The Supermom myth

When you have kids you get super powers. Right? No? You mean you aren’t supposed to be able to fly through the air, keeping noses wiped, kids behaving, feeding them only organic, unprocessed, sustainable foods, making them sleep perfectly, breastfeeding for the ‘correct’ amount of time, pumping at work, making dinner on time every night, keeping your house perfectly clean…?
No. If anything the only superpowers you get are the ability to love your children even though they are wiggly, snotty, poopy little eating machines, feel guilt at the drop of a hat, and maybe if you’re lucky the ability to function on 4 hours of sleep.
Breastfeeding, working, running your household effortlessly is a myth. I guarantee you that people who say they are, aren’t in your shoes. And I guarantee that women who prattle on about how they are doing things soley for the good of their baby, and imply that if you can’t you aren’t as good as they… are bitches. We do what we need to do to get by.
My issue with the supermom myth is that it’s ridiculously unrealistic. Most people I think don’t recognize how unrealisitic it is until they talk to other honest mothers. And it’s hard to find an honest mother because of the supermom myth. We’re all trying to keep it together, not letting on how hard this new balancing act is…Or you can be like me and sneakily make connections about what’s really going on.
When I was pregnant (not knowing I would have breastfeeding difficulties) I asked other working mothers about pumping, working, breastfeeding, the works. The responses I got were that of course it was possible, nay easily achievable, and The Right Thing To Do ™. No one thought to bring up that some women don’t take to the pump. The party line was that you should be able to work and breastfeed exclusively and if you didn’t manage it, it was you that was slipping as a mother.
Now that I am working, and pumping-though I manage about an ounce per pumping session- I’ve thought back to those assertions on how possible it was. Yes, it is possible IF: you pump well, IF you don’t have a baby that isn’t prone to nipple confusion or flow preference (which can happen even after several months have passed), IF you make an adequate level of milk easily (without having to pump to increase supply, take supplements or medication). That’s not even touching the other issues that people often face in terms of time and space to pump in the workplace. I looked around at my daughter’s daycare and every child there (and if there are any getting pumped milk I haven’t noticed) has their own tin of formula. When my daughter started at 4 months all the other children were walking age at least, so the conclusion I came to is that even if they are breastfed at home, people don’t pump after a bit because, frankly, pumping sucks and it really doesn’t work that well for most people. This is coming from a country with rather high rates of breastfeeding at 4-6 months as well. The woman who went back to work after only a few months and tells you she pumps and exclusively feeds her child until they no longer want a bottle isn’t more determined than you, she’s lucky to be blessed with breasts that pump well and babies that don’t mind swapping between breast and bottle.
Now, I do pump at work, but I don’t replace my daughter’s daytime feeds with the milk I pump because I simply can’t get enough out. And that is not my fault. From four to seven months the milk I pumped at work went to supplement the evening feed instead of formula. But now, at 9 months I still pump (though only once per day) just to maintain my supply whilst I’m away from my little booby eater. That was the reason for me pumping all along as my daughter gets formula, in a bottle, at daycare. From four to six months I pumped three times per day at work. From six to eight months I pumped twice and from then on I’ve only pumped once per day. You need to figure out what works for you. I was able to reasonably maintain my supply for the days I worked that my daughter wasn’t too bothered to go back to nursing on the days I did not work.
Now, again this will work for some women and will not for others. As I see it there are a continuum of traits in the breastfeeding dyad.
At one end you have those with sensitive milk supplies and at the other you have those with robust supplies. I’m personally fortunate enough (despite other issues) to be closer to the robust end of the scale on that one. Same continuum issue with babies and bottles (some can swap back and forth and others cannot), how much you leak, force of letdown, how much and well you are able to pump (and I’m farther  down on the not as good at pumping end) and so on. You need to figure out the hand you’ve been dealt and learn to work with it. Making the best of your body, your situation and your abilities is what makes you super.
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  1. Choosing a professional-here we go again « boobshalffull

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