Sometimes you have to setup a breast pump with your mother-in-law…

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This is a 99% true story (my memory isn’t what it once was so that accounts for the 1%).


Monica and I were getting steamrolled by the lack-of-sleep train that was Clara’s first few weeks of life. We had the unique and seemingly backwards situation that I was afforded 12 weeks off from work while she had about 6 to play with. Breastfeeding was going well, Clara was eating pretty regularly, and Monica was starting back to work. (Yes fellas, ‘breast’ will be used frequently in this post.)


We had done our prep work before Clara was born – you know, put up the crib, washed clothes, figured out the car-seat (or so we thought)…




Another thing we took care of was ordering the breast pump from our insurance company. It came in the mail and quickly found its way to a closet. Things were moving along just fine with feedings and we didn’t think anything of the pump for a while. Who needed it? We had the new baby glow and things seemed to be going pretty well.


We had a system worked out that attempted to optimize sleep for all individuals, but there’s only so much you can do when one team member has the appropriate equipment. Sleep reserves started to drain. Couple Monica feeding Clara every few hours with me not yet back to work and it makes you think a change is coming soon to our division of labor.


Much respect for the working (and nonworking) moms who are able to breastfeed for extended periods of time and still function. We tried the approach but soon realized we needed another way. We needed re-inforcements.


We needed the breast pump!


In theory it was great. If Monica could ‘pump’ up some reserves then we could alternate shifts at night and maybe the team could rest more as a collective? Yea, sounds good. One problem: We had neither seen nor knew how to work a breast pump. This is where my mother-in-law came into this story.




Grandparents are amazing for a few reasons: 1) they love the fact that they have grandkids, 2) the new baby time reminds them of when we (their kids) were little, and 3) they typically love to help out with preparing for and watching these grand babies…


Another thing is that the grandparents have, by definition, been through all of these situations before. Feedings, sleepless nights, changing diapers… This makes them veterans of the childcare business.


If I were to liken this to sports though, they are more like hall-of-fame inductees than aging veterans. They were in the game and they were great. Champions in fact. But that was a few years ago and things have changed a bit since then.


Back to the story: Monica and I were somewhat frustrated due to lack of sleep and we needed a win. We thought this breast pump idea was exactly the thing to do the trick. Barb (mother-in-law) was down visiting and was here to help. It was early afternoon and Monica had just retreated to the couch for a nap. Clara was sleeping too and the timing was right.


Barb looked at me and said, “We need to get this breast pump put together.” If you know much about our relationship this quote wouldn’t surprise you. I looked, tried to avoid a slight eye roll (I too was nap ready), and nodded my agreement. “Let’s do it.”


All the parts were on the kitchen table, I had the manual in my hand, and Barb was analyzing the functionality. There were different tubes for inflow as compared to outflow, there was a pump, two bottles, and two funnel-looking suction cup like things that seemed to only have one possible purpose. We were missing the filter do-hickey, oh wait – it’s here on the floor. Does this go for inflow? Do we need this part sterilized or is it that one?


You know the directions never tell the whole story. Barb was soon on the phone with the company. She asked all the relevant questions and guided me through the process. Not once did I flinch at her mention of exactly where on Monica’s breast this pump should attach. It was science, nurturing, – and dammit, it was for the good of the team.


We had the necessary parts sterilized, dried, and ready for assembly. The thing came together like a work of art. We flipped the switch to ‘on’ and off it went. I’ve never been more excited to see a pumping machine work. I had a few thoughts go through my mind:


1) If this works and Monica is able to get some sleep during the nights, our alternating plan could come together. We both wouldn’t have to be up every time Clara is. This means more sleep for me too.


2) I’m into saving money… This puts off us buying formula for a bit.


3) This isn’t exactly breastfeeding but Clara will get the nutritional value she needs from this milk


4) This thing is interesting.


5) You mean I get to see milk come out of a breast and flow into this bottle?? I’m a scientist. This intrigues me.


Monica must have heard all the cheers and commotion because she was up from the nap and also interested in the pump. The timing was right and the dry-run was complete. It was time for the real deal.


Because Barb got all instructions from the manufacturer’s rep (and relayed that information to me), I told Monica where to have the suction cup and to make sure the suction speed wasn’t too high at the beginning. It was a delicate process and we didn’t want to make a misstep.


I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep, the fact that we had worked on this thing for about 2 hours, or that it’s always nice to take a step back and marvel at what you’ve built, but when this thing was on and working I was in awe. I was so in the moment that I didn’t remember exactly what came out of my mouth. Monica and Barb recently reminded me:


“This is liquid gold coming out of those breasts.”



This story is my attempt to remind you that those grandparents are hall-of-famers for a reason. Don’t forget to say thanks.
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– Mike
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