Breastfeeding and Cows: How Similar Mamas Really Are


Just before my son was born, I was teaching a group of inquisitive 3- and 4- year olds in an emergent curriculum classroom. Emergent curriculum means following the children’s interests in whatever topics of study they choose while we (the teachers) embed the standards of learning. And what did they choose as I wobbled into my own third trimester? Cows.

That’s right, not farm animals in general, specifically cows.  So like any good teacher, we learn everything there is to know about heifers. I mean everything. If cows are ever a category on Jeopardy, I’ll clean up bigger than Ken Jennings.  

Of course, learning about this beloved bovine has to include a section about milking. How do they make milk? How does it get out of their body? Do brown cows really make chocolate milk?

While they’re fascinated learning all of these facts, my pregnancy brain was working overtime making all of these connections to what I was learning about breastfeeding. Sure enough, we are more like these farm animals than you would ever think. After all, we are both mammals! 

Here are some fun facts about cows relating to breastfeeding/pumping:

  • Cows eat for 6 hours a day on average, mostly all grass. Breastfeeding moms snack about the same amount of time (on lactation cookies or whatever their mama heart wants!).
  • Cows drink about a bathtub full of water each day. Breastfeeding moms are recommended to drink about the same amount. 
  • Cows are milked 2-3 times a day. Breastfeeding/pumping mamas can be “milked” 8-10 times a day, sometimes 2-3 times an hour when babies are cluster feeding. 
  • Cows are typically milked for 5-10 minutes on high-grade pumps. Pumping mamas can expect 15-20 minutes on average.
  • Cows on average produce 6 gallons of milk a day. The stats for moms are all over the place depending on the woman’s body, but I can tell you I was lucky if I pumped 6 oz some days.
  • Cows on average rest for 11-12 hours a day. Mamas think about resting 11-12 hours a day as they do tons of other things. 
  • Cows spend their days eating, resting, and being milked. Moms spend their days doing hundreds of things aside from breastfeeding/pumping: keeping their infant alive, caring for other family members, working, cooking, cleaning/tidying, chauffeuring, etc. 

I wonder what questions the kids would have asked me if we had this project after I’d given birth. Years after feeling like a milking machine myself, these facts really seem like cows have it easy.