pump less than an ounce, to pumping two to three ounces after a nursing session. And it felt less, um... pinchy, than the Medela PIS.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:27 PM on October 26, 2011

Wow! I'm impressed by your pumping schedule - with Kid#2 I also found it harder to find time to pump. I think I ended up doing a morning pump session every day during her nap while I was on leave, and after I went back to work I pretty much just pumped at work.

Agreed that Kellymom has wonderful info about ounces, etc. One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet here is that the composition of your breastmilk will change as baby grows. My 2nd baby pretty much took the same amount of milk every day through the first 8 months, and I never added formula in the afternoon for her like I did for her older brother (and she was a bruiser). So quantity really doesn't matter as much for breastmilk as it does for formula. That's something to communicate to day care staff, too.

I'm sure you've heard/read about eating oatmeal and drinking mother's milk tea -- those two things gave me a nice boost when supply would drop, and it wouldn't hurt to try them if you want to. In general though I think 5 weeks is still pretty early to be pumping much. If she's nursing a lot right now, your supply will increase with the demand. Rest, eat well, and enjoy her for now. The milk will come! :)
posted by hms71 at 7:33 PM on October 26, 2011

Good point hms71, taking herbal supplements made a huge difference in my output. I took 'Lactation Blend'.
posted by bq at 8:58 PM on October 26, 2011

Response by poster: Okay. So, based on an oz/hour, I'd need 9 day for daycare, and since I take public transportation, I can nurse her on the commute.

But I'll probably send 12 for the first week to see -- assuming I can pump that much.

Our daycare is really good with breastfed babies (oz at a time unless baby shows signs of wanting more), but they won't store milk overnight as it's an in home daycare and their fridge is, well, their fridge.

I'm really familiar with the herbal supplements and oatmeal. Was on all of them last time, and I will definitely pick some up for going back to work. Oatmeal has been a HUGE booster this time though last time it, and everything else, didn't do a thing.

And thanks for the Kellymom reminder. I remember it being difficult to navigate, so the direct links are helpful.
posted by zizzle at 5:34 AM on October 27, 2011

FWIW, 1 oz/hr seems really low to me. I send usually 3 5 oz bottles to daycare for young master McTootsalot. At four months old, he eats that and more some days. I just barely keep up with his demand. I pump three times a day at work and get between 4-6 oz per pump session, and sometimes I go in and nurse him at lunch. He is a GIANT baby though, in both height and weight, so he eats a lot. And he doesn't nap much, so he's often awake and hungry.

He's also a snacker, and so I also had problems building up a milk supply before I went back to work. (But I do feel like part of my success was, in the beginning, just letting him use me as a human pacifier for a while. It really built up my milk supply.) And then after I went back to work, our first day care provider was horrible about wasting breastmilk. One day she told me how she wasted about 6 oz, as if it were nothing. Part of me died a little inside.

Anyways, my only advice is that if you have to supplement with a bottle or two of formula a day, just accept it and don't fret. Pumping can be a pain. I wish you much luck with it, but I despise it, it's unnatural, can give blisters, and I don't produce near as much as I do with him. What thehmsbeagle says about pumping is spot on.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2011

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