I think every breastfeeding-working mama experiences a little anxiety before going back to work for the first time. Questions abought the practicality of pumping run through our minds: will I be able to keep my milk supply up? What if pumping doesn't work out? And the big one... How much milk do I need in my freezer stash?!
Being women who want the best for our babies, we're determined to stay up late at night to get an extra pumping in before bed because we just aren't sure there will be enough milk back at home for when that fateful back-to-work day arrives. Some women aim for two extra bottle's worth (about six ounces in the beginning) while other women are still concerned that they'll run out at 8o ounces. What is the answer, then, and how does one prepare?
The answer is simple: you probably don't need as much stocked up as you think. With that said, it is still important to have something on hand in case of emergencies. When your baby is about 4 weeks old, pump once after you're done nursing. When you're not in sight, have someone else feed that milk in a bottle to your baby at the next feeding. You will need to pump since you're not nursing during that feeding (to keep your milk supply up). Store that milk in the fridge (or freezer) and go back to nursing the next time. Gradually increase the bottle/pumpings, sometimes doing an extra one after the baby nurses, until you start having some "extra" to stash in the freezer.
Aim to have two day's worth of feedings in the freezer. Too many more than that and you'll risk it all going bad before you can use it. Honestly, you may never even need to use the two day's worth! The day before you go back to work, make sure that there's enough milk in the fridge for the next day and no more. Each day when you come back, pop the milk that you pumped that day into the fridge so it can be used the next day. With this method, you will only need the freezer stash for emergencies. Seeing as how you'll probably throw it out every three months (unless you have a deep freezer that's separate), you don't want a whole lot stocked up.
Learn more about breastmilk storage here.
Now that was a lot easier than you thought, right?