We're all Mammals

As we approach the one year mark, it seems like a good time to look back over Trixie’s milk history. Our initial goal was to feed her breast milk until 6 months, then to get through winter, then 9 months and finally we pushed the quit date back to 12 months. From our perspective it couldn’t come a minute too soon.

First, I want to say that as much as we’ve both come to hate breast-pumping and all the work it entails, we’re glad we did it for Trixie’s sake. That having been said, breast pumping sucks.

I still find the whole thing a little mind-boggling. We live in cities, drive around in cars, surf the internet, and talk on cell phones, but beneath it all, we’re still mammals. Nothing drives this point home like being aware of a mother providing sustenance to her baby.

I suspect that some of the information presented here can make people feel a little uncomfortable. I think most guys don’t like to think about women’s breasts in their capacity to produce upwards of two gallons of milk a week. It’s not the sort of thing you want to dwell on when you’re in a bar on Friday night — or ever. (Guys, you might want to stop reading here.) Similarly, I imagine most women who haven’t breastfed, or who are getting ready to have a baby, must be pretty freaked out when told they possess the capacity to supply a baby with hundreds of ounces of milk a week. (Don’t worry — it doesn’t all hit at once.) But lastly, those who have pumped or breastfed might find this data validating. You know how much work it was, you just never had solid numbers to back up your gut feeling. Now you do.

We began collecting bottle-feeding data October 13th 2003, when Trixie was around 12 weeks old. During this time Trixie got the majority of her milk from the bottle. She still nursed a little bit, but we were forced to start using bottles early on because Jenn was back at work at 5 weeks. Since I was the one staying home with Trixie, and since I don’t have boobs, she was going to have to drink Jenn’s pumped milk from a bottle.

Average Daily Ounces Consumed

Trixie drank about 30 ounces of milk a day for the majority of the period we collected data. 30 ounces a day doesn’t sound like much, but when you start to look at the total amount consumed (and produced) the numbers grow very quickly. Trixie drank hundreds of ounces of milk a week [see below]. Her peak was week 44 at 232 ounces. If 232 ounces is too abstract, think about it this way; it’s about 19 cans of Coke per week. That’s a lot of breast-pumping! And of course, these numbers don’t reveal the full story. They are only a record of what Trixie drank. When we take the left-over milk in the bottle into account, it turns out that in week 27, there was a combined total of 245 ounces. But this number still doesn’t account for milk that may have been put into freezer storage that week or any possible nursing that took place.

Ounces Fed and Wasted per Week

I think it’s still easier to look at the milk production/consumption in even broader stroke. In this chart we see how many gallons of milk Trixie was drinking a week.

Weekly Consumption in Gallons

But what’s the really big picture? Since we started keeping records, and as of 3:40 pm today, Jenn has pumped 8,009 ounces of milk. This is more than 62 gallons. Of these, Trixie drank 6,939 oz or about 54 gallons. All pumping moms out there will be sad to hear that since Oct 12th, 2003, 1,070 ounces of milk have expired in the bottle and had to be poured out.

But that isn’t everything either. In the 12 weeks prior to starting data collection Trixie probably got about 100 oz a week by nursing. Adding an extra 1,200 oz to the 8,009 gives us 9,209. Also there’s probably about 100 oz in the freezer now, and we lost about 100 when the power went out during the hurricane. Finally I have to confess that I’ve poured out milk when too much has built up in the milk line. Maybe another 50 oz, at least… sorry, Jenn.

All and all, I think 9,459 oz is a fair estimate of the milk Jenn has pumped since Trixie was born. This translates to about 74 gallons of milk over the past 10 1/2 months. We also estimate that she spends about 1.75 hours a day pumping which means she’s logged approximately 525 hours making food for Trixie. This is almost 22 straight days of pumping. Put another way, it’s more than thirteen 40-hour work weeks — and that’s on top of a full-time job. For my part I’ve been mostly responsible for washing the 2,880 feeding and storage bottles we’ve used over the past 8 months. I say mostly because despite all work Jenn does, there are times when she has done the bottle-washing for me. As much as I would have liked to, I’ve never been able to return the favor by helping with the pumping.

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25 Responses to We're all Mammals

  1. Kelli says:

    Now, Ben…you should do your homework! According to some sources, you could have assisted with the pumping, or nursed Trixie yourself.

    http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/milkmen.htm

    Yes, I know it’s disturbing, but considering how much time Jenn spent pumping, you really should have carried your weight. 😉

    Sorry – I couldn’t resist. And I have a friend who I think will be quite interested in seeing approximately how much milk she’s producing for her little one.

  2. Anne says:

    When your wife was home did she stop putting trixie to the breast??

  3. Rob says:

    Dear sweet merciful heaven, that’s a lot of milk.

    Maybe you should be tracking Jenn’s food intake as well.

  4. Leslie says:

    Though spare time is probably non-existent for you both, I recommend the book: Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. She has a whole chapter on “The Milky Way”, intriguing stuff. You and Jenn might particularly enjoy it after your grand efforts.

  5. benmac says:

    I’m going to pretend that I never ever saw that picture of David and his man nipples or read about how he started lactating through the power of positive thinking. I’m going to go wash my eyes out with soap now.

  6. Kelli says:

    Amazing what you can find on the internet, huh?

  7. Ann says:

    Amazing information, Ben and Jenn! I think this is one of my favorite posts from the Trixie Update so far. It’s really interesting to hear that milk consumption has dropped off so rapidly on Trixie’s new self-administered feeding system.

  8. Maddie's Mom says:

    Jenn is my hero for continuing to pump for so long! My least favorite part of nursing/motherhood is pumping. When Maddie weans (and it’s coming SOON!), I may burn the Medela Pump in Style.

  9. sarah says:

    I am amazed and impressed with JenÂ’s pumping as well. Just today I have packed up my breast pump to pass the torch to my cousin Catherine who is due in two months. She is finishing her residency tin two years so she and her husband will have a similar set up as you guys.
    As beautiful and expensive as this pump was I feel very guilty passing it on. One of the happiest days of my life was when I packed it up for good. I still nurse but no more pumping!
    Also Frances our daughter took her first steps the same day as trixy. Very exciting. Oh.. and she became one year old today.
    Sarah

  10. hannah says:

    WOW! Jenn, you have my utmost respect and admiration for what has truly been valiant work for Trixie. Instead of having a birthday party for Trixie you should have a big party for Jenn to honor her hard work and the end of an era. La Leche should bestow you with honors. When Sophie saw you nursing long ago and called you a “big momma cow,” she didn’t know the half of it! Nice reporting on the issue, Ben.
    Hannah

  11. Wow, look at those pretty charts. What a guy thing to do. 😉

  12. Jason says:

    Shouldn’t it be called “human milk” instead of “breast milk?”

  13. Charlotte says:

    I feel so validated! My son Jack is 10 months old today so I read about Trixie as a kind of real life what to expect thing. I still nurse/pump and you know? I feel pretty doggone proud of myself! Imagine the formula cost equivalent!! Good work!

  14. No wonder I was always thirsty when I was nursing! You all should get a sticker for your commitment. Pumping 2 hours a day is no easy task.

  15. jenn/mom says:

    Anne:
    We started introducing bottles at about three weeks. Once I was back at work, Trixie would get bottles during the day but still nurse at nights and on weekends. When my call and work schedules became really unpredictable, Trixie did more bottlefeeding and less breastfeeding. Now she only breastfeeds once in a blue moon. (Sometimes it makes me sad that she does so much better with the bottle, but it’s for the best. Plus, she’s a biter!)

  16. benmac says:

    We’d like to thank everyone for all the nice comments and support! Of course I’m proud of Jenn, but the bigger point here is that all nursing and pumping moms deserve recognition for all the hard work they do!

  17. dream mama says:

    How many calories does all the milk pumping burn?

  18. Shelley says:

    I found this website when I did a search on breastfeeding. I was trying to find out how much milk my 7 month old should be getting each day. I was so frustrated with my pumping experience that I was ready to cry or maybe just beat that $200 breastpump with a baseball bat. Luckily your website has renewed my pumping enthusiasm, mostly by making me laugh for about 2 hours. I would like to know how in the world you built up such a plentiful supply of milk? I only get about 2 ounces per pumping session.

  19. benmac says:

    Shelley, I’m glad you found the site and it made you laugh. I hope the pumping gets easier. I’m not sure what the trick is to getting more per session. I know with Jenn, she would spend about 30-40 minutes three times a day to get around 32 oz. But it took her a while to build up to that amount. I understand that drinking a lot of water helps too. Good luck-

  20. Jess says:

    Dear Ben and Jenn,
    thanks so much for the information. My baby boy, Ike, just turned a year old, and I’ve been back at work (and pumping) since he was three months old. Pumping’s never fun, but looking at these numbers makes me appreciate what it is I’ve been doing for almost a year! I’m looking forward to taking a break from pumping (at least until the next baby comes along) at some point, but I’m not looking forward to the end of nursing.

    By the way, I’d like to recommend a great book about breastfeeding called “Fresh Milk.” It’s a collection of stories about breastmilk and breastfeeding that run the gamut (it includes the lactating men). It’s just a fun and eye-opening read.
    Good luck with Trixie!
    Thanks,
    Jess

    PS I appreciate the info on the transition from two naps a day to one, as we’ll have to do that at some point soon.

  21. haeshu says:

    shelley, dont get so down on yourself. pumping/milk supply is the ultimate catch-22. you stress out about how much you are making and then that stress lowers your production, causing more stress, causing lower production… you get the picture. i pumped for 10 months at work with my son and am in my 7th month of pumping at work for my daughter. i learned that even if im not getting much milk, i still pump for the full 20 minutes because the “stimulation” by itself helps. also, i took the herb fenugreek in capsule form in the last months of pumping. it is an herb that stimulates sweat gland and milk glands and it made a big difference for me, on the other hand a girlfriend of mine didnt see much results. i got mine at a natural food store, i think around $15 a bottle. and i would take two pills three times a day. the only downside was that it makes your body smell like maple syrup. for me it was a downside because i dont like maple syrup… good luck!

  22. Emeline says:

    Thank you for recording all the data of a woman’s lactation. It is very useful. I am just shocked you wasted human milk. Because of the long fridge conservation, it could have been dangerous for another baby, but it was certainly not for an adult. You could have pasteurised it if you really feared bacteria. So you prefered to drink cow’s milk instead of your wife’s!! Woman’s milk is the best for human species, you should remember.

  23. Lisa says:

    Pretty scary, but I have a 4 month old son and I have learned that can produce/pump 1 ounce per hour per breast, i.e. in 24 hours, I make and can pump 48 ounces.

  24. Stephanie says:

    wow! this is very interesting!… my daughter wouldn’t latch, so i’ve been pumping every few hours since the day she was born!!! (at first she was in nicu)… i now pump well over 50 ounces per day! i was actually trying to look up the record for the most ounces pumped at one time and that’s how i ran across this article!! … i pumped 17 ounces in about 25 minutes this morning!!… it had been a little under 7 hours since my previous pumping session and my baby slept all night so, so did i, man did my boobs hurt before i pumped!! our freezer is so full of milk we don’t have room for food!! anybody know what the record for the most ounces of milk pumped at one time is??…i’m really curious to know!

  25. Dee says:

    Boy, did I get a good laugh out of you page Ben! I was looking to find out what the record for most milk pumped in one session was and found this site also. Well….. this morning I pumped 22 oz in one sitting (25 min)! I did not pump overnight and this is what I got the next morning. My family has named me Else the Cow :). I breastfed my first daughter, not knowing how much she was actually drinking, but my second child could not get the hang of it, so I pump. I am at my 8th month now and still going strong. I did not think I would be able to keep going this long. “I am doing it for my baby” is what I keep saying even though sometimes my boobs hurt for hours. I am keeping my eye on the finsh line, 1 yr. All in all I am very happy that I stuck it out. Thanks for a good read.