This past week marked a monumental moment in our young parenting life. Cari closed down the factory. No more goods are rolling off the line. We called it quits and she stopped production. The supply had exceeded demand, and enough was enough.
What the hell am I talking about? The milk factory of course. Cari stopped breastfeeding, pumping, and all other ways to excrete liquid gold from her breasts.
As I mentioned in several early posts on the site, breast milk sort of scared the shit out of me in the beginning. I had never had experience with it, and it was strange to suddenly have your wife producing milk. I could be wrong, but from my observations, it also seemed that Char wasn’t completely comfortable with it early on.
After about a week or two of that nonsense, I grew up and adjusted to a world where the milk production was a cornerstone of our lives. In the first couple of months, the girls ate/ drank from Cari every 3 hours (with the help of the Breast Friend Twin Nursing Pillow).
If Cari was not nursing them, she was pumping. This schedule made it difficult to make any plans outside of the house without factoring in a time to pump. After those first few months, we were able to stop the night time feeding and Cari pretty much adjusted every pumping session at work to their eating schedule. As their first year progressed, we naturally introduced more solids and fewer bottles. As we naturally phased out consumption, Cari also phased out her pumping sessions.
That does not mean that demand always kept up with supply. Even as she cut out pumping time, it seemed that Care’s milk production really hit its stride around month nine as she was feeding the girls a healthy 18 ounces each and then freezing an additional 3 bags of 6 ounces. Every day. In other words, she was producing approximately 52 ounces of milk a day (~1.5 quarts). With all of this production, we ran out of space early on. Storing the milk is just one of several aspects of the milk factory that I learned over time. Let’s review the main aspects of the milk factory:
Direct to Consumer
To stimulate early production, Cari fed the girls directly almost every time in the first 3 months (her entire hiatus from work). In that first month, we got the sense that the girls were not getting enough nutrients, so we supplemented with some formula samples that we received in the hospital. Fortunately, Care’s production picked up before we ran out of these samples.
Another interesting element of direct to consumer was the positioning of the girls. The aforementioned pillow was fantastic and saved a lot of time by feeding both at once. The drawback being that it was a little too big in the early stages and at this point, it is really too small to safely nurse one-year olds. Overall, it did it’s job and we were blessed that there were never any significant issues.
The Pump Line
That noise. When I look back on this phase 20 years from now, the only thing I will ever remember about Cari pumping is the ridiculous noise the thing makes. Er- uh- er –uh – er –uh. Non-stop. It drove me absolutely bonkers and I’m not sure how Cari didn’t get a headache every day from this thing. They need to invent a noise-cancelling breast pump!
One other takeaway is that my handy 10-year-old car battery inverter came in clutch for Cari when traveling. She often pumped on the way into work or on the way home from work by utilizing the car inverter. It saved a lot of time! Just make sure the car is running! At one point, Cari was at a conference and decided to pump in a parking garage because there was no other spot to make it happen. She called me to tell me she was getting a low battery warning. It took me a second before asking, “is the car started?”
Finally, the containers that trap the liquid gold only hold 6 ounces of juices. In Cari’s prime, she was continually overflowing this on each side. The transfer to the new one always reminded me a little of the scene in Dumb & Dumber where Jim Carrey is urinating into beer bottle after beer bottle while they are driving. That transition to the new bottle is tricky!
At some point during the third trimester of Care’s pregnancy, her doctor provided us with a nice pamphlet that provided an overview of breastfeeding. Something that we had not spent a lot of time thinking about before then. As I perused through it, one major thing jumped out at me – manual stimulation. While I’m sure there are women out there who choose this route and perhaps it is more natural than using a pump, I could not fathom utilizing this method for an entire year!
This is another area that you do not really think about until you’re in the thick of it. Cari started slow and we were able to freeze her initial excess milk in our kitchen freezer (standard pull out drawer freezer underneath the fridge). We always utilized the Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags and had great success with those.
As the factory picked up steam, we started to store milk in our chest freezer in our basement. After about 2 months of that, I realized that we had no room for the frozen items that we purchased at the store. So, we naturally purchased another chest freezer (about 8 cubic feet). After 4 or 5 months of maxing out this freezer, we purchased a new fridge/ freezer for our garage to take up the excess. … and to have an additional space to keep my beer cold.
All told, we are now a four freezer family. Just the sound of that is nuts! Is it overkill? Probably. But the milk has to go somewhere.
I saved the best for last. This is by far the most important aspect of the factory. When do you utilize what has been frozen? Opinions vary some in the medical field, but here is a general synopsis (by all means, do your own research).
- Freshly expressed milk – the milk can sit out at room temperature roughly 3 to 4 hours. If it is refrigerated, it is good up to 72 hours.
- Frozen Milk — up to 6 months (ensure that you date every bag). The important thing to remember is to smell the milk after it has thawed. We made the mistake early on of skipping this step and we had one daughter vomiting all night. It does not make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you realize your child is vomiting because you gave her spoiled milk. Finally, remember to keep it in the fridge only 24 hours after it has thawed.
At the end of the day, why did Cari ultimately shut down the factory? Four reasons:
1) The girls attentiveness to the world around them made it difficult to nurse and keep them attentive enough to make it productive.
2) Kamryn and Kendal have plenty of solid foods every day, at this point, and do not rely on the breastmilk for their main source of nutrients.
3) We have a solid 6 months supply of milk stored for them, so they will continue to have the opportunity to drink the wholesome liquid that Carolyn produced.
4) The end to pumping. Simply put, it is easier to not plan your day around a pumping schedule, or hear the sound of the pump!
Overall, we were again very blessed that the milk factory operated so smoothly over the past year. The twins were both natural sucklers out of the womb and only progressed from there. There were some rough patches along the way, but the key was staying committed to the process. The milk factory has closed, but it was fun while it lasted.