If you were ever in any doubt of just how amazing the human body is, I can offer reassurance... here is upwards of 2,000 ounces of frozen breast milk:
Yes, you read that right. More than 2,000 ounces of breast milk. That's milk. Made by one mother. Pumped from her breasts.
Isn't it freakin' wonderful?!
I'm writing this as a mighty great big whopping high five to the mother in question, of course. And as a virtual salute to every woman who has ever put a pump to her breast (no matter how high or low the milk yield.)
But also, I'm writing this to let the world in on the apparently secret world of breastfeeding... because it's becoming clearer and clearer to me of late that there is so much about breastfeeding that is going unnoticed and being left unmentioned.
So as part of my drive to normalize the normal, I'm here to confirm that pumping milk is, for many mothers, an integral part of breastfeeding. It is normal, it is common and it is an amazing gift to the baby (or babies!) who will receive it.
This particular stash was made by Kendra Montgomery Owen, a mother who exclusively pumps for her 15 month old toddler. That means that every single feed is pumped, and yes, she still gets up at 4:00 a.m. to pump... because pumping, just like direct nursing, is a labor of love.
I remember when my daughter was tiny and my (childless) friend stopped by to visit. She walked through my door in her high heels; nails manicured and hair perfectly styled. Her gaze made its way up my body; from my old slippers... to my stretchy yoga pants... finally settling on my milk-stained nursing tank:
"You've got a sanitary pad sticking out of your top."
I looked down to see the edges of my nursing pad peeking out above my cleavage.
"Oh, that's a nursing pad!"
You see? Nursing mothers have secrets; there seems to be an "inner circle." Nursing pads, "special" bras, 4:00 a.m. pumping sessions... they are all so very normal. So very needed. They are tools and practices that support our bodies and our minds in our breastfeeding journeys; whatever shape and duration each individual journey may take.
Whether you are a nursing mother or not, whether you can pump 2,000 ounces or 2 ounces, whether you go through a box of nursing pads per day or have never leaked a drop... we are all united. If you support breastfeeding, welcome to the "inner circle."
For anybody with questions, here are some tips from mama Kendra around exclusive pumping...
This post originally appeared on Mama Bean Parenting.