Splash of milk on black background

100% Clean Milk and other lies we judge ourselves by

I recently saw a few posts on social media that I’ve paraphrased here:

I had to have emergency gallbladder surgery this week, at 10 days postpartum. I have declined all medication even after told low doses are okay just to make sure my supply stays strong and so my baby gets 100% clean milk. Because I have done this, I am very tired and in a lot of pain, the thought of pumping sucks. I am just looking for any encouragement. I know I have made it through the hard part but it’s still rough.

My baby is 11 months old, and he’s been with me his whole life. Literally he’s always with me. He sleeps in our bed, I wear him in a carrier, and I work from home with my baby on my lap or in a small crib right next to me. The only thing I don’t do without him is shower. And that’s only sometimes! Sometimes I do shower with him on my hip. We’re pretty much joined at the hip. I have always told him I would be there for him ALWAYS. The problem is, my husband wants to leave him with his parents so we can have a date. And eventually, he wants to go on a weekend cruise! I don’t know what to do. My son needs his mommy, but my husband is pretty insistent, too. How can I just abandon him for a hike and picnic?

Both of these illustrate a trend that I’ve noticed and find concerning. The idea that babies need perfection and parental contact 100% of the time. And it’s not true.

Sometimes it’s better to take care of yourself and your relationships first!

The word SuperMom with the second half crossed out and changed to Exhausted

It’s absolutely OK as a parent to take care of your own medical needs – in my opinion, taking care of your own medical needs will make you a BETTER parent than suffering in order to have “100% clean milk” (whatever that means).

And I’ve been there, I’ve had to make that call.
When I had emergency surgery when I was a few months postpartum, it was rough. But the pain meds helped me rest and recover more quickly, which was crucial because my husband was not able to take any time off work – he’d used all his leave when baby was born. His boss was kind and gave him 2 *unpaid* days off, but after that I was on my own. Pain meds helped me get baby back to the breast (instead of the pump) sooner. If I had not used those couple days to take the meds and rest, no way would I have been in any kind of shape to care for the baby – and my older kids – when he had to go back.

The second example is focused more on relationships between parents and trusting that your baby will be okay apart from you. The bond with your baby is intense. As it should be…at first. That intensity in the first weeks builds a strong attachment that is a foundation for your baby being able to explore the world. A “home base” of sorts. It’s normal and developmentally appropriate for babies to spend time away from their parent. Once that home base has been established in the first few weeks, babies will want to start exploring their world. And they can start experiencing other caregivers. I promise they won’t feel abandoned. And nurturing your relationship with your partner is important too. Start small. Leave your baby with your partner for a trip to the store. Do that a time or two and then leave your baby with someone you trust for a date with your partner.

I encourage you to think critically about the absolutes and the pressures you are buying into. You don’t have to be perfect or do it all as a parent!