Well this is a new category of posts to ever publish on the Against all Grain blog! You all have been asking my strategies and opinions on it all, and while I am in no means an expert, I have now breastfed and pumped for 3 babies (2 of which while eating a paleo diet). So I wanted to give you whatever knowledge I have!
First up, I'm giving you my tips on pumping and storing breastmilk. I have received so many questions through Instagram and Facebook regarding this subject, so I wanted to start with this. This post will include:
When to Pump and Building a Stash
Eco-friendly and Plastic-Free Storage
I also have a post coming up next week from my friends at Whole30 on maintaining a good supply while eating a grain-free diet or participating in a Whole30, as well as some recipes to help boost your supply.
If there's anything I don't cover in those 3 posts, let me know in the comments and I will work on getting those questions answered for you in future posts!
I used the Medela Pump In Style for both of my boys but recently switched to the newer Medela Sonata for Kezia. I always found the Pump in Style cumbersome and loud, plus I cannot tell you how many times my batteries were dead when I was traveling and desperately needed to pump.
This double-electric breast pump is designed for moms who pump several times a day. It’s super quiet (like really quiet!!) and lightweight compared to my old pump. The hospital performance makes for consistent and efficient pumping sessions, and it’s really easy to operate. I also really appreciate that it can run on a rechargeable battery. If I charge it overnight, I can usually get 3 or 4 pumping sessions out of it before having to plug it in again.
The only downside I've seen so far is there are a few extra parts to wash and put back together overtime, and a little more milk seems to get stuck in the connector and valve than my old pump. Every drop counts! Am I right?!
You can buy it here, but first check with your insurance to see if they cover this machine or not. With Asher, I paid out of pocket for my pump, and was so happy to hear it was covered when I needed a new one for Easton. This particular model wasn't covered by my insurance when I checked back in May, but it has been worth the cost.
When to Pump and Building a Stash
My favorite site for all things breastfeeding and pumping is Kellymom.com. I'm not going to try to answer all the questions you may generally have about breastfeeding or pumping, because this site is so detailed and helpful, and can answer most of these better than I could!
I am so thankful for a job that allows me the luxury of working from home and getting to breastfeed for most of my baby's feedings throughout the day. I do travel occasionally though, and often have phone calls or meetings, so I try to keep a stash of milk in my freezer for the times when she needs a bottle. I also like to have excess milk for those evenings when I feel like I've run dry and she's famished, or for date nights.
Once my supply has leveled off after birth, usually around a month or 2 months, I start pumping in the morning after the first feeding. I do 10 to 15 minutes of double pumping (both breasts at one time), and start saving up a couple of ounces at a time. At the beginning, I'm usually only able to pump 1-2 ounces total, but after a few weeks of doing this, I can typically get 2-3 ounces.
When the baby starts sleeping a little better and goes to bed before me at night, I also add a pumping session right before I go to bed. Depending on when she ate last, I can get 3-4 ounces during this one. I just have to cross my fingers she doesn't wake up for a few hours after I've pumped so I don't have to warm a bottle and get to stash the milk in the freezer rather than “wasting” it! Am I the only crazy person who sees giving their baby the milk they so painstakingly pumped as wasteful? Ha!
Another trick I learned along the way was to take a 15 minute break after 10-15 minutes of pumping, and start again to see if you can get a second let down. I can stockpile a few extra ounces this way, which is nice to have as a safety net. It will also help to increase your supply.
By doing this everyday, I can be sure to always have a good supply of around 150 ounces a month in the freezer. This helps ease my mind for any last minute trips I may have to take, or long days away from my home office where I may not be able to bring milk back right away for her to drink.
How to Store
Green storage was important for me this time around. I switched to stainless steel bottles for Easton, but didn't even think about the fact that I was pumping into plastic bottles and storing in plastic bags. Even though they were BPA-free, they are still plastic and warm liquid plus hundreds of runs through the dishwasher could cause them to leach. So I set out to find a better alternative and have had a good experience so far.
I bought these 4-ounce glass bottles to pump into instead of the ones that come with the machine. I also have the 8-ounce bottles for storing in the refrigerator. You could also use them to pump into if you have a huge output. It does look a little funny hanging down though, and makes it hard to move since they'll hit the tops of your thighs when seated!
Any standard sized bottle neck (not wide mouth) will work with your pump parts, but these ones were the most cost effective and felt sturdy and not easily breakable. If I'm leaving milk in the refrigerator, I will store directly in these bottles. The yellow plastic lids from the original pump bottles fit on here perfectly if you don't want to store them with the nipple top that comes with them.
When I freeze, I pour the milk into these 1.5-ounce silicon molds. I originally purchased a mold that had 2.5-ounce cavities, but found that they took too long to defrost and also didn't fit well in my bottles. The bottom of these molds is really sturdy so I don't have to freeze them on top of a tray or anything. Plus the silicone lid closes tightly over the top to prevent spillage or freezer burn.
After I have filled up a tray and frozen it, I pop the cubes out of the mold and put them in a resealable bag or a big glass tupperware and label it with painters tape with the date range that the milk was from. I know a ziploc may seem counterintuitive, but from what I have read, it's one of the safer plastics to use with food, plus since the milk is already frozen, I'm not as worried about leaching.
When I plan in advance, I take 5 or 6 of the cubes out of the freezer and put them into the bottle. I place the bottle in the refrigerator overnight so they can defrost slowly, and then just warm it when needed. If I need a bottle quickly and haven't defrosted any milk, the cubes also defrost really quickly in a mason jar set in a bowl of boiling water. The molds can be used for baby food or even popsicles later, so they'll get double use after I'm done nursing.
I love these Como Tomo bottles, especially when I'm using my frozen milk cubes. The wide necks allow me to place them in there frozen, rather than defrosting in a separate vessel then transferring to the bottle, and Kezia seems to really love the silicone feeling of the bottle. I also have a set of these wide-neck glass bottles that we use some of the time. A wide neck bottle also makes cleaning so much easier.
I still do occasionally use the pumping plastic storage bags if I'm traveling, since they're the most compact and I can freeze them flat for easier transporting back home. But I feel a lot better knowing that the majority of the milk she gets won't touch any plastic (besides the pump parts briefly). It's definitely a more involved process than pumping directly into a freezable bag or container, but I feel like it's worth the extra effort.
I hope this post helped answer some of your questions! Stay tuned next week for a post from the crew at Whole30 on eating a Paleo and Whole30 diet while maintaining a good supply.