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daycare breastmilk problems

Daycare Milk Wars

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

As a first time mom, your advice column has been so helpful to me on so many fronts. I often visit and revisit your column archives for a neutral reality check. I’m certain my situation is not unique, but this one has a twist. My son is 10.5 months, and I just learned that his teachers at daycare plan to transition to Moo Milk before he even reaches 11 months in order to be 100% transitioned from Mommy Milk to Moo Milk at school (not at home) when he graduates to the toddler room. (I’m pretty sure my Mommy Milk supply dropped upon reading this note from the teacher. I am blessed to have nursed my son exclusively since birth and provide expressed Mommy Milk at school, and now he eats a combination of table foods, purees, and Mommy Milk.)

Our pediatrician (who is also our family doctor) is adamant about delaying Moo Milk under after the first birthday and then transition slowly (due to the increased risk of anemia and diabetes, both of which we have on both sides of our family). Now, our pediatrician is not adamant about a lot of things, but he was serious about this. And I respect him immensely (obviously or I would be shopping for a new pediatrician).

How do I feel? I (and my husband 100% supports me) would like to delay until after his first birthday unless there is convincing evidence that we should do otherwise. But, I feel like we are being pushed into this by the school. After a brief chat with the teacher, we do have the option of delaying a couple of weeks but not really until the 1st birthday when he moves up to the next room. Short of getting a doctor’s note (which our pediatrician would write without hesitation) or taking a “vacation” from daycare for a week or two to transition him to Moo Milk ourselves, I’m not sure what to do. Am I being ridiculous? Is this a common strategy at daycare? Amalah, what’s your neutral 3rd party opinion? Thanks so much!

Not-a-Moo Mama

My neutral third-party opinion? Is probably something along the lines of Go Home Daycare, You Are Drunk. I don’t care what a school’s convenience-based policies are, they absolutely don’t get to override the advice of a pediatrician. And make no mistake, this full-time-cows-milk-before-room-transition policy is ONLY in place because it’s convenient for them. Breastmilk requires different storage and preparation in a daycare setting (because God forbid a bottle filled with formula get warmed up in the same Crock Pot as one with BOOB MILK OMG), and I guess they don’t want to train/hassle the toddler room teachers.

The weirdest thing about this “policy” is that it flies in the face of just about every official guideline out there. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive nothing but breastmilk or iron-fortified formula for the first full 12 months of life. I’m really surprised that they haven’t gotten more push-back from other parents about this.

Here’s the thing: All my kids transitioned to cow’s milk before their first birthday, with our pediatrician’s blessing and instruction. Noah switched (practically overnight) from formula to whole milk around 10.5 months; Ezra was probably around 11 months, but did it more gradually. Ike was my only baby to still be nursing at a year, but I was already supplementing regularly so I basically swapped formula for milk in the 11/12 month range and continued nursing part-time for another four/five months. So it’s not unheard of or completely taboo to make the switch before the first birthday, but it’s usually the pediatrician’s call and preference. Most pediatricians have a trigger/sticking point about certain guidelines while being more old-school (or modern) relaxed about others.

BUT! We don’t have a family history of allergies, anemia, diabetes, obesity or anything like that. So…different! Completely different. Down with one-size-fits-all parenting and nutrition advice! You need to listen to your pediatrician. And guess what! Your daycare needs to listen to him too.

I’d go a step further as well. Your daycare needs to listen to YOU.

By all means, bring in the doctors’ note. No shame in that, man. Put your foot down and tell them that this is a non-negotiable for you. Yes, you are completely within your rights to dig your heels in, even if you’re only talking about a couple weeks, in the end. You will not be giving your child cow’s milk until after his first birthday, and even then you are going to transition him gradually. PER YOUR PEDIATRICIAN’S EXPLICIT INSTRUCTIONS.

So either he needs to stay in the under-12-months room until that transition is complete, or they need to accept the fact that you are going to be bringing in breastmilk for him to drink in the toddler room. You can certainly offer to also provide whatever they need to accommodate this: A small inexpensive Crock Pot, a cooler or insulated bag with ice packs if they don’t have in-room refrigeration, your own sippy cups, assurances that they can send “dirty” cups home for you to wash, etc.

I assume (or hope) the school would make reasonable accommodations in other cases too, like a dairy allergy or an underweight child who has been ordered to remain on formula past 12 months? Right? I know you probably wrote in because you’re concerned you’re being overdramatic, but I don’t believe you are, at all. A daycare provider should not be “pressuring” you into something you’re uncomfortable with, doctor or no doctor. I understand a bigger center with multiple rooms and lots of kids needs certain things streamlined and can’t completely personalize EVERYTHING, but a unbendable policy about a major part of a baby’s diet (and that contradicts the prevailing advice of the AAP and other agencies!!!) is a bit of red flag to me. I’m not saying yank your kid out ASAP or anything…just maybe be on the lookout for other “policies” or “routines” that seem to be more geared to making the teachers’ lives a little easier instead of giving their little charges the best possible care or experience. And again, you should be able to talk to your child’s caregivers and say, “I’m not okay with this,” without them shrugging and basically saying, “Well, that’s our policy.”

(Fun fact! Teenaged Amalah used to work in the Guest Relations department of an amusement park. When guest came to us with a complaint/problem we were absolutely FORBIDDEN to use the “Well, that’s our policy” excuse. A giant pain in the ass when you knew you, as an employee, actually were expected to follow the park’s policies, but it ended up teaching me a lot of very valuable lessons about compromise, creative negotiation and good customer service.)

(I still CRINGE when I hear those words, BTW.)

Anyway. That’s my third-party opinion. Go tell them what’s what. A stranger on the Internet totes said it was okay.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Ali

    December 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    “Mommy milk” and “moo milk” are making me cringe. Can we say breast milk and cow’s milk because we are grown-ups, please?

    • Isabel


      December 17, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      We decided to leave the letter in its original/unedited form.

    • rachel

      December 18, 2012 at 10:49 am

      OMG I am so with you. Let’s be adults.

    • LMo

      December 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Really ladies? No reason to put down OP for her choice of words. That’s not very welcoming. Especially not as the first comment.

      • esssp

        December 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm

        hate to say it, but this was my first thought as well.

        • Isabel


          December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm

          Thank you, LMo, Julie and Amanda for your comments.

  • Kayla

    December 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    As a former child care employee, Amy is absolutely right! They have no right to tell a parent what they will do with their child…at the end of the day it is YOUR decision when and how you wein your child to cow’s milk and from mom’s milk. I experienced more than one child who didn’t transition from mom’s milk until almost 3 years old and that was their right. Was it more inconvenient than pouring another cup of cow’s milk/water at lunch/snacks? Yes. We had to warm a cup of water in the microwave to put the child’s bag of breastmilk in to thaw out — BIG DEAL! But our “policy” and every child care’s “policy” should be to do as the parent feels is best for their child and his health (naturally, within reason). Since your child’s infant teacher is claiming “policy” go to your director, fight it.

    • Kayla

      December 17, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      And that ‘BIG DEAL’ – dripping with sarcasm.

    • April

      January 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      I agree – I have 12 years experience working with children and 4 of those are with infants. Keep your baby on breastmilk as long as you and your pediatrician agree. The daycare has no valid reason to switch.

      BUT, if you want to avoid confrontation, try talking with a head teacher or director, and ask what you can do to make it easier on the teachers to keep breast milk in the toddler room. Try to make it a collective issue to figure out together, rather than a confrontation, and there should be more potential for good relationship building 😉 Also, some centers transition toddlers to drinking out of regular cups and eating family style beginning at 1 year – and there’s no reason your child can’t drink breastmilk from a regular cup. 

  • Kari

    December 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    To give them the benefit of the doubt: a lot of people have been given a lot of different advice about breast milk/cow’s milk over the years, and it is conceivable that the teachers aren’t up on the latest recommendations. (Especially if they are older and were given different advice, or younger and haven’t had their own kids or any friends with kids.) (That’s just what I have noticed at my son’s school.) Stick by your guns. Get that doctor’s note and don’t feel any guilt about it. You get to decide what your kid eats.

    (You are obviously a very nice person, because I would have been getting my doctor to fax over a note before I even left the premises.)

  • Jesabes

    December 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    I’m not nice enough to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. This is a daycare CENTER. One big enough to separate out babies and toddlers. They absolutely should be up on the whole “no cow’s milk until age 1” thing. I would have thrown a fit…in the privacy of my home, because I’m so terrible at confrontation. It would have been SO hard for me to be strong with the daycare, but it has to be done. You can do it! 

  • Anne

    December 17, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    If the center won’t budge, you could also ask to have him transition to the toddler room a little later. It wouldn’t be like holding him back in school; it would only be for a month or so. But it would let them keep their policies in place in each room.

  • Autumn

    December 17, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Our daycare’s policy is the toddler room doesn’t do bottles, but that move up isn’t till 15-16 months (and I’m sooo not ready!) They provide whole milk until 2, then 2% I think.  With an MD note, we can bring our own, which I do cause shelf stable no refrigeration required till opened dairy freaks me out.

    I pumped for 12.5 months (after 12 months was tapering so I wouldn’t explode and I kinda didn’t mind some quiet paperwork time at lunch), and we are still having a good morning boob and a I missed mommy after day care boob at 15.5 months.  This is connivence for them.  I would get the MD note, and have copies. Give one to the teacher, one to the center director and keep one for yourself.  Be polite but firm that this is what is best for your kid.  You can’t be the only family who has felt this way.  

    If their concern is about drinking from a cup, your kid could have an ounce or 2 of water with meals at school. Check with your pediatrician, but that should ease school’s “won’t know what to do with a cup” fears for when the transition happens.  We did this with our daughter and it works great.  She drinks from an open cup, not a sippy with only minor spills cause she practiced with water.  I don’t allow them to use a sippy at day care.  

  • Stephanie

    December 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    I, too, am cringing from the Moo Milk/Mommy Milk – it really detracted from the substance of the letter.

    • Isabel


      December 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      thanks for the feedback, Stephanie. We’ll take that into consideration if necessary for the future.

      • Erin

        December 18, 2012 at 12:28 pm

        I agree with Stephanie.  Seeing “Mommy Milk” and “Moo Milk” repeatedly, in capital letters, made for a couple of confusing moments as I tried to figure out if she was talking about specific brand names.  Standardizing such things in the future would be helpful.

  • Autumn

    December 17, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Sorry for the long response, just want to help a mom!  

    At about 11 months, my daughter started wanting her bottles at day care less.  She had been drinking 4 3oz bottles (I packed basically how much came out of the mommy tap cause that’s how much she’d be getting from me) and just wasn’t finishing all of them, or refusing a bottle.  So I dropped her down to 3 with some water at meals and it worked.  I think I also started adding about 1 oz whole milk to 2 oz breast milk at 11.5 months, just cause I didn’t have enough mommy milk to keep up.  

    And she had her last bottle at day care at 13 months, after the freezer door was left open and my last remaining 12 oz was defrosted (there was a mommy meltdown after that) but the kid was fine and didn’t miss it at all.  

  • J

    December 18, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Honestly, I think I’d try to find another daycare. This would really put me off. It sounds like they were planning to transition him before they even spoke to you — which hold up, no. They do not get to plan anything so important without first speaking to you. And as soon as you say ”no”, that should be the end of it.

    There’s no way (and I say this as a mom who used mostly formula) that cow milk is better than breast milk. Why would you switch any sooner than you or your son want to?

    Also? This is SUCH a personal issue. If you switch to cows milk at daycare, your son may wean sooner than he would have done. Nursing is such a personal thing — comforting and bonding, and they’re interfering with it?!

    How dare daycare suggest something that flies in the face of your pediatrician and common sense, not to mention interferes with your own preferences for your child — all for their own convenience? Omg.

    I’d wonder what else they do that’s for their own convenience rather than in the best interests of the kids 🙁

  • Lana

    December 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Some things at daycare you have to let slide, understanding that they have to do things to accomodate all kids. Other things you push back on. It’s hard to know which battles to pick.
    This is a battle to fight. While it’s not the end of the world (on the whole) to start cow’s milk early, this is your choice (with or without your medical history). Get the doctor to write a note.

  • Brittany

    December 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Thumbs up on Amalah’s advice.  Any caregiver is going to push their preferences on certain issues.  (Even my mother-in-law.)  (Make that especially my mother-in-law.)  You just have to tell them what’s what.  Good luck!

  • Corinne

    December 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    This makes me so angry for you that your daycare is trying to bully you into doing something that you AND your pediatrician do not feel is right for your son.  To provide you a contrast, my daycare, which is on the Federal Food Plan, can only serve certain things that they provide to my child (so they do formula for a year, then transition to whole milk, then go to 2% milk sometime after the 2nd birthday).  OR, they can serve whatever you provide.  I provided breastmilk until he was 16 months old, then had him transition to cow’s milk.  Another child in the room has soy milk instead of cow’s milk.  Another child has organic milk instead of the non organic (but rBST free) milk they use.  They just keep the cartons in the fridge labeled with names and dates.  My son has a soy allergy, and we do not eat meat, so we provide 95% of his protein and grains (a lot of commercial breads and bread products have soy in them).  He eats fruits and veggies from the center.  They are very flexible as long as the food I provide fills out the missing food groups, and I work closely with his teachers to make sure we are all on the same page and are working towards his best interest.  

  • Julie

    December 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Dear people, this is a woman with a real problem. She can call the milk anything she feels like. Move on. Make better use of your time.

    • Amanda

      December 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      I completely agree, Julie. We all come here for support, advice, understanding, and a little humor. Ripping on this woman for her choice of terminology is just ridiculous and mean.

      • leslie

        December 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

        Agreed. It may not be the terminology I’d use, but I knew what she meant, and that’s all that matters. Making her feel bad for using words you don’t like is just mean. What did we all learn as children? If you don’t have anything nice (and let’s add supportive in this case) to say, don’t say anything at all. Who are the ones not acting like adults? Editors, you absolutely made the right choice to leave the letter in its orginal form, as you do with ALL letters.

  • Kim

    December 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Amy specifically mentioned warming procedures, and I would suggest that maybe that is a conversion you can make. There isn’t any real reason why the milk has to be warmed, and if you send sippy cups for it to be served in, there’s absolutely no reason they can’t accomodate it. No difference between that and a kid who only drinks soy milk, for instance. (My second bottle weaned herself by 9 months – she preferred sippy cups. So I stopped warming it for her, and she didn’t care at all. She was just shy of 2 when she stopped nursing.) YMMV.

  • JenVegas

    December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I agree with Amy, clearly this Daycare Center is drunk and should go home. There is nooooo waaaaaaaay I would ever let a daycare provider dictate what is in the best interests of my child’s health at this level. Any daycare center worth it’s salt has a system in place that should support breast milk, cow milk and dairy alternatives for ALL of the children in their care. I don’t even see why this would be an issue as long as whatever you use for storage is labeled even if your kid is transitioned from bottle to cup or whatever they can still use breast milk….or soy milk, or almond milk or whatever. 

  • Holly

    December 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    From my experience with my daughter’s transition from infant to toddler room, there were a number of ‘milestones’ that had to be met. About a year old, mostly walking, no pacifiers, sleeping on a cot, and no bottles. I think the cow’s milk thing was completely left off the list of ‘must do before transitioning’, especially as it’s so different for each child. So, I sent in my pumped milk, and they just dumped into a sippy cup. That started at about 11months old. Once she turned a year, I was having a tough time getting enough pumped milk, so I started mixing my cow’s milk with what I could pump, and sent that in. She was drinking out of a sippy, cold-to-room-temp mix, and had that for about 2 weeks and moved to the toddler room when she was about 13months where she got whole milk. There are definitely kids in her class that have their special milk needs, I see parents bringing in almond milk, soy milk, organic milk, etc. This should be a non-issue for them, especially with a doctor’s note – make it a medical issue if that’s what it takes. I can’t believe they’re being so unaccommodating.

  • Kat

    December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I run a home daycare and am kind of stunned a daycare would require someone to transition away from breast milk before they’re ready simply for their own convenience. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to keep one child’s food separate with a note to staff.

    Personally I wouldn’t be interested in continuing to go back and forth with them. Get a note from your doctor and they won’t have a leg to stand on anymore.

    • Hannah

      December 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

      I run a home daycare too and in fact I have a little one here now who is still drinking expressed breastmilk. It is absolutely NO PROBLEM to manage it – if the milk is frozen I simply defrost it in a mug of warm water, and if it’s fresh I just keep it refrigerated in a sippy cup. At mealtimes the other baby here (mine!) who has already transitioned gets whole milk, while the kids over 2yo get 2%. It’s not a problem at all, and I’m one person managing six kids.

      Your daycare should absolutely be working with you on this issue. I’m a little shocked actually that they are being so inflexible.

  • Jessica

    December 19, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Um, aren’t you PAYING THEM???  LIke…this is not a free service, right?  So in addition to everything else said (i.e. dr’s advice, what you want for your child, etc) AREN’T YOU PAYING THEM???  
    Why should they be telling you what to do when it’s a service that you’re paying for?  You get to say how it goes, or you get to take your money and walk.  

    • Natalie

      December 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      My thoughts exactly. I mean they are a service provider, being paid for their services. They don’t get to decide such a big thing for their convenience.

      Also, I love Amy’s advice. Go home daycare, you are DRUNK.

  • Kat

    December 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Oh my. I agree with Amalah. You are the mommy – you get to decide what and how to feed your baby, full stop. And I would bet you aren’t the only mommy who has been confused or concerned about this – If someone told me I had to switch over in this manner I would throw a fit (and get that doc’s note right away, just to make it stick). Don’t be shy about sticking up for what you think is best for your little one, that’s your job and this won’t be the last time you disagree with a caretaker/babysitter/teacher/so on. Think of this as a practice run, with a doctor behind you to give you a little strength if you need it.

  • K

    December 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Wow. I didn’t even know a daycare could do that (insist on making the change to cow’s milk before one year). The mom’s request seems like a totally reasonable request and shouldn’t even need a note from a pediatrician. I think if it were me, I’d do what it takes to hold off on the switch at daycare. I’d also start window shopping for other daycare options, so that if something like this happened again, I’d be ready to leave if needed.

  • Rhi

    December 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I guess I don’t understand why the daycare feels they get to make the feeding decision for this woman’s child. What if she wanted to continue providing breast milk past her child’s first birthday? They should accomodate that. 

  • emah

    December 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I just this morning had a conversation with my pediatrician about this. My kid will be a year old in 5 weeks, and she’s really figured out the solid food thing. And now my supply is plummeting. I work half time (every other day) and so while I think that she’s fine on the days that she’s at home nursing, I worry about dehydration now that I’m not getting as much pumped milk for her.

    So I called to ask our pediatrician if I should just introduce milk on the days that she isn’t at home with me, since trying to get her to drink formula for 5 weeks seems silly.

    And apparently there is a risk for anemia. Apparently. And even though it’s not much per day, I shouldn’t do it. So even a pediatrician who is getting asked the question in the “hey, this makes sense to me, any reason why I shouldn’t?” form says that it’s probably not the best idea, though she did agree that formula was dumb.

  • Jamie

    December 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    This is absolutley nuts. Who in the hell do these childcare people think they are?! Their “policy” flies in the face of the AAP, WHO, etc., not to mention YOUR wishes and the advice of your PEDIATRICIAN. Um, no. I would put my foot down and tell them how the situation is going to work on your terms and on your timeline. They really should be looking out for their students’ best interests, not trying to make their lives easier. FWIW, my “baby” is 17 months and I still pump at work for him. His school not only accepts my milk without compaint but his teachers encourage me to continue sending milk. I made appropriate adjustments to make it easier on them: he was weaned off of bottles and on to a soft straw sippy, then a lidded standard cup by 10 months and now an open cup at 17 months, I send his milk in labeled containers packed in a cooler with ice, he drinks his breastmilk cold from a cup with no problem. I will probably wean off pumping at work after cold/flu season is over and continue to nurse when we are together until he weans on his own accord. I would stick to my guns and have them follow your rules or start looking for another center. HTH and good luck mama!

  • betttina

    March 7, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I read this article and loved the phrase “Mama’s Baby Milk” so much that it’s what I say to my 22 month old daughter when I’m offering to nurse her. She just says “milllllllk.”
    We have this book “Best Milk” and while my mom is at home with my baby all day and I’m at work, my mom offers my daughter some “Best Milk.” I think “Mommy Milk,” as the original posted called it, is a sweet way to tell your baby that you made that milk just for him or her. Let’s support each other in our breastfeeding journeys, whatever we call the milk.

  • Policy Writer

    March 26, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    As someone who writes the policy for a child care, it is complicated. We were letting parents send breast milk in sippy cups and serving it with snacks/meals until another child grabbed and drank it. Now we have what the department of health calls a “body fluid exposure” and a “bloodborne pathogen risk” citation. We may have to pay for the exposed child to have HIV testing for several years to come. If we don’t disallow breast milk in the classroom, we have to provide 1:1 staffing so no other child has the risk of exposure to a body fluid.