I am not a cow, milk comes from a cup, and other hard lessons (Mommy Monday)

Minnow and I are really good at the breast-feeding thing. It makes her happy and gives her nutrition. It makes me happy and gives me cuddle time. We like breast-feeding and don't intend to wean anytime soon.


Minnow has now transitioned to the toddler room at daycare. And in the toddler room at daycare, they don't serve bottles on demand. They serve milk from a cup at meals.

It was a rough week for both of us.

We've been trying to introduce cow's milk from a cup for the past two weeks. Our goal is to get Minnow drinking cow's milk by day and mommy's milk by night. But each time the milk reaches Minnow's mouth, she spits it out and throws the cup on the floor. It reminds me of her first weeks (age 3 months) at daycare when she refused to drink from a bottle and I'd get calls from the harried teachers because they couldn't get her to eat anything and she was so hungry.

But what has surprised us this time around is that Minnow has happily been drinking juice and water from sippy cups for months. So it's a milk specific thing. And it's not a cow's milk-limited phenomena. She loves yogurt and cheese. On Wednesday, I thought I'd lure her into drinking milk from a cup by sending her bottle of breast milk in a sippy cup. No can do. She refused it. Obviously, milk is not supposed to come from a cup. Duh, Mom.

Given the inflexibility of daycare, I don't think there's much we can do other than keep offering it to her and hoping that eventually she'll give in. I'm sure she will, it's just a question of how thirsty she'll let herself get before that happens. She can be a stubborn little kid.

Meanwhile, this cow's milk transition has been hard on me as well. Not only am I worried about Minnow, but I need to scale down my milk production by not pumping as frequently during the day. Over the course of last week, I got from 3 pumping sessions down to one per day without excessive engorgement (though successively more discomfort). On Friday, I forgot to bring my pump stuff to school. "No problem," I thought, "this will be freeing. I'll be so productive." By 2 pm, I was engorged, by 3 my shirt was soaking through. So I left work early, and went to get Minnow from daycare for a happy Mommy-breast-Minnow-mouth reunion. We were both so relieved.

This weekend we were all sick. Poor Minnow has had a terrible cold and a fever. She just wanted to nurse for comfort, and she was refusing to eat much solid food. So we nursed as much as she wanted, and she threw away her proffered sippy cups. I was sick too, and I just didn't have the energy or the heart to have a milk battle all weekend.

So it's Monday and we're back to the dilemma. Minnow is at home with Fish or at daycare (I'm not sure which actually) and I'm at school. There's no breast milk in the fridge anymore, so even if she is home, it'll have to be cow's milk. With this weekend's breastfeeding marathons, my supply has gone back up again. I'm already uncomfortable, and I've got 3.5 more hours of classes and meetings to go before I can pump.

Sigh. It's going to be a rough week.

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Ending my absence for the last little while (you know, qualifying exams and all), it sounds like daycare is forcing you to cut down on your nursing. This is wrong (in my biased, honest opinion). There's got to be a way for Minnow to continue receiving the wonderful benefits from breastmilk. I nursed F1-1 for about 4 months (I started grad school then and gave up), but was more motivated and continued to nurse with F1-2 and F1-3. (both for about 18 months. And I could have continued, but the kids sort of weaned themselves off, so I just let it happen, very gradually. F2-3 was in daycare from 4 months on, and the daycare had no problems giving her breastmilk from a bottle after 1 year, although I was advised by the ped to switch her to breastmilk from a cup. I gradually introduced cow's milk by mixing small amounts in with the breastmilk, increasing the amount over about a month's time, at which point I could completely switch to cow's milk. She continued to cuddle with me, but had little interest in the breast thing anymore, except at night or when she wasn't feeling well. I guess big girls don't nurse :-( . This may sound crazy, but is there any way you can convince daycare to be a little more accommodating?

It makes me rather uncomfortable to think that you're being forced to transition Minnow away from breastmilk artificially early. Who made up this "oh you're just about 1 years old, no more breastmilk" rule? Last time I checked, the longer babies get breastmilk (within reason if only for societal pressures), the better, smarter, healthier they are.

By autumnmist (not verified) on 11 Feb 2008 #permalink

I want to clarify a point that I think is key but may get overlooked in the post: I am not weaning Minnow.

Let me repeat: I am not weaning Minnow.

What I am trying to do is get her to drink cow's milk during the day and limit nursing to mornings, evenings, and nightime. Given Minnow's cosleeping, I think we'll have nighttime nursing with us for a long while.

In a short while, this will be *so* much easier on us. No pumping for me, no bottles to clean and make up each night. And I'm trying to keep that goal in mind as we work through this rough period. I agree that it would be nice if daycare were more flexible, but they are not. I'm hoping that this cup resistance is a short-lived phenomenon and that we'll have a rough week but by the end of it, Minnow will be happily drinking cow's milk from a cup by day and breast milk from a breast by night. If not, we'll have to explore other options. Given our track record at daycare, I'm not sure what those options are, but of course we'll try. In the meantime though, we're giving it this cow's milk cup thing a push. Wish us luck.

Have you tried cows' milk in a bottle just so she gets used to the taste? Perhaps experiment with other stuff like goat's milk. It won't help your current dilemma, but we were able to add non-human milk in a bottle around 13 months. At 20 months we switched to a day care center with a no bottle policy. She drinks some milk from a cup, but not as much. At least at that point enough of the diet was not milk so this wasn't a major problem for us, but it was disconcerting at first.

autumnist, Last time I checked, the longer babies get breastmilk (within reason if only for societal pressures), the better, smarter, healthier they are.

While there are good mental health reasons to continue breast some feeding (such as bonding, and having the ultimate pacifier), I know of no study that actually shows a clear benefit past 6 months and I have trouble imagining a strong benefit past one year after the immune system more fully develops and food is gotten from multiple sources.

I just completely weaned my Babe (she is only a few months older than Minnow). We were just down to 1 morning feeding (she had already self-weaned the other feedings), and I thought it would be easier than it was. I was very uncomfortable for 2 weeks! And introducing milk in a cup was a challenge. Babe took a couple of weeks to take to milk in a cup, but now can down a sippy cup in no time. Be patient. Minnow will come around and your body will adjust. Learning how it be independent is a difficult process, both for baby and for mom!

My youngest can't have cows milk (lactose intollerance). So we didn't transition to milk-from-a-cup when he moved rooms at daycare -- we transitioned to water-in-a-cup. :). We still nursed until he was three, so he got plenty of 'milk' and all the goodness therein. I just didn't see what the big deal was for him to have milk at all, unless it was from me (at that point, since he was off bottles anyway). You could consider that option -- nurse Minnow all you like when you're with her, and don't force the milk issue at all when she's not getting it from the source.

I had a sick kid while we were transitioning to more cow's milk, too. And breast-feeding was just so comforting when he was feeling yucky and having trouble sleeping. But the leaky breasts are rough.

I think we introduced the cup with breast milk in it, so the newness of the cup made him temporarily forget that milk was supposed to come from mom's breast. I wonder if there's anything you can do now to make the cup interesting and mysterious? Maybe give her a different brand of cup - something that looks different enough for her to be curious about it?

(Hopefully she'll just decide to do what the other kids are doing - but if I recall correctly, my son didn't start copying other kids until he was a little older.)

Good luck. (And ouch, just thinking about engorgement.)

Have you tried soymilk? Maybe Minnow just doesn't like cow's milk (even though she likes cheese and yogurt). Good luck!

bsci - The benefit wouldn't necessarily have to be immunity-related... brain development, for example, clearly continues to progress quickly after 6 months. Also until just two months ago, no studies took into account genetic differences in the mother/child that might enhance or detract from the baby's ability to benefit from breastfeeding. I wouldn't be surprised to see that future studies will find that among babies with the rs174575 SNP might obtain benefits from breastfeeding past the current known limits (6 months or whatever). (Moderation of breastfeeding effects on the IQ by genetic variation in fatty acid metabolism, Capsi A, et al. PNAS 2007)

This isn't my specialty, but just did a little pubmed-ing and it appears there are definite benefits to longer breastfeeding for the mothers:
Duration of lactation is associated with lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in midlife-SWAN, the study of women's health across the nation. Ram KT et al. Am J Obstet. Gyn.

Also there are indications of IQ benefits to the baby for up to 9 months of breastfeeding:
The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence
Mortensen EL et al. JAMA. 2002

Sciencewoman - I'm sorry if my initial post sound accusatory--it was not meant to be at all. I think you are absolutely doing the best you can for yourself and Minnow. It just makes me mad that the daycare is so inflexible.

By autumnmist (not verified) on 11 Feb 2008 #permalink

bsci: The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends breatfeeding infants for the first year of life.

Addy N might be on the right track. Soy milk could be a good choice. I've also heard that cutting cows milk with breastmilk (say starting with 3:1 breastmilk to cows milk, and then moving up from there) can help getting babes to accept cows milk. But you're still left with the "milk doesn't belong in a cup, Mom" problem...

In any case, I wish you luck. My Bean was a fighter at each eating transition too. First with taking a bottle, then with starting solid foods. Hopefully Minnow will get over her little stubborn streak soon...

Try not to stress about it. Minnow may take to milk in a cup at daycare better than at home anyway, because all the kids are doing it, it does not end up being such a power struggle. At a year of age if she is nursing morning/evening/night and eating a variety of foods she probably does not need milk during the day anyway. My daughter never would drink any sort of milk from a cup, ever (I tried cows, formula, soy, even goat's milk). The day I took away bottles was the last time she drank milk.

BTW - my daughter stopped nursing at 4 months and has always been very healthy and a top student (she is almost 16 now). I don't think IQ has ever been shown to be a very reliable test for intelligence or an indicator of life success so I have never bothered to have her tested. I don't buy into correlation studies that make women feel like they are bad mothers if they don't breast feed their kids for 2 or more years. Do what works for you!

By OlderScienceMom (not verified) on 11 Feb 2008 #permalink

I bet the two sticking points for Minnow are the temperature and sweetness of the milk. Add some vanilla extract to the milk, and warm it in the microwave. That's what my daughter likes. Have you tried some of your own milk? Human milk is much, much sweeter than cow's milk.

Sometimes the type of cup can make a big difference. My son became very attached to the Nuby cups and wouldn't drink out of anything else. Their silicone spout is more bottle-like.

By female enginee… (not verified) on 12 Feb 2008 #permalink

Thank you, ScienceWoman and others for sharing your experiences with breastfeeding. I wonder what is the recommended period for nursing in your part of the world? In the Netherlands, where I live and study philosophy, there's a campaign to get women to nurse at all, 3-6 months is considered excellent. My little Sunbeam (9 months old) is still nursing happily 4-5 times a day, but pediatricians suggest to wean somewhere between age 9-12 months. We do not feel like doing so, also because of the health benefits several studies suggest. (Coming from the humanities, pubmed-stuff is a little hard for me to understand, but I like the "digest" in the comments!)

Ah, this makes me feel so much better. ;-) My baby (13 months now, and nearly weaned) really did not like cow's milk. She would take formula fine (which was a big deal, because no matter how hard I tried to pump it, she'd often demand more than I'd been able to pump the day before -- even exhausting the surplus milk I'd been freezing on weekends) and she loved everything out of a cup EXCEPT for milk. Daycare couldn't give her breastmilk in a cup, so that option was out. (State health regulations forbid serving human beastmilk in an open vessel. Well, you can do it at home if you want, but a commercial establishment can't, because of the risk of disease transmission.) She would eat cheese like nobody's business, so we decided to let her drink whatever she wanted (mostly apple juice and Pedialyte) but feed her cottage cheese. She gorged on that stuff, and so I didn't worry about her dairy intake. She was getting plenty of dairy, and plenty of fluids, and plenty of other things too, so I figured it didn't matter if the dairy and the fluids were together.

Then, one day, all of a sudden, she started to take cow's milk in a cup. She decided that it wasn't so bad after all, and now she drinks it just fine -- with one caveat. She refuses to take it from a sippy cup that has a valve of any kind. Anything else is fine in that kind of cup. Weird. She's less obsessed with cottage cheese now, though she's developed a huge passion for goat's cheese. ;-)

BTW, as a tip, don't try dropping out all of your workday pumping sessions at once. Just drop one each week, regardless of what actually gets fed to your baby at the daycare. That helps you slowly ramp down production.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 14 Feb 2008 #permalink

Update from the midst of it: Minnow is not yet consistently drinking from a cup (either breast milk or cows milk, though juice and water continue to be just dandy), although she is sometimes taking an ounce or so. She gets juice and water at afternoon snack time and has been gulping that. She's also hungrily nursing when I pick her up and again when we get home. So we're continuing to hope for incremental improvements though if she continues to refuse, we may ask daycare to at least offer her water at lunch so she's not so thirsty all afternoon.

I'm pumping once per day when the engorgement starts to leak through my shirt. Today maybe 2x because its an especially long day and I left the house before minnow was up for the morning. I'm building up quite a stash in the freezer, which is actually pretty nice because it means I'll be able to have a few evenings out and maybe even be gone overnight eventually without worrying about Minnow not getting her milk.

But I wish this transition were easier.

And, Philomom, in the US, the recommendation is to breastfeed for at least a year. It is not uncommon to still see toddlers nursing at age 2-3, though I think after age 2 it drops off pretty rapidly.