What's the plan for all this frozen breastmilk?
July 20, 2007 3:57 PM   Subscribe

What is the plan for all this frozen breastmilk I am saving?

As instructed by the lactation consultant, I have been duly pumping breastmilk as well as breastfeeding since my son was born. He feeds on demand, and I produce about 5 or 6oz of "excess" breastmilk a day, which goes into the freezer. Its taking over the freezer now (its a pretty small freezer), and I am starting to wonder what exactly I'm saving it for. As I understand it, frozen breastmilk has a 3 month shelf life, so I am going to have to start doing something with the first lots in about a month's time. I presume I will cycle the oldest bags out, defrost and feed to him at night (when we give him bottles of breastmilk while I pump, because its about 10x faster than breastfeeding him). Will I gradually use up the supplies as he demands more and more milk as he grows, or will i just have a freezer full of milk until I wean him? I plan to return to work in October, and will try and pump at work. How did you use up your stash of frozen breastmilk? What should my plan be?
posted by Joh to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
lactation consultant

If you have one of those (what the hell is a lactation consultant, anyway?), isn't that whom you should be asking?
posted by dersins at 4:12 PM on July 20, 2007

you're only saving enough for emergencies when you're not available to breastfeed. the more you pump, the more you'll produce. don't fill your freezer, there's no point.

i figure you were told to pump to get your supply up. and have an emergency store. if you've got a good supply, there's no need to pump daily.

how old is your munchkin by the way? i'm figuring he's a little thing... but when he's started solids you can make icecream from breastmilk for him. i've seen a recipe somewhere, you could google it. just make sure you label it correctly, human milk icecream would be seriously icky for a grownup, i reckon.

great you've got a good supply... i'm bloody jealous!
posted by taff at 4:18 PM on July 20, 2007

Best answer: Seconding taff on the embarrassment of riches front - consider yourself lucky indeed.
If you're supply is steady - I don't think you need to keep pumping every day - but I would check in with the lactation consultant.
You'll want to have a supply ready when you go back to work - so maybe take a break for a few months - then start pumping in anticipation of going back to the office a bit closer to the date. When you go back to the office and are pumping - you will find it likely that your supply will start to decrease. It wasn't that long before I was pumping less than my daughter was eating while I was away from her. I would pump while she was sleeping to make up the difference and eventually not even that was enough and we had to start supplementing.

That said - what to do with the milk you have? Start taking some time for yourself and let your partner or other person feed your little one with your frozen milk. A date night? Maybe a long lunch with some girlfriends. If your supply is stable than you should be fine skipping a feeding here and there and letting someone else take over.

Another option is a milk bank. If it doesn't weird you out you might want to see if there is one in your area.
posted by Wolfie at 4:19 PM on July 20, 2007

lactation consultants are dedicated midwives who consult on lactation and its myriad joys, pains and tragedies. surprise surprise.

and in my land, they cost about eighty bucks an hour. i can see why joh wouldn't want to contact her lactation consultant in the first instance.

here we have clinic nurses, who are free.... they're often midwives and mothers too.... and we see them vaguely reqularly... they're veritable fonts of helpful information. i can highly recommend them.
posted by taff at 4:24 PM on July 20, 2007

If it doesn't weird you out you might want to see if there is one in your area.

and if it does try ebay? I just thinking aloud here but it might be an option.
posted by krautland at 4:25 PM on July 20, 2007

My sister had your same problem - we called her the Dairy Queen.

I did a little googling on the possibility of making human cheese... not feasible in case you were wondering. It takes gallons of milk to make a rather small amount of cheese.
posted by clh at 4:38 PM on July 20, 2007

First, enjoy the excess supply. Not all women can achieve enough, much less an excess, so you're already ahead of the game.

You'll know what you're pumping extra for when you get sick, or have to travel, or get in a car accident and spend the night in the hospital. Obviously I hope (as do you) that none of these things ever happen, but you're taking advantage of your excess to bank a safety net. When illness/injury/travel or other things intervene, you'll still have other worries, but one of them will *not* be "how will my child get the nutrition he needs?"

By the way, if you end up tossing some of it (or you're about to), it's no tragedy; the act of pumping it in and of itself helped keep your flow up, and that is benefit enough.
posted by davejay at 4:47 PM on July 20, 2007

A couple things to be aware of - many freezers routinely cycle back and forth above and below freezing to keep down the frost. Great for your freezer, but bad for frozen milk. Second, frozen milk, IIRC, is good for 6 months if it doesn't cycle.

Our first wouldn't nurse (long story), so Mrs. Plinth pumped for twins and we froze it. When things started going funky, we found out about the frost-free cycling and bought a chest freezer, which she filled. Our baby had breast milk for a full year, well beyond the time that Mrs. Plinth was pumping. Consider it liquid gold and something that can be used when you're too tired or want a night off.
posted by plinth at 4:48 PM on July 20, 2007

Best answer: I thought frozen breastmilk was only good for 2 months, but perhaps the community health nurses here in Vancouver are more cautious. (If you have a good freezer, I'm sure 3 months is fine.)

It sounds like the consultant had you pump to build up your milk supply -- did you have a modest supply in the beginning? I wouldn't feel compelled to use the milk. If you are feeling generous, you could ship (frozen) some of the milk to a milk bank. You could given your baby mushy frozen milk, but then that's interfering with your natural supply. If you have no plans for someone else to give the baby a bottle, you probably don't need a huge supply in the freezer. Sure, it might be nice to have some on hand for an emergency but most 3-month-olds who aren't on bottles regularly would rather just wait for mom to come home (depending on when the last feed was). Unless you're ending up in the hospital or planning to be away for more than a couple of hours, you probably don't need all this milk. You might want to consider pumping less often, if your supply is good.

I had a huge supply of milk and I had to pump a ton because I was going to have various medical procedures and surgery. In the end, we only ever needed to give our baby one bottle (which he took after waiting it out, because he preferred the breast). It was too hard to safely ship the frozen milk to a milk bank, so I reluctantly dumped it as it expired.
posted by acoutu at 5:04 PM on July 20, 2007

The occasions I used pumped milk were:
1) A 1-day hospital stay for baby cocoa where they wanted to feed him after a sugery but I wasn't yet able to see him.
2) Traveling. I would pump in the back seat and then feed the little guy, which meant that we didn't have to pull over. You would only need to pump around the same time if you were concerned about supply.
3) Afternoons off! I started using a babysitter two afternoons a week and she was able to give him a bottle. Also on Saturdays when Mr. Cocoa is the primary parent, he would bottle feed.

That said, I still have breast milk in the freezer and Baby Cocoa is 2 (and no longer breast feeding). I was a little overeager in putting aside my stash.

By the way, put the milk toward the back and as low as possible in the freezer and you'll easily get 6mo out of it. If you don't already know about kellymom.com then you should head over there. Life saver.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:11 PM on July 20, 2007

Another alternative is to donate it to an organization which helps moms who can't produce enough milk for their babies.

This is one. http://www.breastfeeding.com/promotions/nmb_signup.html
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:17 PM on July 20, 2007

I'm sure there are a lot of sick fucks out there who are ready to pay good money for that, there's no limit to weird human fetishes. if it doesn't creep you out too much, consider that.
posted by matteo at 5:32 PM on July 20, 2007

Best answer: I never used mine - kept it until it expired and then tossed it. You can use it for mixin with cereal when baby's on solids but other than that I preferred to go "fresh" so saved it for emergencies that never happened.
posted by MiffyCLB at 5:48 PM on July 20, 2007

The International Breast Milk Project - The International Breast Milk Project is the first organization in the world to provide donor breast milk from the United States to babies orphaned by disease and poverty in Africa.
posted by probablysteve at 6:10 PM on July 20, 2007

Make cheese.
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:26 PM on July 20, 2007

Although the eBay comment is probably facetious, just in case it isn't--anyone using the milk for non-perverse reasons would not want to do this because milk is a bodily fluid and, as such, the donor needs to be carefully screened for diseases and the like.

One note of caution. I just found out that a huge batch of my stored milk is sour because I have lipase issues. You might want to test it occasionally to make sure it's good before you decide what to do with it. I had to taste mine before I figured it out. Kind of weird, but it's the only way I can tell. (And now I feel all guilty for trying to feed the baby sour milk, poor guy.)

If your LC is anything like the ones I've worked with, she'll be happy to answer this question over the phone free of charge. But you could also attend a local La Leche League meeting or just call a local leader to chat; they provide help for free. The LLL folks in my area are super nice and not at all preachy in the way I feared "lactivists" might be. They do this stuff on their own time because they care about it.
posted by Herkimer at 7:24 PM on July 20, 2007

Mrs. true pumps and donates the excess to a milk bank - they send her a box and she sends them about 100oz at a time packed in dry ice. This particular bank will take up to 6mo old frozen milk, but it probably varies by location.
posted by true at 7:44 PM on July 20, 2007

Best answer: I went back to work when my son was about 4 months old. I very rapidly depleted my frozen milk stash which caused great stress. Trying to pump enough at work and then trying to catch up at night is exhausting. I agree that it sounds like you do not need to pump as much, but I would recommend replacing what you do have as you use it. Definitely use some of it for a much needed break from a feeding here and there. Also, as your baby grows, you will most likely find he or she will nurse much more efficiently and become a lot faster than your pump.
posted by peeps! at 7:48 PM on July 20, 2007

Response by poster: Taff, yes he's only 8 weeks old. He was born extremely small (5lbs 10oz), so perhaps his demand is below usual, hence all the excess. I was definitely pumping to build up supply fast, since he needed everything he could get in order to put on weight.

Sadly I'm ineligible to donate to the milk bank, since I used to live in the UK, and as such I'm clearly riddled with mad cow disease :(

Herkimer, I will check that out when I defrost, thanks for the tip.

Also, how do I tell if my freezer is the sort that cycles?

I guess I will cut back a bit on the pumping in order to save space in the freezer for ice cream. Thanks for all the suggestions and experiences, keep them coming!
posted by Joh at 7:50 PM on July 20, 2007

ooo-ooo-I know!

Any freezer that doesn't build up frost is cycling it's temperature (that's why we modern housewives don't spend afternoons defrosting freezers and get to Mefi all the day ;)). Wow, never thought that would ever come in handy ;)!
posted by MiffyCLB at 8:05 PM on July 20, 2007

Kellymom suggests 3 months for freezing breastmilk. They say it's only okay to go longer if you have a separate deep freeze. (I don't know if a chest freezer counts...no pun intended.)
posted by acoutu at 9:44 PM on July 20, 2007

Best answer: LaLeche League would be DELIGHTED to hook you up with a mom who can't produce enough to exclusively breastfeed. (Like me. ;( I spend a lot of time on the mothering.com message boards and the ladies on the breastfeeding boards can also hook you up with someone in your city who needs it.
posted by pomegranate at 7:28 AM on July 21, 2007

My mum is a lactation consultant, and I have spent a lot of time nannying my baby cousins. When My cousin Gigi was a baby I babysat her every week, and would defrost some frozen breast milk to fill her bottle with.

Just checked with Mum, and she says that as long as you have a good supply (which you sound like you do) there is no reason to continue to express, and the milk can be used for 3 months if its been in a deep freeze.

It seems to me to be a good idea to keep some for emergencies, but don't stress if you don't use all the milk you've stored - the great thing about breast milk is it doesn't cost you anything! (well, except time)

Hope that helps!
posted by jonathanstrange at 3:23 PM on July 22, 2007

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