If you’re a mother who has been breastfeeding on request, you probably haven’t had to collect and store breast milk. But if a return to work or school, or other circumstance, requires you to be away from your baby, you may be wondering how much milk you need to leave with a caregiver to make sure your baby gets enough while you're apart.
Exclusively breastfed babies drink on average 25 oz (750 mL) per day between the ages of 1 month and 6 months. While intake can vary depending on your baby's age and weight, milk intake typically ranges from 19-30 oz per day (570-900 mL per day).
Begin by storing your milk in small quantities, about two ounces each. This strategy helps you reduce waste (it is best to discard whatever breast milk remains in a bottle once thawed and offered to your baby, although some caregivers use the leftover milk to complete the feeding if it was interrupted) while you are figuring out how much milk your baby needs. Ask your child’s caregiver to keep a log of feeding times and amounts for the first week or two. Based on this information, you can determine whether you want to stick with two-ounce servings or move to larger amounts.
Because the composition of your milk changes to meet your growing baby’s needs, the amount of milk your baby consumes during the first 6 months usually remains relatively stable. You may find that your baby takes less of your expressed milk during the day, and prefers to breastfeed more often in the mornings and at night when you are together. However, an increase in your baby's demand for milk during the day could indicate that the caregiver is overfeeding her.
Once your baby starts solid foods (around 6 months of age), the amount of milk she consumes will probably decrease, but breast milk should still be an important part of her diet for at least the first year.