I have nursed six adopted kids, born between 1983 and 1995 and been in contact with other moms for many years. I didn't get real far with my first two, but the last four all nursed until they self-weaned, at an average of about two years. I didn't use meds; tried Reglan but it made me so depressed I was feeling sorry for my kids for having me as a mother. I didn't pump in advance, except a little bit with one. With my first kids, the only pump I'd ever seen was a Kaneson cylinder pump, which was worse than useless. Also, I usually had no notice that we were getting a baby.
I just had a Lact-Aid kit and was ready to go whenever the baby got there. There would be drops of milk after a few days of nursing on demand, just using the Lact-Aid to provide formula. That would increase, gradually, until whenever the demand decreased. I probably averaged about 35% of their intake, with a maximum of about 16 ounces a day. With my last kids, I knew about herbs. I'd heard that they could be used, earlier, but not had enough information to do anything with it, before. I made a quart of strong tea every day, with whole fenugreek and fennel seeds. I think it gave me an extra four ounces a day, or so. As long as they were getting some breast milk, my kids were very healthy, much more so than when they weren't. I felt it was especially good for avoiding ear infections and digestive upsets. With my second, who had an extremely weak suck that I didn't know what to do about, I found a mom who donated 4-6 ounces a day of her milk for him. He'd been thin, screamed constantly and have ear infections that would not go away. When I started giving him her milk, I threw away the antibiotics. He was still getting the same formula, so the few ounces of human milk were the only difference. His ears cleared up and stayed that way and he started gaining weight and turned into a happy little angel. It was such a dramatic result that it really encouraged me to try harder with my next baby.
Not many moms are able to pump a lot of milk without taking domperidone. I just want everyone to know that, because I've seen moms get so discouraged that they gave up on the whole idea, thinking that what they could pump was indicative of what they could produce for a baby at the breast. Most of us just don't get nearly as much of an increase in prolactin from a pump, as we do from a baby nursing. A big part of it is an emotional response. If you use the Limerick pump, I'd sure love to know how it works for you.
Regardless of whether we produce four ounces a day or forty ounces a day, we can have the same relationship with our babies as anyone else, and that is worth all the effort, alone. I feel like breastfeeding lets the baby know that, although the mom he knows can't be there anymore, she's made sure that he'd have another mom he could count on to love and care for him. After years of struggle to become a mother, it is especially nice to have something we can do for our babies that no one else can. It's really wonderful!