How my boobs changed my relationship with money.


I was texting with a girlfriend about pumping breast milk a couple of months ago. She’s with her little one and running her businesses from home just like I am.

Neither of us have much of a need for a freezer stash of breast milk beyond enough to cover an emergency.

She’s barely ever pumped. I shared that I pump religiously, every single day, and that even if I only get one extra ounce of milk to add to my stash, I treasure it. I get so much satisfaction out of knowing that I have more than enough milk set aside for Penelope should I choose to or need to go somewhere. (At this point I have no plans of leaving P for any extended period of time, but I like to have the milk saved just in case.)

Until this particular text exchange, I hadn’t realized that amassing large quantities of frozen breast milk despite having no plans to be away from your child for more than a random overnight was unusual. I simply assumed all mamas did it.

As I texted her that I treasured every addition to my freezer stash, even if it was only an ounce, I had a high-wattage light bulb moment:

If I can get this excited about saving breast milk, I can transfer that mindset to money!

Historically I haven’t been much of a saver. I’ve been a great earner, a great spender, and pretty good about putting money toward retirement.

But when it comes to having cash sitting in the bank for a cushion (like 6-12 months of living expenses), I’ve always fallen short.

Any time an unexpected expense came along, I just made more money.

That’s the gift and trap of being an entrepreneur: you can always make more money, which can become an excuse for not taking great care of the money you already have.

Letting perfectly good cash simply sit in the bank always felt miserly and stagnant to me. I always wanted to be investing it in my business, investing it in retirement accounts, or spending it on something fun.

I always thought that having an “Emergency Fund” would manifest an emergency. (For the record, I still prefer to call it a “Cushion Fund” because no matter what happens in life, it’s good to have a soft place to land.)

I’ve never lived my life preparing for the worst. I like to prepare for and expect the best. So saving for the worst-case scenario always felt in conflict with my overall life philosophy.

But my relationship with my freezer stash of breast milk has been quite different.

My freezer stash is abundance. My freezer stash is freedom. They don’t call it “liquid gold” for nothing.

My freezer stash has taught me that saving can be for the best.

Here’s what having a whole bunch of extra breast milk on hand has done for me:

  • It’s allowed me to donate my surplus milk to moms and babies who need it.
  • It’s allowed me the freedom to take an overnight by myself somewhat spontaneously.
  • It’s allowed me to be out longer than I’d planned and not worry if the baby will be hungry.
  • It’s allowed me to not feel bad about splurging on things I cut out of my diet to help heal P’s eczema (my own version of “Pumping and Dumping” since I consume 1.75 alcoholic beverages per year, tops).
  • It’s allowed me to be way more relaxed about milk usage and the inevitable times when it has to be thrown out for one reason or another.
  • It’s allowed me to know, no matter what, that my baby girl will be nourished.

I have never been able to get myself to save money regularly beyond periodically socking chunks away for retirement…until now.

I get it now how having a sizable savings is freedom, too.

Yes, as entrepreneurs we can always make more money. But having unexpected expenses come up and then needing to make more money to cover them keeps us stuck in a cycle of reactivity instead of proactivity. It keeps us hustling instead of relaxing.

Now, just like I pump every single day, I’m looking at ways to save money every single day. In the past, this mindset would have felt like deprivation. But now I’m approaching it from a place of abundance.

And saving for unexpected events doesn’t mean preparing for the worst. I get that now.

Saving my breast milk allowed me to have a solo night at a fancy inn the other week. It was unexpected, and it was awesome.

Having a healthy savings means you can live life proactively instead of reactively. And that’s a much more powerful way to live. {Tweet It} Having a healthy savings-Tweet

Whether you’ve ever pumped an ounce of milk from your boobs or not, we can all make being smart with money feel good.

Just as I’ve accumulated milk for Penelope out of love, I’m starting to accumulate cash in case of the unexpected for our business and our family.

It feels abundant. It feels like freedom. I’m doing it out of love.

Being prepared for the unexpected doesn’t have to mean you’re expecting the worst.

Instead, it can mean being ready to make the best out of the unexpected.



What’s your mindset around saving money? Do you have a stash of cash saved for the unexpected? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your comments below!


  • Loved this analogy! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Emily

    I have 2 savings accounts – one is the cushion account (enough to pay the mortgage and bills for a few months in the event that I need to take time off work) and the other is the vacation fund. I have money directly deposited into each of those accounts. The vacation fund is great. It is our budget for big trips or little trips depending on what what we need or what we have.

  • Sheila

    I never had to breast feed, because I do not have children. I like your analogy of the breast milk. Saving money for an emergency is hard to do. I had to do it automatically by starting a TFSA-tax free saving account (sponsored by government in Canada). It is a way to save money without noticing it accumulating. I never could save by putting money in an account that I had accesses to anytime.
    Thank you for your insight. I will pass it on to my niece who is a single mother to a 4 month old.


  • marie

    You are an amazing writer and such an insightful wombman. This really helped me as well. Not when it comes to savings…as I am good at doing that, but it helped with my beliefs about retirement, insurance etc.
    I see people work miserable jobs or are miserable in their jobs just because they are thinking of retirement, that never sat right with me.
    It felt like deprivation, so I chose not to think about it and live now.
    But, now I see stashing away for retirement is merely being proactive at setting yourself up.

    And yes, I mirror your sentiment about Liquid Gold baby! Having that stash makes you feel like a well oiled, productive and efficient biological machine.

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so glad this post was helpful for your perspective shift, as well. I completely agree that working a miserable job so your retirement gets taken care of makes no sense, but it doesn’t have to be either or. We can enjoy the now AND save for the future!

  • Suzanne

    A very important perspective. From abundance,not need or fear.Live within your means and anything over that is abundance,and attainable and allows for joy.Thank you

  • Heidi

    This is something that I have been opening up to. This generous space and freedom that savings give you. For years my mantra was “I have everything I need. ” then I realized that was exactly what I created, only what I needed. So I lived in scarcity and clenching for so long! Now I’m in a more generous space of more than I’ll ever need including generous savings and freedom! Thank you

    • Kate Northrup

      That is so true that we create what we affirm. Instead we can affirm “I have more than I need” and see how the expansion continues!

  • I love this comparison! My baby is 6 weeks old and that freezer stash feels like insurance. Saving can equal freedom, too! Thanks Kate!

  • Thank you for sharing this, Kate! My ‘baby’ just turned 14. So, really, more of a young man now. But your story took me right back to 2002, breastfeeding, nurturing my baby and pumping. It was tough for me getting started, but so worth it. And pumping was a struggle as well, especially when I returned to full time work at the end of the year. Once again, it was a struggle that was so worth every moment of effort.

    I’ve never thought about transferring that same sense of “worth the struggle” and abundance to money. Money has always been a major issue for me and I’ve only recently truly begun to dive deep into the emotional issues behind it and start working my way out of scarcity thinking. Your story speaks to me about abundance in a way that I get it! I’m grateful for you and your work. Thank you for sharing it with me (us)! :)

    Much love! ~~Liz~~

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you Liz – I also think there’s something to reframing the “struggle” piece of the puzzle. I actually kind of enjoy the downtime of pumping. I read, check my newsfeed, or just space out. I think if we reframe the “struggle” around money as well and affirm that “making money is easy” and “saving money is easy” then the whole conversation shifts.

  • Kiran

    I find it empowering to safe money, it helps me feel secure. I stepped away from a job that was no longer empowering me, and have been able to take a personal sabbatical for the last nine months as I seek a job I truly love. Saving money gave me the freedom to do that. I would however, like to become more entrepreneurial and have your ability of making more money when it is required. That is a great skill.

    • Kate Northrup

      It sounds like you and I could learn something from one another, Kiran. That’s really awesome that you saved enough to give yourself the spaciousness for a sabbatical. What a beautiful, loving act.

  • April

    After becoming a full time student and single mom I stashed a month of rent. It’s not a huge amount but for me it’s a cushion just in case. It’s the most I’ve ever had in a cushion fund and I feel like I’m doing something really good for my family by keeping it safe.

  • You speak my language! I am right there, with the whole saving money mentality always having felt synonymous with a lack mentality. Having breastfed 4 babies, the milk pumping connection landed. I can see myself applying this concept to all sorts of areas of my life even beyond saving money: self-care, education, relationships, etc. What a wonderful paradigm shift. Thank you!!

  • Lauren

    You can also donate some of your freezer stash to babies in need! :-D

  • Love this post title – I had to know! :) What a great way to look at savings. As I’ve been working, practicing shifting my mindset from lack to abundance (realized how much “I can’t afford that” and “it’s too expensive” impacted all areas of my life), I see that I’m grappling with some similar feelings around savings. How can I save from a place of love rather than a hoarding/cannot spend place? This is stirring something inside (and also helping me look at when I was pumping for my children in a new light). Thank you!

  • Wow! Perfect post at the perfect time for me! Thank you Kate for such an awesome comparison and a very positive, different perspective. I am saving this one to remind myself whenever I slip back to that ‘not-enough’ mindset.

  • Hi Kate!
    So interesting this is your topic today. I just made a shift in a reverse direction…always having a stash of cash for…just in case…
    The other day, as I added $625 from a client to the incredibly cheerful hidden stash bag, I thought “Why am I saving this…for what purpose?”
    I brought $1665 to the bank for deposit then wrote a check to my Roth IRA fund. Put aside $1000 for my upcoming 3 week trip to see my daughter, to use for “frivolous” expenses.
    Realized I was using this stash as a fear-based vs freedom-based concept.
    Wrote a note to my Self, “Please know, dear Paula, that you make WAY MORE than you need so get rid of the stash. Put the money where it serves you best.”
    Appreciate yet another great insight from Kate!!

  • Jennifer Noelle

    Kate, I love it! I did have a stash of breast milk for my babies when they were young, too. While I do have a separate credit union account (that I don’t have immediate access to) for savings for my children’s education and an ’emergency’ fund, I have not been good about saving 3-6 months expenses. My parents went through the Dave Ramsey classes at their church when I was in high school and completely changed their relationship to money. Later they bought the CD’s for my siblings and I to watch, so that we too could learn about money as adults. It has helped me tremendously. I think perhaps that I need to open a second credit union account that I don’t have immediate access to so that I can begin (even if modestly at first) to build my savings.

    I wondered where you were going with the title of this article! :-) Totally awesome!

  • Rina

    Wow, that’s a great analogy. I did breastfeed and pump and I remember the feeling when I would see the “stash” in the freezer – I had freedom. But, even after the Money Love Challenge, cannot seem to break out of this hand-to-mouth existence. I don’t over spend; but I have a lot of debt (divorce, health crisis)and I can’t seem to get out from under it. I pray, do affirmations, I know how much I owe, my wallet is neat, gift cards used up…I am missing something…help!

  • Kate, I love this analogy. I have always been a saver, and back when I was pumping I was the same way with that liquid gold. :) Saving meant for me being able to leave a soul-sucking corporate commute to work in service of women and their growth instead. The flexibility to fall back on our cushion while I’m building my practice, has been so freeing. I will say being stuck in a saving mindset can be a challenge too – like I’m not saving enough! You’ve reminded me that it’s all about being mindful and flexible and smart. Keep rockin it, mama. Xoxo

  • Leisa

    I have one thousand aside as a cusion. I stash little amounts as I can. I have been an etrepreneur and full time mom. I have lived paycheck to paycheck. I had depended on my husband to put away for retirement for usand it was going well. Till the economy took a huge dump and took a hige portion of those funds. I know a retirement is necissary. Yet I am petrified to put money away for retirement. Cause I fear it can disappear in a flash like last time. And now it feels overwhelming. Where I am now it’s all about the struggle to make ends meet. I’ve lost my dreams and my right to dream. Life has become so practical and based on existing. I am struggling to turn it around.

  • Warmth and aloha, I am not a mother, yet, and if that happens always knew I would breastfeed. I love the analogy: the humor, wisdom and lightness/practicality of becoming a saver, which I am in process of as well, and the expanded freedom it brings to life.
    Thank you for sharing

  • ps – i love how mothers milk echoes the inherent wholeness, wealth and abundance that already exists in life. Money just being an extension of what already is

  • Kathie

    Hi Kate! Love this post, as it has hit a nerve with me! Yet has left me with NOT knowing of what exactly to do. I get the fact for the “cushion fund” and “vacation fund”……both are awesome. I come to a brick wall and stopping point tho, when it comes to putting my money in the banking system. I worked for a bank years ago, the FDIC came in on a friday like two mins until closing time and yes, closed down the bank. Talk about an “awakening and frightful moment” in time, yep, that was it. They took over everything. No one could get to their money for about 3 weeks time. They did this, as they did not want word to get out, and have a “run” on the bank, as they call it. Whereby you find out and go get ALL your money out. Well, we waited patiently, for those long weeks, until they decided of just when to open the doors, and do a “pay out”. That is how they handle it. Everyone across the board (meaning customers and employees) were paid 35 cents on the dollar. and that was all you got. period. not pretty. Our jobs were gone in seconds flat too. Was a nightmare. oh also, just a good note and lesson to learn, look at the signs on the windows of your bank, will say…. fdic insured up to 100,000. That is correct. and do you fully understand of what you just read? I inquired. THat only means that the fdic ONLY insures YOUR money up to 100,000 dollars. more than that, and it is not insured. So if you have a jumbo CD, like 500,000 well, that is only insured up to the 100,000 point. Yes, this is the truth. Look it up, do your research. I am just pointing out the facts. So, Kate, my question is………..”is our money really “safe” in any banking institution these days”…..or better left under the mattress? Would love to hear your thoughts on this please. oh………and also, I did so LOVE your 2 facts video re: Feng Shui, as I am interested in all of this, yet never understood it. UNTIL I watched that! Wow, I swear you saw right into my house, full of clutter! and into my office with my back to the door! YIKES!!!, and yes, I am in the middle of changing my entire office as I type this, So Thank You very much! Have a blessed day, Kathie!!!!!!

  • Meredith Jordan

    I’m laughing as I write this because I may be your oldest person to respond, but I do want to say what a wonderful paradigm shift you’ve developed (or maybe fallen into)! I’ve been self-employed my entire life and very much into the “If I need more, I’ll simply make more” frame of reference. That was successful to a certain degree but it also allowed me to half-heartedly save money because I always felt the “making more” mechanism was in place. Not, at retirement, I’m not so much into “making more.” I’m ready to slow down, create in other ways, spend luscious time with my grandchildren, and just not have to react when things pop up to surprise me. I wish I’d thought like this when I was a young mom, but it’s never too late to both share your wisdom and integrate it myself. Thanks, Kate!

  • Interesting!

    It’s been the opposite experience for me.

    I grew up with immigrant parents and saving/deprivation
    was the name of our game.

    Even when I had a 6 fig job and paid my loans off anything felt
    like too much.

    Not to say I didn’t enjoy dinners and clothes but I could have
    enjoyed more.

    After my parents past away, I left my inheritance in the bank for years.

    I could only spend it on something practical like a home.

    Which I am glad I did.

    I then became a mom and had a huge soul awakening
    That involved leaving my profession and o wastage breadwinner
    My hubby was a stay at home dad.

    I couldn’t be okay with depending on my savings and pushed myself
    to start a business.

    Needless to say I burnt out again

    Now I re-emerging and allowing myself to be taken care of by my
    Parents and even by my hubby.

    It’s still not easy but I know this allowing is a big part of my success

    I also pumped and breastfed longer than I should have….


  • Love this, Kate! Such a killer analogy. As a mom of twins, I TOTALLY GET IT.

    This year we got a pretty large tax refund (again, thanks to having twins!), and for the first time in our marriage, my husband and I didn’t have big plans or a big need for the money. And so it went into our bank account, where we have allowed ourselves to spend it joyfully and to save it not out of panic, but out of a feeling of abundance.

    It has been the world’s best timing, because my business is taking off so I’m walking away from my “official job” so I can devote all my energy to it. I could look at that tax return as a lifeline, a saving grace, but instead I’m looking at it as my chance to really FEEL safe and abundant and generous. I’m not hustling to make my business enormously profitable NOW before the money dries up — I’m thoroughly enjoying the feeling of having plenty, and that feeling is feeding into my business and completely changing the way I approach it. I’m nurturing it and allowing it to grow, and the results have been phenomenal.

    To anyone else stuck in the fear of not enough (as I have lived for most of my life), TAKE KATE’S ADVICE!! See how it FEELS to live in the safety of abundance. It is joyful and peaceful like nothing else.

  • Erin

    This was a great post, Kate! I also love the perspective shift. Could you write another post about ways to save money, especially when it might be tight to begin with?


  • I love love love this blog post! I believe the “why” behind what we do is vital and you have helped to open my mind to a different way of saving that doesn’t go against my personal philosophies about life. Thank you so much. You are doing incredible work in the world!

  • Audrey

    I loved what you wrote about the power of language to nudge our attitudes. I have long struggled with savings, though having set up and renamed two savings accounts as ‘Buffer fund’ and ‘Epic adventure fund’ helped. I am now going to rename my ‘Buffer fund’ (for unexpected expenses) to ‘Cushion’ though, to move away from the mindset of expecting disasters and emphasise that it’s all about making life comfortable and easy.

    I also had a major AHA moment reading this – I call what’s left over after my bills and expenses my ‘disposable income’ and surprise, surprise, I usually go on to dispose of it every month … Does anyone have any great ideas on what to rename this to reframe it as something more positive & easier to safeguard?

    Thanks a million!

    • Kate Northrup

      What a powerful realization Audrey. What could we rename that? Our power income maybe because that’s the income we can use to make powerful decisions?

  • I love this post Kate. Inspiring me to stash milk & money. I hadn’t thought of saving breast milk like that before – for some freedom. I really would love to build up a cushion fund also, 6 months of cushion would be my aim for now. I’ll be pumping, saving & looking for ways to save up u cushion. X Kelly

  • Crystal Beder

    I definitely have what I prefer to call an “E-Fund” for emergencies. I listened to Dave Ramsey’s audio books and his iheart radio station and got serious about getting out of debt about five years ago.

    It took 9 months to put together that money and once I did, I NEVER touch it. It was way too hard to scrape together!! Also, once I out that money aside, I felt a sense of relief and peace in my heart that has been with me ever since.

    That E-Fund is like a magic security blanket that helps me feel more confident about my level of responsibility (which is shaky at best) and my ability to protect myself, at least in the short term, should I lose my job or have to quit or fix my car or whatever. I love that chunk of money!!!

  • This post suggested in your Let’s Review email found me at a perfect time. Writing my 2017 goals yesterday, one was to save more. I have a 3 month old now and started a “Baby Savings Fund” when I found out I was pregnant. I had the idea from reading your book “Money: A Love Story.” One of the exercises was my first memory with money. Which was my father would have me make a piggy bank decorated and wrapped in tape (to ensure the money stayed untouched). I would get so excited putting money in the jar and envisioning it filled to the brim! Since then my savings capabilities have greatly gone down hill…So, my “Baby Savings Fund” jar was a beautifully decoupaged(and sealed) piggy bank. It was like a emergency fund incognito. Putting money in it made me feel so good, same way it did as a child. Eight weeks after my babes was born and I was scheduled to go back to work, she started refusing the bottle. Going back to work was no longer an option. I am grateful my boyfriend stepped up and felt comfortable being the sole provider, but I still had my “Baby Fund” to be able to help out with bills, miscellaneous spending and my pride as I transitioned mentally into a stay at home mom. The babes is almost 4 months now and still actively objecting the bottle, but I still have a frozen stash of milkies in hopes that one day I’ll have longer than a 3 hour window to myself. In the meantime I am starting a new piggy bank for 2017 as a “Family Fun Fund” and using my time at home pursuing my art career. Thank you Kate! You have been such an insperation in many ways, from one Mainah to another. Cheers to the New Year!

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