Having worked in daycare for so long, I got the luxury of witnessing first hand the sheer idiocy involved in the practice of giving babies whole milk at 12 months of age. Before I preface this, please let me explain that I don’t blame parents who simply follow pediatricians’ instructions. They don’t know any better. They are simply brainwashed by the giant companies that influence the media, the “Got Milk?” commercials and the notion that doctors seem to know best. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t even blame doctors. They go through their entire medical school experience often without taking more than 2 hours of instruction in nutrition. Does this strike anyone as odd?
Introducing whole milk to a child, just because they’ve turned 12 months, is somewhat of a ritual in parenthood. I remember, when working in the baby room, how excited the parents would be: no more buying formula! Furthermore, the daycare center provided the whole milk, so all they had to do was bring bottles, if the baby was still drinking from bottles at 12 months. Easy peasy!
But oh, the horror, the pain these children went through. Without fail, transitioning to whole milk was never easy. I wasn’t even vegan yet, but I knew something was wrong. They would immediately become sick, congested for weeks on end, constipated with no relief in sight. It was so horrible for me to watch. I questioned this in my mind silently, wondering, is babyhood really meant to be this difficult? Don’t the parents wonder, why are my children becoming so sick all of the sudden?
Over the years I worked in different rooms. I graduated to the young toddler room, where, without fail, my theory held true. Children who brought in cheese and milk based lunches were ALWAYS sick. Children who loved their milk where often constipated, or the complete opposite, always having diarrhea. People blamed it on daycare, and the wealthy spreading of germs. Sure, that has something to do with it. But it also had to do with their dairy and sugar laden diet.
When I became vegan, I simply could not give children milk anymore. I did research and my actions were based on my love for children. I had since graduated to the older toddler room, where I took care of 9 2-year-olds. And that is when I started doing something I would have gotten fired for has anyone found out.
I started not giving the children milk at lunch time.
At first, they were a little perplexed. But eventually, my children who never got the cookies and sweet snacks that everyone else got, who never got the milk twice a day like the other classes often good – they became angels. When the center all became struck down with sicknesses, my class often had a MUCH lower rate than anyone else. People would say “geez, you don’t get a break, your kids are rarely ever out.” I would smile to myself, knowing the reason.
The only reason I could do this was because I had a co-worker who loved to learn from me. I would cook food and take it in to work to give her some all the time. She would ask me how to cook things, and eventually she completely agreed with my ideas. She was my co-conspirator. Together we hid the fact that we didn’t give the children milk. The person who heated up our lunches would bring the gallon of milk into the room. I would leave it there for about ten minutes, pour water into the cups, and return the milk. If someone walked in during lunch, and they were drinking water, the person simply assumed that they had already drunk their share of milk.
One case strikes me as incredible. We had a new boy who started, let’s name him Tommy. His mother was a young one, still in college, and not exactly the brightest when it came to nutrition. Tommy got nothing but packaged sugary snacks, and a prepared macaroni and cheese lunch every single day. His mother was extremely overweight. Tommy also got a bottle filled with whole milk EVERY SINGLE DAY BEFORE HIS AFTENROON NAP. And Tommy was over 2 years old.
Tommy was also extremely asthmatic. He was always sick. He coughed and spewed green and yellow boogers like you wouldn’t believe. He had to have his nebulizer from the very first day he started in my class.
On the first day, I gave Tommy his bottle filled with milk, because it was still a strange room for him and I wanted him to feel safe and adjust well to our class. The next day I watered down the milk to practically nothing. The third day I gave him JUST WATER. After a week, I told his mother he didn’t even want his bottle anymore. It was true. She couldn’t believe it. She was just too afraid to break the habit.
I also started throwing out Tommy’s yogurt. Think of me as evil, think whatever you like – in two weeks, Tommy was CURED. I am not kidding. His cough disappeared, he only needed the nebulizer occasionally at home. We started giving him fresh fruit, and I gently prodded his mother to bring healthier things, by suggesting he loved the extra grapes we served him at lunch, and so on. She was eager to please, because she really loved my teaching style, and did anything I said.
Summer arrived and Tommy’s mother didn’t have to go to school. So his fulltime schedule was cut down to two days. We lost major control over his diet. Tommy became really sick again. *sigh*
During my last two weeks at daycare, I was filled with dread and anxiety. Nobody knew that we stole most of the fruit from the kitchen to give it as snacks twice a day, instead of the required once, because I couldn’t give my children the sugary cookies. Nobody knew that they never got, or ever asked for milk. Nobody knew that I’d taught them to chug water like you wouldn’t believe. Nobody knew why my class was rarely sick. And yet I had to hand over my beautiful children to a girl who chugged diet coke all day long, who ate cookies and cakes for snacks.
I let her in on our secret, and explained that the reason I did it was because the children were truly healthier this way – and that they got enough milk at home anyway! I explained that we don’t offer juice either, except very rarely when it was brought into our room. I explained that when people talk about how there’s always leftover milk gallons these days, to just suggest that it’s because of summer, and in summer the children drink more water, and leave it at that. Sure, she was all about it. I didn’t tell her about throwing out half the yogurt for most of the kids who showed a propensity for getting sick, or who got dairy in their actual meals, which of course I would never throw out.
This girl was a big liar. When I came back to visit the daycare, my class was mayhem. They got endless amounts of milk, they got cookies for every snack time. People kept telling me my kids became WILD. It also might have something to do with our very different discipline techniques (read: I had one, she didn’t – I paid attention to my kids, she didn’t).
One day, I had hinted to one of the parents that I am closest to that the children in my class didn’t receive milk “very much or very often.” She was smart. Her response was, they get enough of it at home.
I also baked with my children, ALWAYS. The parents knew I was a health freak because I would make copies of the healthy vegan cookies we’d made that day, letting them know their children loved them, and suggesting they might want to make them at home. I did little thing, all the time, to try to change the way they fed their children. One little boy, S, got a giant white bagel for lunch every day. Over the course of months (this child was extremely sensitive and picky) and with the help of his cooperative mother, we eventually got him to have WHOLE WHEAT sandwiches with SOYNUT butter.
I never gave up.
But it always pains me that I never did more. That I was too afraid to copy articles about the hormones, the pus, and the crap in milk. I was too afraid to tell them what they were really feeding their children. I only try to lead by example, and of course, but not giving them what their body did not ever need and what was actually harmful to them.
So when I surf the internet and read blogs, it pains me when parents talk about transitioning to whole milk. It pains me because the act of parenthood is so sensitive. It pains me because I truly do respect anyone who is working toward the well-being of their child. I had witnessed parenthood in it’s various forms, and it is always difficult and parents really do their best.
It pains me that giant, greedy corporations have made it impossible to say “don’t give your kids milk” without being attacked. It pains me that when you suggest an alternative, non-mainstream method of raising your child, it is immediately assumed that you might be attacking that parent’s method of parenting. I want to say, I don’t blame you. I want to say, don’t be afraid. I want to say, most doctors don’t know crap. I want to say, look at your child, listen to him/her, listen to you gut instinct. I want to say, do research. I want to say, just because everyone else does it doesn’t mean it’s right…
But I don’t say anything. I just feel such sorrow and pain for the children who suffer. It takes too much energy to argue my points. I just wish it wasn’t so.