Posted By: Abigail Walston
I'm returning to work as a teacher in September. I'm not a big fan of pumping and my son has rarely used bottles so I know that going back to work is going to be a big adjustment for both of us.
We have a problem at daycare. Here should have been some of my first clues that Joshua's daycare is not as breastfeeding-friendly as I had hoped:
- Joshua is the only breastfed baby enrolled in the childcare center we selected. I don't know why this didn't stand out to me as a problem initially. I probably just assumed that breastfeeding rates are so low that it made mathematical sense.
- Breast milk bottles have to be labeled with red labels as opposed to the white labels that are put on the formula bottles. It may not seem like a big deal, but as a science teacher the red label just makes me think of a biohazard and is kind of offensive. The purpose of the red label is to remind caretakers that the bottle contains a body fluid and to use universal precautions. Which brings me to my next point...
- Joshua's caretakers wear gloves when they feed him bottles of my expressed milk. This is the policy of the daycare center. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Public Health Association do not have any recommendations like this.
- Along the same line of thought, the daycare uses a separate bottle warmer for breast milk. Additionally, they do not accept frozen milk, citing the inability to properly thaw the milk.
I was willing to accept the childcare center's policies, but then I started to get subtle messages that the women watching Joshua didn't have training specific to the needs of a breastfed baby. For example, when Joshua turned six months old we received a note: "When is Joshua going to start solids? I'm not sure if only milk is satisfying him." I kind of lost my temper when I read the phrase "only milk." I contacted the director immediately and explained that breast milk is the perfect nutrition for my son and I would not be rushed into introducing solids, and that the suggestion was inappropriate based on the guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. I explained that Joshua was to be fed on-cue (on-demand), and if he seemed hungry then he was to be given a bottle more often.
I thought the problem was solved, but then we continued to get notes asking for more milk in each bottle. I repeatedly explained that I would not add more milk, since I knew he was getting sufficient nutrition. Joshua was eating a total of 16oz. in an 8-hour period at daycare (five 4-ounce bottles, one of which was sent home untouched each day), and yet they asked for more. I struggled to keep up with pumping 16 ounces each day. I found note after note at the bottom of the diaper bag, and finally one with lots of highlighter and red pen got to me: MORE MILK in each bottle, not more bottles. I again lost my temper and fired off an email to the director. I explained my frustration, told her in no uncertain terms that I found them NOT to be breastfeeding-friendly and I threatened to pull Joshua out and find a new childcare provider.
I met with the director and we seem to have worked it out; the highlighter and red pen have disappeared, and Joshua is getting his 4-ounce bottles. I explained, again, that breastfed babies simply need fewer ounces, but more often, than formula-fed babies. Just because the formula-fed babies drink a higher volume in a single bottle doesn't mean Joshua has to. I especially don't want his stomach to stretch so that he's not satisfied with the quantity of milk he gets when he nurses at home.
I've had to educate Joshua's childcare providers quite a bit, and I wish I didn't need to. I wish that centers would educate their employees about breastfeeding and adopt policies that support breastfeeding mothers and babies.
La Leche League summarizes my feelings perfectly in their statement to daycare providers:
1:58pm on Wednesday December 22
"Mothers who are separated from their infants face a great deal of stress under the best of circumstances. The use, storage, and handling of their breastmilk in daycare settings should not become another burden of concern for them. Breastmilk is the best nutrition and health protection for the baby, whether it is delivered directly through nursing at mother's breast or from a bottle by a caring child care provider."
How disconcerting that a nationally-recognized, certified center is not that well-equipped to handle the needs of a breast-feeding infant!
I'm sure you provided an education to everyone there . . . and everyone reading this!
Bravo to you!