How to Build a Breast Milk Bank Before Returning to Work

Being able to stay home with your baby through the duration of your breastfeeding relationship would be the ideal situation for most mothers. However, this simply isn't possible for many women. Building up a bank of frozen breast milk is a good solution for mothers who have to return to work but who want to continue breastfeeding their babies 1. The bank can provide extra milk for those times you aren't able to pump or when your baby goes through a growth spurt and needs extra milk.

Buy a good electric breast pump. KellyMom says that a pump will not extract as much milk as your baby will, but a good electric breast pump will help you to get as much as possible. In addition, it will help you to maintain your supply as well as possible when you are not with your baby.

Start pumping no later than three to four weeks before you return to work. Nancy Weld, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, told the Sprout Blog that this should give mothers enough time to build up a bank. However, if you wish to start even earlier, you can ensure a healthy supply. KellyMom says that most women get only 1/2 to 2 ounces of total breast milk per pumping session and that it is not uncommon to need to pump two to three times to get enough milk for just one feeding session 2. The earlier you start, the more milk you will have when you return to work. In addition, if you start pumping in the first weeks after your baby is born, your body will still be producing a lot of milk as it tries to establish how much your baby needs, so you will get more from these sessions.

Pump in the mornings. Breastfeeding Basics says this is when your supply is most plentiful, so you are likely to get more milk during these sessions.

Pump immediately after your baby feeds or while your baby is feeding. If you wait until after your baby is finished nursing, you will get whatever milk is left, completely draining the breast. If your baby does not eat from both breasts in a single session, you can pump from the other breast while your baby is eating. Not only will this drain both breasts and stimulate your body to make more milk, but it will also make more efficient use of your time.

Store more milk than you need. You may find that you don't have the time you thought you would to pump at work. Your supply may dwindle once you start pumping, making it hard for you to pump what your baby needs each day. Your baby may go through a growth spurt, requiring more milk than you anticipated. All of these factors can cut into the milk supply you have created. It is better to store more than you need than to run out later. Breastfeeding Basics says to strive for 16 ounces of breast milk on hand, but Weld recommends as much as 20 bags, which can have 2 to 3 ounces or more of breast milk, depending on the efficiency of your pumping sessions.


Use a marker to write the date on each breast milk storage bag. This will let you know if the milk can still be used at a later date. When you begin using the frozen stash, use the older bags first.