The quantity of breast milk you send to daycare will differ from baby to baby, and your baby’s age should also be considered. As an average, at 3 months old you can send about 4 ounces (120ml) per feeding for every 2-3 hours they’re there. At 6 months, it’s 5 ounces (150ml) every 3 hours. At 9 months and up, it’s 4-6 ounces (120-180ml) every 3-4 hours. Every baby is unique, so consider this as a general reference.
Breastfeeding is recommended for a minimum of one year, but for working mothers sending breast milk to daycare can be an arduous task filled with uncertainty. Getting the required quantity right means ensuring enough supply for your growing baby’s needs, which can be taxing on any mother.
Breast milk not only provides nutrition for your baby but also passes on antibodies that help to strengthen your baby’s immune system. The importance of breast milk has many mothers trying to stick with breastmilk for as long as possible, but many give in to life’s pressures.
The value of breastmilk can not be overstated in this day and age, but a high percentage of mothers are not taking full advantage of the immune-boosting qualities of breastmilk.
Why is this? Is it because most mothers have to return to work and cannot keep up with producing enough breast milk, or do they have difficulty in storing and working out how much breast milk to send to daycare?
Let’s find out how easy or difficult it is to provide breastmilk for a baby in daycare.
Going the daycare route
Many working mothers don’t have the luxury of maternity leave, and some only qualify for a few months off before they have to go back to work.
Other mothers want to work on their baby’s motor skills and social development and see daycare as a valuable resource.
Whatever the reason for deciding on daycare, breastfeeding mothers will have to adapt accordingly to ensure that their milk supply doesn’t dwindle and dry up.
The only way to continue giving your little one breastmilk is to express or pump breastmilk regularly so you can maintain a healthy supply.
Using a daycare facility to help take care of your little one doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop breastfeeding.
On the contrary, it should encourage breastfeeding because your baby is exposed to so many pathogens in the daycare setting and will need the immune-boosting antibodies in your breast milk.
The United States has a very low breastfeeding percentage compared to other countries.
In the US, only about 15% of babies are exclusively breastfed at 6 months compared to Rwanda at 88%, China at 76%, and Sweden at 37%.
Here are a few reasons for the low breastfeeding rate:
- Lack of breastfeeding support in hospitals.
- Infant formula companies aggressive marketing tactics.
- Negative attitudes towards breastfeeding in society.
- Insufficient maternity leave.
- Work pressure to stop expressing in the workplace.
When does daycare become a safe option?
The first three months of a baby’s life are when they are most vulnerable and prone to illness. During this time, babies are building their own immune systems, but it should be relatively safe to consider daycare by three months old.
Exposure to germs should be limited in the first three months of life, so sanitizing bottles, baby toys, and other baby-related items should be through. However, after this initial period, germs help to strengthen the immune system by creating antibodies against them.
This is evident in the fact that most babies will regularly get mildly sick and recover in their first few years.
Expressing breast milk
There is a wide range of breast pumps available on the market, but not all of them work well for every mother.
Some breast pumps may cause more pain and irritation than the milk they are able to express but don’t give up just yet.
If a specific breast pump doesn’t work for you, try a second or even a third make and speak to your doctor or lactation specialist before giving up.
Once you have found the right pump and get into the swing of expressing breast milk, it will be easy to adapt and fall into a routine. All you have to do is to keep your eye on the prize – the health and wellbeing of your little one.
You will have already fallen into a breastfeeding routine, and the intervals between expressing should pretty much follow your breastfeeding routine. But as your little one grows, so will the demand for more milk.
As a mom, you have to keep supply and demand in check.
Storing expressed breastmilk
Before you begin expressing, make sure to wash and sanitize your hands and the outside of your breast pump and milk containers.
You can use food-grade capped glass containers but if you’re going to use plastic containers, make sure they are food-friendly and do not contain the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).
Using food-grade capped glass bottles is easiest because you can clearly see the volume, and storage in the fridge is also more practical.
Have enough milk in each bottle for one normal feeding but if you can, have a few bottles with a bit less to cater for unexpected delays or when your baby is still hungry, like during a growth spurt.
You can generally start with 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 120 ml) containers, and the smaller portions can be 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 ml).
If you’re going to freeze the milk for a longer lifespan, then be sure not to fill the containers to the brim because breast milk expands when frozen.
How to prepare breast milk for daycare
Your baby’s normal feeding routine should give you an indication of how many feedings you should send along to daycare.
It’s always best to try and include an extra feeding or a half portion to cover being late in picking your baby up.
Use waterproof labels on the bottles of expressed milk and write the date and time you expressed the milk as well as your baby’s name on the label. This is important so you can keep circulating the milk at home and the daycare knows what milk to feed your baby.
Expressing for the next day will become the norm, and it will be necessary to have access to a fridge or a cooler box with ice packs. Breast milk will be fine for up to 6 hours at room temperature but is best used within 4 hours.
Refrigerated breast milk will last up to 4 days but should ideally be used within 3 days, and milk stored in a cooler box with ice packs will last a full day.
It’s handy to have a small cooler with ice packs to transport the milk to the daycare and mark your cooler with your baby’s name as well.
Big temperature swings caused by a hot vehicle will have an adverse effect on the milk you’re transporting.
How much breast milk should you send to daycare?
The quantity of breast milk you send to daycare will differ from baby to baby, and your baby’s age should also be considered.
Here is a basic guide that may help:
|At 3 months old:||About 4 ounces (120 ml) per feeding every 2-3 hours|
|At 6 months old:||5 ounces (150 ml) every 3 hours|
|At 9 months old and up:||4 -6 ounces (120-180 ml) every 3-4 hours|
It’s important to remember that from about 6 months old, your baby will transition to solids but will still require the same daily amount of breast milk. It may come down a little but not much.
Can I add freshly expressed breast milk to the same container I used when I last pumped?
Yes, as long as the interval between your pumping sessions is less than 4 hours, it should be safe to top up a container to the required level.
How do I cope with growth spurts and the extra milk demand?
You will always send a bit more milk to daycare with your baby, but you may also notice the change in his feeding pattern at home that should let you know to send a bit more milk than usual.
It’s always better to work on the smaller time between feedings just to make 100% sure that your baby doesn’t unnecessarily go hungry.
What do I do if my baby is not feeling well and is drinking less than usual?
Keep an eye on your little one but don’t cut back on the amount of milk you send to daycare. He may feel better during the day and begin drinking his normal share again.
In this time, when so much attention is placed on Covid-19 and its many variants, it is unthinkable that mothers may not want to express breast milk to help their little ones strengthen their immune system.
I know that pumping breast milk at work or walking around with a cooler bag can be embarrassing, but it really does mean the world to your little one.
Keeping up with supply and demand may require some adjustments, especially when expressing, but it’s worth every bit of hassle you have to deal with, like those unexpected leaks when you’re in company.
Prepare and organize for this short but very important time that can otherwise be uncomfortable for the less prepared mom.