The End of an Era

Full disclosure: this post is entirely about pumping and breast milk. It may not be for you, though you may learn something from it or build more empathy towards new moms, so I’ll let you decide if you’d like to continue reading.

Ben never figured out breastfeeding and as a way to still provide him the nourishment from breast milk I exclusively pumped for him. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Alex’s support. It was also extremely helpful to have a good friend who was also exclusively pumping for her twins. If she could manage two babies and produce enough milk for both of them I figured I could do it for one!


Tonight I pumped for Ben for the last time. I’ve spent an average of 3 hours a day for the last 359 days pumping. Sometimes I pumped at work, other times while getting ready in the morning or, awkwardly while driving. Sometimes I did it on the floor in Ben’s room while he was playing – after he could move he would wiggle over to me and try to pull out the tubes or chew on the pumping parts. Sometimes I pumped in bed, half asleep, watching Netflix. I spent hours pumping at Ben’s bedside when he was in the NICU last summer. I pumped in the middle of the night every night {sometimes twice} for the first five months of his life. Pumping was a part-time job.

I spent 34 days of the last year pumping. It floors me to have realized I spent more than an entire month out of the last year attached to my pump. Thinking about it like that makes me realize what a sacrifice it really was. It became so habitual I simply planned my days around it and that was that.

Over those 829 hours, I produced 9,403 ounces {278,080 ml} or 73.5 gallons of milk {now that makes me feel like a cow!}. While I wasn’t able to keep up with Ben’s demands past 9 months I am so grateful that my body was able to produce so much milk for him.

If I had to go back and do it all over again I absolutely would. Especially in the beginning of his life we saw tremendous benefits and I think some were as a result of Ben having breast milk. I do hope that someday I’ll be able to experience true breastfeeding. But, if not, I’m not afraid of formula and I’ve already exclusively pumped once, so I can surely do it again.


Recently I learned of several acquaintances and friends who had premature babies. All of these mamas ultimately had to exclusively pump, at least for a while. It made me reflect on my year of pumping and I have a few pieces of advice:

  • The beginning is really hard. REALLY hard. The amount of time, mastitis, blocked ducts and the newness of everything can start to take its toll on you, especially when you couple that with the fact that you really can’t easily feed your baby and pump simultaneously {nor can you pump and hold your crying newborn}. Waking up {twice} in the middle of the night to pump sucks and your life at this point truly revolves around pumping.
  • It gets easier and then it gets harder. The farther along you go, the more your life normals out and the harder it is to squeeze in those five or six pumping sessions during the day.
  • Get two hands free pumping bras. Stick with the hospital grade pump. If your insurance doesn’t cover it you can still rent one and pay out of pocket {rental in Seattle is about $75/month – I rent mine from Village Maternity at U Village}. Buy several sets of pumping parts – I have 5. Use the dishwasher instead of hand washing them. I love this wet/dry bag for dirty pumping parts to corral them on the go.
  • Be sure to test your milk by smelling it the first time you freeze it. Pop a bag of milk in the freezer, thaw it and smell it. It should smell like nothing. If it smells soapy – you’re unlucky like me and you have an excess of lipase, which means your kiddo probably won’t drink your frozen milk. You can still donate it. Sorry – it really, really, really sucks.
  • If you get to the point where you’re going crazy from pumping, re-evaluate why you’re pumping and if it’s worth it to you to continue. There’s always the option to provide part breast milk and part formula if you want to simply pump less.
  • KellyMom is a fantastic resource for pumping and breast feeding. In Seattle, the Lytle Center offers terrific lactation consultants. I loved Emily Pease.

Good luck mamas! You can do it!!