Milk Making Machine

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Two weeks from today I’ll be leaving my daughter and returning to work, and I’m no where close to being ready.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I was supposed to be the woman who got stir crazy at home; tired of talking to someone with a one word vocabulary (Dada) and ready to get back to work. Besides, that’s me! Career-driven woman wanting the baby and the bucks.

But that woman has died and I’ve come back a mother.

I could feel my old self slipping away in the early weeks. I tried to fight it. “When will I feel myself again?” I asked. And people told me never. Rather, I’d find my new self. It’s true.

Instead of excitement with just two weeks left at home I’m feeling guilt. How in the world will I leave my daughter? I’m her life-source, her entertainment, her biggest fan (and I hope she’s mine). How will I do this?

I’ve found my guilt is eased with pumping. Yes, pumping.

Not in a masochistic, punishment kind of way; but rather as a mama squirrel gathering nuts for her young to store for the winter.

I use a Phillips Avent double electric breast pump. I actually won it in a contest you may have helped me win. I love it, it’s comfortable and it was a style I liked (closed valve).

I don’t have a ton of time to pump between the time my daughter is nursing (she eats a lot) but since my supply is heaviest in the morning I pump on one side while she eats from the other. The side I pump from I don’t feed from at her 5am and 7am feedings. So when I pump around 9am I get between 5 and 7 ounces from that one side. Having her nurse on the opposite side helps the letdown–or flow of milk–so I usually get more that way. It takes coordination, and I’ve lost quite a bit when she’s kicked the bottle off the pump but I have it down to a science now.

I’ve done this almost every day since my daughter was about three weeks old. Trying to see how much I can store and save for emergencies to use once I go back to work has become my addiction.

To date I’ve saved 184 ounces of milk. My freezer now holds more breastmilk than food. And the sight is one I’m mighty proud of.

milk stash

It gives me flashbacks to this picture taken about a year ago.

Go big or go home.

Despite my skills at filling my fridge with human milk, I’m still worried about going back to work and keeping up with pumping. Before maternity leave I rarely had time for a lunch break, much less a few pumping breaks at work. I’m still not sure how things will go when I get back but if people manage to take several smoke breaks a day and still make deadline, I should be able to pump out my quota of milk and still get my story in by 5.

I know my job though and I know I won’t always get those breaks. Plus, going from feeding my baby on demand whenever she wants to scheduled pump breaks may put a damper in my supply. So the more I store the better (though in my non-deep freezer it just lasts for 3 months).

I’ve armed myself with tools to help me be successful as long as possible. My pump, as mentioned before. Picture sideshows on my phone of my daughter, a schedule I hope to follow (barring breaking news) and what I’m most excited about–a PumpEase–My hands free pumping bra.
I’ve used it a few times when I’ve tried double-pumping while Lil’J is sleeping, and it’s brilliant.

Normally I’m holding one pump to me and holding my daughter in the other arm. My hands aren’t free to do anything else. With my PumpEase I’m able to type at the computer, talk on my phone, and move around as much as my pump will let me. I know it’ll be a lifesaver when I return to work and I’ve already made it a habit to store it in my pump bag.

There will probably be times where I need to pump in my car, if I remember to bring my pump along with me, and get a car adapter for it (need to get on that) plus my feeder frock from LaDy LaDuke (to stay discreet) and my PumpEase will make pumping while driving possible.

Same if I’m back at the office. I can lock myself in a room and I’ll be able to pump while I write or edit on my laptop.

I’m not sure how much milk I’ll need to extract a day in order for it to be enough for my daughter for the next day, but I’m hoping I can get enough.

It’s a huge blessing that my husband will be at home with my daughter. And since we don’t live far from my job, when I have the time I want to come home and feed her during my lunch breaks.

Oh, I say this now but only time will tell how it will all pan out. My goal is to make it to six months exclusively breastfeeding, then I’ll be able to start giving her mashed up veggies and stuff to help tie her over.

double chins
I feel horrible about leaving her so I can return to work but it’s not possible for me to stay at home with her at this time in my life. But somehow, knowing I’m still the one sustaining her chins and rolls will help me feel a little less guilty for not being with her.
Transitioning back to work will probably be the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. But I’m preparing as best as I can.

Now I only I could find a way to make more freezer space…

Everyone who comments on this post before the 11:59pm on September 23rd (my first day back at work) will be entered to win a hands-free PumpEase hands-free pumping bra of their choice.
You get extra entries for following PumpEase on Twitter and/or Facebook will choose the winner. Good luck!

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  1. Way to go on the storage! I did the same thing and I managed to get to about 8 months without having to supplement formula. Wish I had known about the pump ease back then…the polka dot ones are super cute!

    Best of luck to you and with reaching your goals!

  2. I have a picture just like of my freezer when my daughter was little. It makes you so excited to see all that hard work! way to go and keep up the good work!

  3. You are such an awesome mama, girl! 🙂 So prepared & dedicated. Lil’ J is lucky to have you, & just remember that whether it’s your milk or formula, it’s given with your love, & that’s the important thing! I do get where you’re coming from, little dude is 6 months & has been exclusively breastfed, but I still stress about my milk supply (even though it’s MORE than fine) & I feel so succesful knowing my breasmilk is what is making him grow!

    I am lucky enough to be a nurse, so I work nights, when my little boy needs less milk..I remember when I first started back to work, I kept reminding my husband ‘Every time he cries does NOT mean he’s don’t feed him unless he’s hungry!’ ’cause I didn’t want him to run through more milk than he should. Does he listen?….not really. Every time the dude cries it sounds like ‘hungry’ to daddy! *sigh*

  4. You are a champ! That is a great supply of milk, but yes, keep pumping when you can to keep up with your little one’s “rolls”. Oh, how I love chunky babies!! Good luck going back to work! September 23 is actually my 4th wedding anniversary! What a great prize to win as motivation for another little one!! 😉

  5. Awww…leaving your bundle of joy is always hard whether it’s to go back to work, a trip or even just few hours at the store. And I’m sure that Lil J is your biggest fan. That beautiful smile on her face says it all!!

  6. I don’t need the pump ease since my son self-weaned about 6 months ago (although I tried to fashion something similar for myself when I was exclusively pumping during my son’s no-latch phase), but I wanted to commend you on your absolutely mind boggling amount of EBM you have in that freezer! That’s incredible chick! A storage trick I learned when I was pumping and storing… if you get an old-school ice cube tray, each cube is approx. one ounce. So you can freeze a bunch of boob-milk cubes, put those in big ziploc freezer bags, and only have to thaw out however many ounces you need at any given time. It was so awesome when I did it, although my hubbs was creeped out by having boobscicles in the freezer lol!

  7. You already know how I feel about going back to work… talking to you on twitter has helped me a bit, though 5 months later I still cry from time to time. Breastfeeding and pumping has helped with the pain. My supply didn’t drop, and I have a job that causes me to be out of the office and in the field 2-3 days per week. On these days I sometimes take public transportation and can’t even pump in my car…. I pump b4 work and right before I come home to help me on these days. I haven’t seen much change in production yet, and I am grateful. I actually have an oversupply so to avoid mastitis, I pump 10am, 2pm, 6pm, and 10pm if I don’t I either drown my baby when nursing, get clogged ducts, or have extreme engorgement pain and leaks…

  8. Don’t need the pump but your storage got me so excited I actually cheered for you and woke Hubby up lol! You’re doing an amazing job and I’m sure that since this new you thinks MoM first you’ll be able to carve out Mommy&Me time in a pump room or your office. I remember going back thinking that something terrible was going to happen and I wouldn’t be able to take care of him but with time the worry goes away.
    You’ll do great and she’ll be fine. I’ll be thinking about you and wishing you the best.

  9. What a beautiful baby – rolls and all. 😉 I am SO impressed with your dedication to pumping and continuing to pump while you are at work. What a blessing for your little one to still be nourished by momma while you are away…and an even bigger blessing that your hubby can stay home with her. Hoping the transition goes well. I don’t know from experience, but I’ve heard the first few days are tough, but it gets easier. Hang in there – and keep on pumping! 😉

  10. Holy Moly that’s a lotta milk!! Sounds like you have solid milkmakin plans in place for when you return to work. I hope you don’t feel guilty and miss lil j too much.

    I’d love an entry in your giveaway!


  11. Like you, I’m going to be going back to work after this gestating boy is born- and I probably won’t get as much time off as you did! Having an easy way to pump will be a must.

  12. Go to Sears or Lowes or Home Depot this weekend. Buy a small chest deep freeze. Put in your garage or a closet or somewhere! Less than $200 and you’ll find it’s invaluable for not only milk, but stocking up on other healthy foods in the coming years. We’ve had ours 12 years–never regretted it!

  13. It is so hard to leave your litte baby behind. At least your hubby can be home with her. What type of work does he do? You are really blessed he has such a flexible schedule.

  14. These bras look awesome. I go back to work on monday from maternity leave, and wonder how pumping is going to work for me.
    angieshaler (at)

  15. I actually laughed out loud when you compared your pictures. Go big or go home is right!

    If you set your mind to it, you can do it. You sound like you have a good plan in place. Good luck!

  16. I agree with the rec to just get a small deep freezer if you have the room– that’s what we did and it puts my mind at ease to know that my milk will keep that much longer!

    I’ve also found it helpful to freeze the bags flat and then stack them in small gift bags with a slit cut in the bottom. Takes up less room in your freezer and when you need some you just pull it out of the bottom (use the oldest first!) Best of luck, going back is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but you will find a way to make it work for you!

  17. I have the same plan as you to store as much milk as possible before I go back to work 12 weeks after my baby is born. I can’t wait to hear about how it goes for you!

  18. Wow, you are doing a great job! I have found that I need to pump so that I am free to feed my son a bottle while dealing with the triplets at night but I do not have any extra and wish I did! I tried a hands free nursing bra when the trio were babies but I did not find it easy to use at all. Would love to win this one! I may even try pumping one side while feeding like you do.

  19. it’s SO awesome you’ve stored that much! i know how good that feels!

    as i type this entry, i am holding my pump “horns” up with my left arm. they always leave marks on my arm, and leave me with only one arm to type contest entries. 🙂

    i would LOVE a Pump-Ease!

  20. I’ve been back to work for about a month now (my little guy is almost 8 weeks!) and I would LOVE one of those hands free bras to go with my pump.. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to balance those suckers on my forearms or knees and spilt milk all over myself.. great job on your little chubbiness! She is the cutest… i only wish my little guy had as many rolls to squish and play with!

  21. OMG, I love this post! “Go big or go home?” Well, they say everything is big in Texas! LOL! Girl you are NOT playing – I love it! I’m sure you’ll meet your goal of keeping her on the breast milk for 6 months.

    Question. When you were flying with Lil J, how did the change in cabin pressure affect her ears?

  22. good luck! I had to get back to work earlier than expected this week(my baby girl is 4 wks old) 🙁 but I’ve got my Avent dual pump with me and plan to pump through the next year. I was able to get through it with my son 3 years ago. It’s hard and a true commitment, but you can do it!

  23. Wow, now that’s a lot of milk!!! Congratulations! For me the the most fulfilling part of being a mother was being able to nurse her and knowing I was providing what she needed.

    I wish you luck as you return to work!

  24. i need to be a good pumper and this post has inspired me. omgah i’m sooooo bad at pumping and storing and end up freakng out the day before i need to be separated from my kiddo. isn’t breastmilk awesome. i love seeing the skinny little wrinkly thing that came out of me turning into a fat little chubbah. lol

  25. I am laughing out loud, because I was the SAME way w/ both of my kids. It is definitely something to be proud of to provide such nourishment to your baby! I would LOVE to win that bra for baby number #3! (fingers crossed, both to win the bra, and to conceive the child, lol) sarah

  26. Way to go on keeping up with the pumping! I had a friend who pumped while driving to and from work each day. I was totally impressed! That bra sure would help.
    mrs.domestica @ yahoo . com

  27. I haven’t had this baby yet, but I’m already worried about storing enough milk for when I have to go back to work. I’m taking 7 weeks off of work, so going back is not something I’m looking forward to. I really appreciate all the information you give us on your experiences – it gives me a glimpse into what I’ll be looking at in the next couple of weeks. So thank you!

  28. Leaving Kendall was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I am sure everyone will tell you that and those that tell you that it will be OK are almost right:) I love my job and luckily being a teacher is the perfect mommy job, but it is still very hard to leave Kendall after a long weekend home like this past one. I know you can do it, it will take some time, but you will get there. I am a schedule driven person, so once I got back in my routine it was really nice.

    I LOVE the avent pump it has been my best friend (Pumping now actually haha!) I also love the freezer bags, I use the same one. I have lots of milk stored up and my goal is to save most of it for after I stop nursing at one year so that she can drink that instead of whole milk! We will see how that goes. You will make time for pumping, because you know that your daughter is your number one priority and this is what you want for her! I felt the same way how was I going to leave my kids to pump twice a day, but so far I have made it work!!

    Enjoy those last few days home, they go by way too fast. Lil J is just such a cutie:)

  29. wow! great job mama! It’s great that you have that much milk but keeping it in the door is a really bad idea! it doesn’t stay cold enough. Get a deep freezer but in the mean time put it on the bottom shelf as far back as you can get it! 🙂

  30. If your company is big enough they may be required under the new healthcare law to provide you time and a place (not the bathroom) to pump. You should check into it.

  31. Holy Milk, Batman!!! I’m impressed! I wasn’t very diligent about building my stash before starting back to work (I was off for 6 months, so I procrastinated big time). Way to go girl!

  32. I admire you so much and my heart goes out to you while you make this transition! I will be delivering in a few short weeks (due date sept 30), and have been reading as you go about your journey! I have the same pump you have and would love the bra, one of my friends says it’s AMAZIN!

  33. That’s quite a stockpile you have there!

    I’m sure the first few days/weeks going back to work will be rough but, with time, it will get easier. At least you know that the person taking care of Lil J while you are at work loves her just as much as you do.

  34. i’m still breastfeeding and occasionally pumping for my almost 19 month old and would love a hands free pumping bra, i can think of so many times when it would have been or will be useful!

  35. the pic of the different colors looks triple XXX and looks a lot like a torture device – though I’d love to win it! haha! good luck with your pumping endeavors, you are one determined and wonderful mama!

  36. Like you, I have a job that does not allow for breaks. I am currently 36 weeks pregnant and am already worried about pumping when I return to work in December. I am very interested to hear how things work out for you.

  37. I’m in research mode like you once were. My machine is ‘on’ in January; breastfeeding is my main priority after birth. Would love a hands-free bra. So crunk about how much milk you’ve pumped!


  38. I’m sure the transition will go smoothly. Just keep in mind you are providing for your child and she will be left in the capable hands of the next best person she could be left with. 🙂

  39. The rolls shots!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!

    Bless your heart! I’m sure it’s really going to be tough to leave her. I’ll be praying for you. Meanwhile, keep up the pumping and keep up the sharing, it’s very helpful!

  40. I’ve still got 4 months til I get to meet my little one, and I’m already freaking out about how on earth I’m going to manage to exclusively breastfeed as long as possible when I’ll only be on maternity leave for 4 weeks maximum (there should be laws against this) lol! I know I can pump, but I’d so much rather be at home with her to feed on demand. You are one lucky mama! I do like the idea of creating a surplus of milk and definitely plan on trying to do the same. Hopefully it’ll give me some kind of peace of mind!

  41. DUDE! THAT’s how you’re supposed to freeze milk? I’ve been doing it wrong for 6 months! I filled up my freezer with baggies standing up – this is WAY more efficient.

    Oh, and yeah, going back is hard. Warning from somebody whose gotten so caught up (or forgotten pump parts) on several occasions – if you don’t pump your body will hate you.

    Just two days ago I discovered I was out of baggies after I was already topless and hooked up, and went 8 hours b/w nursing. Not only was I incredibly sore, but I had a hormonal and emotional melt down and arrived home covered in sweat and in tears.

    Several months into pumping at work I am still figuring this thing out, but a schedule is ESSENTIAL.

  42. those rolls and that chin are to die for! totally worth all the pumping work. you are a great mama, and that won’t change when you go back to work. i hope the transition goes well!

  43. I’m on baby 3. I’ve successfully pumped at work and exclusively breastfed them all without formula. You CAN DO IT. My job is a daily deadline oriented industry so it CAN be difficult, however…you simply put priorities in place. And let your boss know you’ll be away from your desk for 10-20 at these two or three times a day. But scheduling it each day will truly make it much easier for you. Until my 3 month old stretches until a 4 hour schedule, I’m at a 3 1/2 hour schedule. I pump at 8:45, 12:15, and 3:45. Soon, when she eats at a four hour schedule, I’ll only have to pump twice – 9am and 1pm. I generally pump at 5pm while driving home. I’m thinking of switching her to a 6/10/2/6/10 schedule so that I may feed her at home at 6pm. We’ll see if she can adjust.

    The key for me is scheduling. She eats at daycare generally when I’m pumping, give or take a half hour. The schedule allows her to know when it’s coming, it allows my body to adjust and have time to maintain its supply, and best of all I’ve had success doing it so it’s stress-free.

  44. I hope you reach your goals from pumping at work. To get more freezer space, maybe try adding baskets to hold the breast milk in. If the baskets are stackable then you can get more in the freezer. Also, freezing the milk into flat packets before putting them in the baskets. You could even add file tabs to keep up with the expiration dates.

  45. I enjoyed reading yor post… was encouraging….I retrun to worn myself in 5 weeks time. I toohave been pumping and storing and have the same concerns….will I have sufficient sotred? willI be abe able to pump at work> willI be able to maintain my supply? I]
    m a doctor that works in a hospital and unfortunatley as much as we may advocate breastfeeding my hosptal (which is in a foreign country by the way) is not breastfeeding friendly. I struggled with my first daughter, but by the grace of good she was exclusively breastfed to 6 months and I was able to supply her for her first year of life….no formula! So now I’mfaced with a different challenge as I now work in a clinic so I’m not confident as to being able to have privacy often enough to pump like I would want to.
    It’s good hear/read about someone with similar challenges and concerns.
    Be encouraged!

  46. Hi I’m new here 🙂 Found you on Twitter. Did you know you aren’t supposed to store breastmilk in the door of the freezer? It unthaws a little everytime you open the door = breeding ground for bacteria… Just thought I’d let you know! My son is 20 months this week and still nursing. I had limited school hours when he was small but with #2 who is in the works, I will be a full time nursing student! That bra would be glorious!

  47. Just started following your blog and I love it. I just found out I am 6 weeks and love reading your entries when you just found out. Live the milk supply! This is my first and I hope to breastfeed as well! Love the blog!

  48. Yay!!!!! You are doing a WONDERFUL job!!! I LOVE seeing this picture. What a great start you are giving your daughter. I’m gonna look into this bra. I LOVE the concept!!

  49. I forgot to mention in my previous comment about what happened with me and my daughter when I returned to work. Google “reverse cycling”. There’s a whole writeup on it on Kellymom (which is a great breastfeeding resource). Anyway, my daughter absolutely refused the bottle from my husband when I returned to work. (He was home with her on my work days….I’m in the office 3 days/week) I didn’t do a great job of introducing the bottle consistently enough when I was on mat leave, so she just preferred the breast. As a result, she reversed cycled. She nursed really well in the morning and then she nursed like a feign when I got home from work. My lactation consultant told me about reverse cycling and told me that’s what Zoe was doing. Essentially, the baby learns to get it’s fill when mom (and the breasts) is home. She wasn’t cranky during the day, so it’s not like she was starving. She just learned to wait. Babies are resilient. On the days she was especially hungry, she would take some of my expressed milk by bottle, but it was rare.

    Good luck!

  50. ah! don’t put it in the freezer door! i just lost 15 bags of milk bc i did that. it slowly melts just a little every time you open the door and it goes bad instantly. we couldn’t figure out why the baby wouldn’t drink the milk until we tasted it. i also just spoke with some of my mommy friends and they said they made the same mistake.

  51. I don’t need the pumpease (I don’t think they have my size and I already have something similar in another brand that works for me), but I wanted to comment on what an impressive stash you have!

    I’m like you. A friend of mine was ready to go back…me…I still want to stay home (3yr old and 4 month old) even though I know I can’t! I’ve been pumping a month at work 8 more to go! Yikes. It is SO hard because you lose time while pumping (even while hands free), but it’s worth it. I did it with my DD and going on round two. At least this time if I have any issues, it’s a law that they have to give me time to pump and a place.

    Your job is a bit more demanding with specific deadlines, but you can do it!

  52. Don’t know if anyone commented about this already or not… but you shouldn’t store milk in the freezer door. Store it inside. I used to make sure they’re flat and just stack them on top of each other. And I followed a first-in first-out strategy. Start with the oldest first so you don’t ‘waste’ any milk. Btw, I think you’re safe to stop storing… seeing as you’ll be pumping fresh milk when you go back to work.
    Good luck. xoxo

  53. unfortunately i’ve had to supplement with formula periodically but my goal just had to be adjusted slightly… feed her mama’s milk as much and as long as possible!

  54. Good luck momma! I know from experience it is so hard to leave a little one to return to work. I did it when my daughter was 3 months old. It wasn’t easy – but you sound as determined as I was so I think you will be just fine.

  55. I just found your blog tonight while I was internet searching the mommy measure and have since spent quite some time reading all kinds of entries. I particularly like this one, because I was unable to keep breastfeeding once I went back to work but I am determined to do it next time!

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