This is a blog for my daughter Scarlett. She was born with a complex congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. She is my little hero.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Robotic Milking Machine

Last night during my 2:00am pumping session, I was internet surfing and googling how much milk a dairy cow produces in a day. I myself have been pumping anywhere between 25-30 ounces per day. Turns out a dairy cow pumps 5-7 gallons per day. Cows are milked using something called a "robotic milking machine". Call me silly, but I was so tickled when I read those words. 'robotic milking machine'. I did a little self-reflection and thought... that's me!! I'M A ROBOTIC MILKING MACHINE! I don't even consider myself human anymore, I'm just a milking machine for my precious little Scarlett.
Well, it turns out that my breastpump is the actual 'robotic milking machine', and the machines that dairy farms use on their cows (the ones we all saw on Sesame Street), are called robotic milking machines.  Same and the cow.

Anyone who reads my Facebook posts knows that 85% of my posts are made between the hours of midnight and 4:00am when I'm up pumping. and my posts are often about dairy cows, breastfeeding, breastmilk, pumping, etc.. Today's blog entry is no different. Bear with me...

Expressed breastmilk and I have a long history together. It's kind of a love/hate relationship. I am not able to and have never been able to nurse Scarlett. So since day one (Feb. 17), I have been pumping...and pumping, and pumping..and pumping. Everyday. Sometimes 5-6 times a day... Sometimes 3-4 times a day. Depending on how much milk I want to make that day, I can increase my milk supply, or decrease my milk supply. It's facinating, really.

Why can't I nurse? Let me tell you a couple of reasons. 1.)When Scarlett was born she was on a feeding tube in the NICU. I pumped my milk and took it to her in the nursery ICU where the nurses fed her through a tube. Then after her 1st open heart surgery we tried bottle feeding her, and she kept coughing/choking. They did a modified barrium swallow study and found out that Scarlett was aspirating her food. 2.) So every bottle from that day forward had to be thickened with an agent called "Simply Thick". 3.) Then because she's a cardiac baby, her breastmilk has to be fortified (I have to add a scoop of formula to every 4 oz of breastmilk), to increase her calorie intake to keep her weightgain steady.

So, everytime I pump... it's the same routine... I pump milk into 2  four-ounce bottles (using my medela Pump-In-Style double breastpump), then after I pump I pour the milk into an 8 ounce bottle (it's usually anywhere between 6-8 oz). Then I put a scoop and a teaspoon of Nutramigen in the breastmilk bottle and shake it up. Then I put this 8oz bottle of 'fortified' breastmilk in the fridge. I make about 4 or 5 of these a day. Then once a day, I get out 3 or 4 empty nine-ounce bottles.  I take the 4 or 5 fortified bottles out and I make my "Fortified/Thickened bottles". Which is... 8 ounces of fortified breastmilk, plus two .5oz packets of Simply Thick (nectar consistency). Whew...what a pain in the butt that is.... and believe me I know... I do it everyday.

So you're probably asking yourself... what's the point of all this??  Well, yesterday morning I packed the last 6 bottles (each one was 6-8oz) of Scarlett's fortitied breastmilk plus one bottle of the fortified/thickened milk.  Yesterday during her surgery, I asked one of the nurses if I could put the milk in the fridge... then I said...oh wait a minute... fortified BM is only good for 24 hours, right? and the nurse says..right. So I ended up having to DUMP around 40-50 ounces of fortified breastmilk (aka 'liquid gold') yesterday. That's not the point, but I'm getting there... are you still with me?....

So this same nurse (Nicole) says Scarlett probably won't be able to eat for several more days... this was yesterday. So I get depressed. Having to throw my milk away and all and knowing that Scarlett won't be able to eat for days. So yesterday afternoon (around 12noon), I pumped and I only got a measly 5 ounces. I was bummed. I thought... wow, my milk supply has decreased because I'm so stressed out. :(

I put the milk in my storage bags and hand it to Nicole and said "Here's a little milk, it's not that much". Because to me.... 5 ounces is nothing, when I know I can pump 8 or sometimes 9!... Well Nicole says to me "Not much?, that's a ton!" and I raise an eyebrow and say "5 ounces aint nothing, I usually pump 8!"  She says, I usually only see 2 or 3 ounces, so this is a LOT".  My spirits were immediately lifted. Because to me, it was very little, but to her 5 ounces was a lot!

Sure enough the next time I pumped I got 8 ounces. Back to the norm. I am a robotic milking machine. and I rock!  BTW: No changes on Scarlett. I'll post more around 2 am during my next pumping session. Thank u for reading and bearing with my rambling. :)


  1. You do rock... seriously!! I pumped for Owen for the first month but only got 1/2 an ounce out of both breasts combined... that was WITH the same pump you are using. Brutal. The nurses would smile and say "every little bit helps".

    I would then open up the freezer in the PICU to store Owen's milk and see bags of 'whipped cream' I called it, from other moms. Mine was 1/2 ounce of skim milk (at best).

    Any word on exubation?

  2. Way to go. After talking/emailing Beth last week, I personally made the decision to throw in the towel after 8 1/2 months. We'll see if her new eating regimen helps her put on the pounds and if my new found sleep through the night routine makes me a nicer person.

  3. Yes I know all about of which you speak. I speak your language, simply thick yup, barium swallow study yup, pumping yup, however 8 0z of milk nope. You are doing great! That is a lot of milk. Can't they freeze it for her and then thaw it as she she needs it so you don't have to throw it out? That is what we did for Alexa while she was in the NICU/PICU and not being fed yet. I still nurse her but she needed to be supplemented with formula, life in the hospital is stressful and everything they say you should do like get plenty of rest, eat right and drink often, touch your baby, nurse, etc is nearly impossible to to while in the NICU so, I am happy she has at least had some, and she still enjoys nursing although it may only be a snack at this point. Thinking of you.

  4. Melodie, I loved your post, made me crack up actually. I use to feel just that way also. I would pump 5 oz and look at it like, what the heck is that, that is nothing, what am I pumping for when I am pumping so little. Then Maria, or Kristi, or Nicole, would go, "Good grief woman, think you pump enough?" I would of course say, it was nothing but they would dispute with me, and I would be reminded that not everyone can pump the 8oz like I could most of the time. You sound like me, and as much as everyone thinks I am crazy, I really do miss pumping and breastfeeding. Even though I only took Lily to breast for 2 weeks, it was the best 2weeks of my life.

    I stand and applaud you for continuing to pump, I only wish I had conintued after Lily's second surgery, it just all became to much, us almost losing her and everything. Between that and being put on stuff to help me sleep, goodness knows I couldn't give Lily any of that. So, no matter how little you make, it is a bit more then she would have. You are doing a great job, and Scarlett will thank you one day for it!