My daughter started back at daycare after my maternity leave ended. She went to daycare when she was six months old, but she was more like a four-month-old because she was born so early.
As her first day at daycare approached, I had to figure out how to pump a stash of milk for daycare. I also had to create a system for packing her bottles.
So, how do you pump milk for daycare?
The best way to pump milk for daycare is to start pumping between 2 and 4 weeks before the first day of daycare. This will allow you to build up a small freezer stash to send with your child. Fill the bottles for daycare the night before and put them in a cooler in the refrigerator.
I figured out a few tips which made the entire process much easier, and I have gone into more detail below.
How Do You Pump Milk For Daycare?
You should start pumping milk to build up a freezer stash. This may take you anywhere from two to four weeks.
It is possible, and normal, to only pump a half an ounce to two ounces per pumping session if you are breastfeeding.
If you pump an ounce per pumping session, and you pump twice per day, after seven days you will have fourteen ounces stored in the freezer.
This should be enough milk to cover your little one’s first day at daycare if they will be apart from you for nine hours.
During the day before your baby’s first day at daycare, thaw the frozen milk in the refrigerator. Once thawed, pour the milk into bottles to be fed the next day.
For example, on Monday your little one will drink frozen (and then thawed) milk.
On Tuesday, your baby will drink milk that was pumped on Monday.
On Wednesday, your little one drinks milk pumped on Tuesday, and so on.
On Friday, put your pumped milk into the freezer. Thaw milk on Sunday for Monday’s daycare bottles.
It is also a good idea to do a trial run at home. Use this trial run to make sure your baby does not have a problem drinking milk that was previously frozen before their first day at daycare.
How To Make Pumping Easier
The absolute best way to make pumping easier is to use a hands-free pumping bra. My favorite one is the Sublime bra found here. It was so high quality, I bought 2 to rotate at work. I was able to get a great discount code, and you can use this link and promo code LISA20 to save 20% off your purchase.
You can also read more about the best pumping bra to wear all day in this article here.
When you are at work, another essential item is to have an amazing cooler to store your precious breast milk.
Here are the things you will love about this cooler bag:
1. It is freezable, so it does not require extra ice packs
2. The bag fits milk bottles perfectly, and
3. Is inconspicuous – my co-workers had no idea it contained breast milk
4. As a bonus, it can be used as a lunch bag after you’re finished pumping.
You can check out the cute prints for the cooler bag here (link to Amazon).
When Do You Start Pumping For Daycare?
A good time to start pumping for daycare is 2 to 4 weeks ahead of the first day of daycare. If you are nursing full time, you may need to add in several pumping session per day to create a stash.
Keep in mind, the minimum amount of milk you need is enough to cover one day at daycare.
If you are exclusively nursing, many lactation consultants will recommend waiting to pump until you are past six weeks postpartum. This is to prevent an oversupply, which can cause problems like engorgement.
How Do You Start Pumping To Store Milk?
To begin pumping to store milk, start with a haakaa or milk saver cups. Use them on the side you are not nursing your baby. This will catch any excess milk.
The next recommendation is to pump after feeding during the middle of the night or pump after the first feeding in the morning.
Prolactin, the hormone which controls milk production, is at its highest level between 1 am and 5 am. It then falls as the day goes on.
You can take advantage of high prolactin levels by pumping milk at this time. If your baby wakes up during the middle of the night, try pumping for 15-20 minutes at this time to build a stockpile.
Many women also produce more milk after the first feed in the morning. After your baby has fed, for example, at 6 am and 9 am, try pumping at this time.
Try pumping both breasts to stimulate more milk production, even if your baby only feeds from one breast. I was able to pump more ounces during the morning sessions, and the ounces decreased as the day went on.
If you are new to pumping, I wrote an article on my very best pumping tips for beginners. In this article, I spill all the tricks I learned while pumping for my baby for almost 12 months. You can check out the article here: Breast Pumping Tips For Beginners.
How Much Breast Milk Should I Stockpile?
The minimum amount of breast milk you need to stockpile is to cover the number of feedings you will miss while being separated from your baby. A baby will drink 1-1.5 ounces per hour that you are apart.
For example, If your baby will be at daycare for 9 hours during the day, you may need enough milk to cover 3 feedings or between 9 and 13.5 ounces.
On the second day at daycare, you will pump more milk to make up for missed feedings. The milk from the missed feedings will be fed at daycare the next day.
To give yourself a buffer, you may want to work to build up a buffer of three to five days of milk in the freezer.
You do not need to stress about creating a large stockpile with an entire freezer full of milk. You only need to cover the amount of milk for when you will be separated from your baby.
As another example, imagine that you are planning to go on a trip without your baby and you will be apart for 3 days.
In this case, you will need a larger stockpile than you would if you were only going to be apart from your baby for a few hours during the day.
If you will be separated for 3 days or 72 hours, then you may need to stockpile between 72 and 108 ounces.
You should also have a backup plan, such as extra milk or formula during this time in case your baby eats more than normal for comfort or a growth spurt.
How To Pack Breast Milk For Daycare
To pack breast milk for daycare, clean and dry the bottles. The night before, fill the bottles with breast milk.
Use a high-quality label on the bottles with your child’s name. Put the filled bottles into a cooler in the refrigerator the night before. In the morning, add an ice pack to the cooler.
I always packed my child’s daycare bottles. This is because I did not want the daycare workers accidentally spilling any of the liquid gold I worked so hard to pump.
I also felt like I trusted myself to have clean hands when preparing the bottles. I didn’t want the daycare workers to accidentally contaminate the inside of the bottle in case they forgot to wash their hands.
I tried several different bottle labels and became very frustrated with them.
Many of the labels I tried bubbled up and peeled off after a few days. The labels couldn’t stand up to the bottles being placed in the warmer, then soaking and sterilizing after I brought them home each night.
I finally found labels that I loved. These labels still look brand new after being used for over six months. They don’t bubble or peel up after soaking.
The labels are also durable enough to withstand the bottle warmer, soaking, sterilizing, and the dishwasher. If you are looking for bottle labels to send to daycare, check out this link to my favorite set of bottle labels.
You can read more details about how to label bottles for daycare in my article here.
What If You Are Not Pumping Enough For Daycare?
If your daycare wants more breastmilk, this may be stressful. One of the most common reasons for a dip in breastmilk supply is dropping nursing or pumping sessions.
Try to add in one or two extra pumping sessions during the day.
Think about if your schedule has changed since your little one started daycare. Are you pumping or nursing as frequently as you were before your baby was at daycare? Here is a sample pumping schedule that I used.
If you have dropped feedings, then adding back feedings or pumping sessions is a good way to bring your milk supply back.
These things can cause a drop in milk supply if you are not pumping enough milk for daycare:
- Stress during the work day,
- Not staying hydrated, and
- Not eating enough calories.
I go into depth about several techniques you can use to increase your milk supply in this article: Natural Ways To Increase Your Milk Supply. In the article, I list many ways to increase your milk supply without using supplements.
If you are providing adequate milk to your daycare provider, you may want to question your care provider. When you speak with the teachers, you may want to find out if your daycare is overfeeding your baby.
How Do You Know If Daycare Is Overfeeding Your Baby?
Daycare may be overfeeding if they are not pace-feeding. Pace-feeding is where the bottle is held parallel to the floor and your baby works to draw milk out of the bottle instead of using gravity.
Daycare may also be overfeeding your baby if they are feeding every time your baby cries.
My daycare was feeding my daughter bottles at appropriate intervals, so I knew they were not trying to soothe her only with the bottle.
I tried increasing the bottles by half an ounce every few weeks until I saw that she was not finishing the bottles.
Personally, I preferred that she have more than enough milk. I did not want her to be hungry when I was not nearby to comfort her.
I did not have a huge freezer stash, and I ended up sending a bottle of formula to daycare.
I ultimately decided that supplementing was a good decision because I could not produce a huge amount of milk and I didn’t want my daughter to be hungry.
If this happens to you, know that formula is perfectly fine. Your little one is still getting many benefits from the breast milk that you are able to provide.
Must-Have Pumping Gear
Hear are a few of my favorite pumping items that made my life so much easier.
- This is the best pumping bra that is actually comfortable to wear all day long (the Sublime version). Use code LISA20 to save 20% off your purchase!
- Try the Chocolate Fudge flavor of this yummy milk-boosting protein powder.
- These are the best baby bottle labels that will not wash off or wear off. The pineapple design and the whale design are two of my favorites.
- My favorite pumping bag that is roomy enough for my pump, a laptop, a cooler, and a lunch bag. They have so many cute colors and prints but I really love the subtle “Deco” print. Use code LISA15 to save 15% for a limited time.
- This postpartum care box has a couple of my must-have items for the first few months after baby arrives. The tubes that help with engorgement provide so much relief.
- These custom baby name onesies I found on Etsy are so adorable I ended up buying them in two different colors. The shop even has a really cute matching mommy and me set.
- I used this tiny mini fridge (link to Amazon) near my pumping station at home so I didn’t have to trek to the kitchen after a middle of the night pumping session.
- If you enjoyed this article, you can help support this blog by buying me a coffee here. Your support is very much appreciated!
- Find your perfect pump bag – Sarah Wells Vs. JuJuBe Pump Bags (Best Stylish Pump Bags)
- Check out this article for all of my best pumping tips – 17 Best Pumping Tips for Beginners
- Ever wonder how many calories you burn by pumping or breastfeeding?
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