How to Prepare a Breastfed Baby for Daycare

How to Prepare a Breastfed Baby for Daycare

Thankfully, being in daycare does not mean that breastfeeding has to stop. However, a mother who chooses to give her baby breast milk when returning to work will know that preparing her breastfed baby well ahead for daycare will ensure this transition will run a lot smoother.

So as a nursing mom you will need to organize in advance and know how to prepare your breastfed baby for daycare. Start by pumping milk at least two weeks before going back to work. This will allow enough time to collect adequate amounts for daycare while also giving you time to get familiar and comfortable with pumping. Allow enough storage space in your freezer and equipment necessary to transport your breastmilk safely to its destination.

This article shares some more advice and some practical information you can use to help your breastfed baby thrive in daycare.

How Much Breastmilk to Send to Daycare for My Baby

To figure this out, you will first need to know how much breastmilk babies usually need as they grow.


Newborn babies will only consume about 1 to 2 ounces of milk at each feed. By the time they are 4 weeks old, they may be up to around 3 to 4 ounces per feed or up to 30 ounces per day.

1 to 6 months

From 1 to 6 months of age, babies maintain an average intake of around 25 ounces per day. 

7 to 12 months

Once babies begin eating solid foods, their demand for breastmilk will fall. The average for 7 to 12-month old babies is around 19 ounces of breastmilk each day.

12 to 24 months

The intake of breastmilk falls to an average of roughly 17 ounces per day.

24 to 36 months

Between 2 to 3 years old, children whose diets are still being supplemented by breastmilk will take about 10 to 12 ounces, on average, each day.

You can now figure out how much breastmilk to send to daycare with some simple calculations. 

Begin by dividing the average daily intake for your baby’s age, as shown above, by the number of times your baby feeds in a 24-hour period. This will give you an idea of how many ounces of breastmilk your baby drinks at each feed. 

Next, determine how many of your baby’s feeds will have passed during the time he or she is at daycare. Multiply the ounces per feed by the number of daycare feeds, and you will have a good estimate of how much milk to send each day. 

Important Points to Note

  • Every baby is different. The figures shared above are meant to serve only as a guide.
  • Boys generally consume more milk than girls.
  • The AAP recommends that breastfeeding be continued alongside the introduction of solid foods until the baby is at least a year old. 

When Should I Start Pumping for Daycare?

Breasts produce milk on demand, so the more milk your baby drinks or the more milk you express, the more milk your body produces. Considering that some of the milk you send to daycare may not get used, you will want to be producing a higher volume of milk than your baby will actually drink. You will need to prepare your body for this. 

You can begin practicing pumping milk at least two weeks before your baby is scheduled to start daycare. 

Another good reason to give yourself this two-week window is that expressing breastmilk takes practice no matter how you do it. You can check out these resources for expressing by hand and expressing with a pump if you need a little extra guidance.

How Do You Prepare Frozen Breast Milk for Daycare?

There is no doubt that breastmilk is superior to formula when it comes to ensuring a baby receives optimal nutrition for growth and development. What’s more, expressed milk that has been properly prepared and stored is still much better for babies than formula. Sending breastmilk with your baby to daycare is, therefore, a very wise move. 

Here are some steps to take when freezing and transporting your breastmilk.

Freezing Breastmilk

Pour small portions of freshly expressed milk into clean bottles or breastmilk storage bags. Do not fill the container as breast milk will expand as it freezes. 

Label the container with your child’s name and the date when you expressed the milk. The date is very important since your frozen breastmilk can last up to 6 months. Plus, you will want to use up the older frozen milk first.

Immediately place the milk toward the back of the freezer. While breastmilk can safely be kept at room temperature for up to 6 hours, it is best to freeze milk you intend to store for long periods immediately. Also, avoid placing the milk on the freezer door or having the container touch the sides of the freezer.

Important Points to Note

  • Expanding breastmilk may cause glass bottles to crack, so it is best to use plastic ones for freezing. 
  • If you are going to add freshly expressed milk to milk that is already frozen, then you need to cool the fresh milk in the refrigerator first. 
  • The CDC advises against using disposable bottle liners.

Transporting Breastmilk

Your breast milk should be kept cold while being transported from home to daycare and vice versa. You can carry the milk in a cooler bag along with ice packs, ice, or dry ice. It is a good idea to have a second cooler bag for storing and transporting the milk you express at work. 

Breastmilk Guidelines for Daycare

Thawing Breastmilk

There are two ways you can safely thaw frozen breastmilk so it can be fed to babies.

1. You can thaw milk quickly by holding the container under lukewarm running water.

2. If you are not in a hurry for the milk, you can let it thaw slowly by placing it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Important Points to Note

  • Frozen bags of breastmilk may develop tears which are hard to spot until the milk is thawing.
  • Never use a microwave to thaw breastmilk as it may create hotspots in the milk, which can cause burns to your baby. It may also decrease the milk’s nutritional value.

Warming Breastmilk

It is not necessary to warm up the thawed milk before feeding it to your baby. Some babies actually prefer their milk cold. For a baby that likes warm milk, place the container of breast milk in a pan of warm water for about five minutes. You can gently swirl the container to mix the milk and get it evenly warm throughout. Never shake the container of thawed breastmilk to mix it. 

A Few Other Daycare Breastmilk Guidelines

  • Milk that has been out of the refrigerator or warmed should be used within 2 hours.
  • As soon as milk arrives at daycare, either use it right away or store it in a refrigerator or freezer.
  • Thawed milk can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. If it is not used within this time, dispose of it.
  • Never refreeze thawed breastmilk.
  • Ensure all bottles and nipples are clean and disinfected before and after use.
  • Dispose of all milk left in the bottle after a feed.
  • Ensure your daycare’s refrigerator and freezer are clean and functioning properly.

Breastfed Baby Not Eating at Daycare – What Can I Do?

Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with the worrisome issue of a baby not eating (much or at all) at daycare.

1. Ask the caregiver to hold the baby close during bottle feeding. This will remind your baby of the closeness and comfort that he or she associates with eating.

2. Remind the caregiver that the breastfed baby needs to be fed on demand, not on a schedule. Ask them to offer the bottle before your baby becomes too hungry, fussy, or upset.

3. Request that the caregiver warms the nipple before offering the bottle to your baby.

4. Suggest experimenting with milk at different temperatures. It may be that your baby prefers the milk colder or warmer than what your baby’s caregiver may be offering her.

5. Feed your baby once or twice in the morning but not too close to when he or she is being dropped off at daycare. 

6. Offer a feed as soon as you pick up the baby and on demand for the rest of the evening. Some mothers also try to increase weekend feedings. 

7. Inquire whether the daycare accommodates mothers breastfeeding their babies. Many do – all it takes is a comfortable chair in a partially secluded area. If breastfeeding is allowed at daycare, then you could give a feed just before leaving and one at pickup. Pop in for a feed at lunchtime, as well, if you work nearby.

I Feel Daycare Is Overfeeding My Breastfed Baby

In case you feel your baby is being overfed, here are a few things you can try.

1. Suggest to the caregiver that when a breastfed baby fusses after a feed, it does not necessarily mean they are still hungry. Breastfed babies are more alert than formula-fed babies after eating. Therefore, fussing might simply mean baby wants some attention, to be comforted or played with.

2. Switch to slow-flow nipples. Breastfed babies are power suckers. They will empty a bottle much quicker than a baby used to drinking formula. This means the bottle will be empty long before baby’s tummy registers that it is full, and baby will cry for more.

3. If you have not done so already, consider switching to nipples designed for breastfed babies and for your baby’s age. 

4. Send milk in small quantities with additional smaller quantities for make-up feeds where needed.

Settling a breastfed baby at daycare may be a little rough-going at first. But, with time, you and your baby’s caregiver can ensure your breastfed baby is still receiving all the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding even when mommy isn’t there for direct breastfeeding.

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