Donating Breastmilk: Tips for Stay-home Moms

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve signed up to be a milk donor with the Columbus milk bank. I’ve got 50 ounces of breastmilk on ice so far–25% of my 200-ounce minimum donation!canisters of frozen milk

Because I stay home with my younger two kids, I’ve been finding it challenging to find time to pump spare milk for my own freezer stash, let alone spare milk for the milk bank. I’m not separated from my baby, so I don’t have a regular pumping schedule like I might if I worked outside the home. I wanted to share some tips that have worked well for me.

Enlist a friend. I have 3 sons, and they are spirited guys who just don’t like it when I sit down, let alone sit for about 20 minutes hooked up to a breast pump. I have a wonderful friend who comes over to visit in the afternoon sometimes, and she occupies my older boys while I pump.

Enlist the older kids. My boys, rowdy as they might be, love to help. So I invent ways for them to help me set up the pump. Sometimes they are actually helpful–they can each slip the tubing on to the pump motor and the oldest kiddo can plug the pump into the outlet. I try to get them to sing along to the pump motor or otherwise engage them in the process so they don’t run off and start hitting each other. We even look at the bottles together and make bets about which breast will express the most milk.

Take advantage of naps. This might seem obvious to some moms, but this is my first baby who actually sleeps. Neither of the older boys would be put down for an hour at a time, let alone sit happily in their bouncy chair while I pumped milk. My youngest baby does nap, and so when he’s been asleep for about an hour, I take advantage of this time and pump.

Keep supplies in the pump bag, ready to go. As soon as I wash the flanges and valves, I assemble them with the tubing and keep it all hooked up and ready to go. I even screw the bottles on to the flanges. This way, when I do find I have a few spare minutes to pump, everything is all ready to go and it takes less time.

Know your body. Most moms have the most milk in the mornings, but mornings are crazy hectic at my house and I’m just not going to be able to sit and pump milk when I’m packing lunches. The best time for me to pump is while my middle son is taking his afternoon nap. The baby is usually awake during this time, but he’s pretty content to hang out next to me while I pump.

Note that I could never have done such a thing with my older children–their temperaments just wouldn’t stand for it. So now that I have an actual chill baby, I understand exactly why I found pumping to be so frustrating with my other kids! Sometimes it would take me a week of daily pump attempts to get enough for one bottle for date night. With my older kids, when I was pumping I had the best luck right after my husband came home. That way he could hold and soothe the baby if he got fussy and I could pump without worrying that my baby was frantic.

Lots of stay-home moms pump the opposite breast while baby is nursing, but the logistics of that boggle my mind. I think I would need a third arm! Part of the problem for this method, for me, is that I have a very large bust and so I use both arms to hold baby and breast.

Have any of you managed to pump while staying home with your nurslings? Leave us a comment to share your best tips.

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