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.
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.
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.
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.