Jack started school last week at 17 months old. He and his older brother Hugo handled their daycare debuts much differently, and I’ve had to adjust my own behavior and priorities as a result.
I’ve been working from home since last summer, but had a babysitter watch him in my house. Jack loves his sitter, there’s no separation anxiety necessary (being in the next room), and I’ve been able to breastfeed him on demand. Lately that’s just at naptime, which gave me a natural break from working. Starting him at daycare now as opposed to any time in the future was a decision influenced by financial factors and my own workload.
What separation anxiety?
Jack loves school. He barely gives me a backwards glance when I drop him off, he’s so eager to check out the other babies and play with the new toys. Contrast this with Hugo, who cried every single morning I dropped him off for the first 4 months he was there. Much less mommy-anxiety, and I really appreciate it. Hugo and Jack are at the same school, which Hugo now loves so much that he is disappointed with weekends and holidays (he’s in pre-k).
Jack vs. food
Jack loves food. He was gazing longingly at our dinner plates since he was only a few weeks old. He’s also been in the 95% for height and weight most of his life. Jack and I had an easy time breastfeeding, just like Hugo and me, but I’ve always felt that Jack is not as emotionally invested in nursing as his big brother was. Hugo started daycare at 20 months and I never considered sending breastmilk with him to school. I am now pumping and sending breastmilk to school with Jack. What’s different?
The school the boys are in now provides food according to a federal program called the Child and Adult Food Care Program. I’m raising them with vegetarian diets (like me), which wasn’t an issue at Hugo’s first school where parents sent in all the food their children ate. Now I only send a small entree if the lunch features meat. I’ve gotten comfortable with that, although it means Hugo has been much more conscious of being different than I would have liked at this point in his young life. But it also means they get big glasses of milk three times a day, according to the federal nutritional guidelines of this program. Ugh.
You need a doctor’s note
I’m not vegan, but I don’t see any need for my naturally-weaning kids to drink vats of cow’s milk. There’s no nutritional need for Jack, who nurses as much as he wants, and it doesn’t make sense for Hugo to “need” milk from another species after he weaned from breastfeeding. So they drink mostly water at school. I had to provide a doctor’s note to exempt my breastfed toddler from drinking cow’s milk, and also to allow me to send in less than 8 ounces of breastmilk each day. That’s right – if I substituted breastmilk for the cow’s milk that was served, I was expected to provide 4 ounces per meal.
I pump about 1-2 ounces of milk at my peak time of day if I’m relaxed and well-hydrated. I suspect that’s about how much milk Jack drinks per nursing session, too. With the note from Jack’s doctor, I now send in 1-2 ounces each day for him to drink at lunch. So far it’s working out OK. I don’t think Jack would mind too much if he waited until he got home to nurse, as Hugo did when he was 20 months old. But with Jack’s relationship with food, I don’t mind the extra work for him to have some milk in the middle of his day. I’m a little worried that he will be sad to watch the other babies eating something he’s not allowed to eat.
So here I am, pumping during my work day and using the little Medela fridge bag for the first time ever to send milk with Jack to school. I’m so lucky I was able to be with my boys during the day when they were really little. This doesn’t seem too inconvenient to carry on. Yet.