Time to make the Milk

Time to make the milk
(Part 1 of a 4 day series)

It’s early. Most people are still asleep and it’s dark outside. But inside Jennifer is already hard at work. The quiet humming and mechanical wheezing stand out against the pre-dawn silence. It’s time to make the milk.

This is what keeps Trixie alive, healthy, and gives her a strong immune system. Welcome to the milk cycle. It begins every morning before work when Jennifer collects about 8 oz. to add to the stock in the refrigerator. She’ll make another collection at the office and once again at home at night.

Why does Jennifer need to pump so much? Trixie requires between 2 and 2.5 oz. of milk per pound of body weight per day. She weighs about 12lbs now so this translates to 24-30 oz. a day. Fortunately, Jennifer doesn’t have to collect this entire amount because she still nurses her after work and during the night.

The Medala Pump-in-style Breast Pump

At home Jennifer uses her Medala Pump-in-style [above]. Without the attached accessories, it’s simply an unassuming black bag. However, the first time I saw the assortment of tubing, valves and conical shields that plug into it, I was perplexed. Witnessing the actual milk collection was equally bizarre.

The hospital-grade pump at work, of which I have only seen photos, is fantastically industrial [below]. If I were handed the machine without explanation, I would go try to find space for it in the control room at Hoover Dam. The tubing and accessory set-up is comparable to the home model, but the piston-driven pump cuts the pumping time by approximately 33% — a boon during busy work hours.

The SMB Piston-driven Electric Breast Pump

It’s ironic that the process of ensuring Trixie uninterrupted natural sustenance is so mechanical.

Once the milk is collected, the precious cargo is packed up for transport back home. We treat it pretty much like we would a kidney or liver tagged for organ transplant (well, actually, I never treat livers quite as well as the milk.) While this may seem excessive, it doesn’t take long for unpasteurized milk to sour. Given the time and energy that goes into the production and collection, you hate to lose even one bottle.

The end result? A steady supply of fresh milk replenished each and every day providing the raw material for the rest of our story. Come back tomorrow to learn how feeding Trixie is only slightly less challenging than running a distribution warehouse in Part 2 of our series: Bottle Management 101.

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11 Responses to Time to make the Milk

  1. schaff says:

    This is even better than when Mister Rogers showed how they made crayons.

  2. hannah says:

    Ben,
    I am impressed by your appreciation of Breast Milk and the labor-intensive process of pumping! You’re doing the public a service by spreading the word. You should do an official PSA w/your milk icons, etc. When I used to pump, Josh would constantly dump out entire bottles or bags of milk b/c he would say “it smelled kinda funny” or he would forget to refrigerate it. Yes, it’s a miracle we’re still married, but even moreso that he’s still alive. Good job Ben. And Jenn, of course, which goes w/o saying but should be said all the time!!!!
    Hannah

  3. benmac says:

    Schaff,
    Thanks. We aim to inform! But I have to admit, it might be a little derivative of the Mister Rogers breast pump episode.

  4. benmac says:

    Hi Hannah,
    As you well know, breast milk doesn’t grow on trees. Here at The Trixie Update we’re trying to do our part by letting people know just how much work and dedication it takes to be a breast-pumping mother. I can sympathize with poor Josh; Jennifer and I have had our fair share of “disagreements” concerning milk freshness. Thanks for not killing him!

  5. Danielle says:

    Are you sure that’s a pump and not a telegraph machine? How scary looking. I’d only seen the kind that look like air horns.

  6. Kirsten says:

    I wasn’t sure how you log the milk your baby gets directly from the source (i.e. mom). Just curious. At first I didn’t think she was getting breastmilk and a bit shocked. I thought how can parents who obviously want the best for the baby not being nursing her (barring mom just not being able to make milk, it does happen). So I was happy to see that she is indeed breastfed. I just think that it would be nice if you made a point to show she is. Maybe a little breast icon as well as a bottle. Breastfeeding needs all the exposure it can get, no pun intended.

  7. benmac says:

    Hi Kirsten,

    Trixie really doesn’t take any milk from the breast. She just never got the hang of it and we had to switch to breastmilk from bottles pretty early on since she wasn’t eating enough. We still try every once and while, but Trixie’s like, “Get that boob outta my face” and she’ll just laugh and bat it away.

  8. jen/mom says:

    Trixie gets about 99% of her milk from the bottle and only about 1% from “the source” these days. When she was really little she would latch on like a champ, but now she’s less interested. I agree with you – breast is best – and, luckily, I pump lots of milk here at work and we haven’t had to supplement with formula.
    Also, our early attempts at quantifying her breastfeeding (charting number of minutes nursed on each side, etc.) didn’t provide quite as clean data as our current bottle logs.
    Happily, though, all those daily bottles on the log are filled with “grade A jenn” breastmilk. Ha ha ha!

  9. Kirsten says:

    It’s interesting how different kids can be. My daughter would never take a bottle of my breastmilk no matter how often we tried. We finally gave up (which is okay as I stay home) and I quit pumping as I got sick of throwing out milk. She’s actually 2 1/2 now and has been weaned for year. I know from friends who went back to work how difficult pumping is and that the success rate is not very high. So I guess my other point would be it would be great for working mothers to see another working mother doing this successfully. Any new parents I met I will definitely give them this site to look at. I wish we had something like this to look at when we had our daughter. And I guess with child 2 well on their way we will know what we are doing next time. But who knows?

  10. John says:

    Wow. I feel pretty lucky after reading these. Colum is a champ on both the breast and the bottle, always has been. He’s down to one bottle a day (the before-bed one I give him while my wife’s at work). I don’t know how baby girls are, but my son is already *such* a boy, less snuggly, less interested in being held, always wanting to go, go go. So I look forward to bottle time because he’s very tender – touching my face, smiling, snuggling close.

  11. Becky says:

    Hi there, just in case you’re interested, there is a Yahoo group for moms who pump their breastmilk for their babies (for any reason). It’s called “PumpMoms” and has a huge membership base. Someone in the group found this feature and passed it along, so we’re all enjoying it. Thanks for your appreciation of the work involved in providing good mama milk… wish there were more like you!
    -Becky, retired pumpmama to Haleybug 10/3/01