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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 [email protected].

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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