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Robin D

Daycare is Forcing Us to Feed our 13 Month Old Crap (long rant)

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Recently, my husband and I went through an ordeal with our daycare which resulted in them telling us we had to put our 13 month old on their food plan. This is a food plan gastronomical gems that include Chicken Nuggets, Mac n Cheese, Beef and Cheese Pizza, Beef Tacos....it's awful. Really really awful. Up until now, she has been eating a meat/veggie/fruit intensive diet, although she has had her fair share of dairy, and yes, even some crackers (cringe!). She's had very little processed food, and, with the exception of carrot cake on her first birthday, no sweets. While my husband does not eat a paleo diet (he doesn't eat processed foods), I try to and I want her to as well. We both believe firmly that the two most important things in Baby V's life at this point are: 1) sleep and 2) food.

We have had issues with the daycare since day one on both of these things; they insisted that they feed her 5 oz of breastmilk every 2 hours when she started daycare at 3 months because she "seemed hungry and fussy" (the fact that I insisted she was tired and thus very fussy fell on completely deaf ears). Had I been working full time (which I do now--I worked part-time until she was 11 months old) I am almost sure we would've had to supplement with formula. I had her pediatrician, 2 lactation consultants and every other breastfeeding mother I know tell me that was an insanely large quantity of milk to feed a baby that little. Because I am a first time mom and doubted myself, I just capitulated after months of arguing.

When she started eating solids at daycare we received "permission" from the daycare to bring in our own food after getting a doctor's note that it was okay. We are apparently the only people in the entire history of the daycare that have ever asked to bring in our own baby food. She started feeding herself at 8 months and refused anything mashed up from that point on.

I have put so much effort into making sure this kid eats well and I think her preference for vegetables and protein reflect that. She loves blueberries, chicken, avocado (her favorite), bananas, and sweet potatoes. I know we cannot hold off the craptastic food forever, but I want to delay it as much as possible. She had already started showing her independence by resisting us on the foods we put in front of her in the hopes, we think, that we would give her crackers if she cried enough (Mama and Dada do not give in :) )before all this unfolded last week. I'm just afraid that once they start feeding her crap there's no turning back; that she'll start expecting crap at home which will make our jobs more difficult.

We really really fought them on this. I actually got into a very heated argument with the head of the daycare that resulted me in me stomping away after my husband told her in an e-mail that the menu had empty calories and had no nutritional value. She told me that she was insulted especially since she had revamped the menu herself. She went on and on about how she had devoted her life's work to working with children and how she knew a thing or two about nutrition and wouldn't feed them "bad food". When I brought up the numerous examples of bad food she said that all of it was homemade--not out of a box--on site. I told her I knew quite a bit about nutrition--I have a master's degree in public health, not to mention an interest in nutrition and more than a little bit of research experience all of which has backed me us on my choices in what to feed my kid. Plus there's the fact that I'm her mother and I should be able to make these choices myself.

Either way, we lost this one. Their argument is that they can't accommodate individual meals for each child, so, In order for her to continue at daycare she has to eat their crap. The head of the daycare has been gracious (*sarcasm*) enough to "let" us continue feeding her our food until the first of the year.

Anyway, I just wanted to vent about this situation. I know this is a forum in which I'll get some support on this type of issue. Has anyone else had to deal with this? How do you keep unhealthy food choices at daycare from affecting how a child eats at home? Suggestions? Help?!

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I got all angry just reading this. I am a mother to 2 tiny children that I thankfully get to stay home with and they are completely paleo. This might seem like a dumb question but it really sounds like you have met with opposition from your daycare from the start...is it possible to switch daycares? I know this is probably difficult and a HUGE P.I.T.A but for me someone that respects what I say and how I feel especially when it comes to my childrens' nutritional needs is priority number one even if that center is further away/more money etc. That menu literally made me cringe. As a former daycare worker I know that they have to feed lots of children on a budget and unfortunately that comes down to basically a SAD but our centers never refused to allow parents to bring in their own food if they wanted to.

If you are unable to switch care providers (I would highly recommend even just checking out a few different centers) send with her whatever they will let you and then feed her at home what you normally. That really is all you can do unless you want to make a big stink about this and go above the directors head to some regulatory board (which I would probably do because I am a big S disturber when it comes to my kids)

This might be not popular with everyone but if they cater to nut allergies they should also cater to "alternative" diets that are health based. You are not trying to be a pain in their side, you, like all parents want the best for your child. What would they say if your child had a gluten or a dairy allergy? Would they deny you?

I am sorry that you are having these issues with the people that are supposed to have your child's best interests at heart when they clearly don't.

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Find a different daycare! There will be one that is willing to accommodate YOUR needs! Especially if you're sending food, it's no skin off their nose to give it to her.

Is there a Nourishing Traditions group in your area? I'd reach out to them and see if someone there can recommend a place.

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Mjam, unfortunately I don't think we will fare much better at a different daycare (I checked out one other, I can check out the other accredited one). I live in a small town in Indiana--the breastfeeding rate is very low (at the 6 months it's in the teens, at a year it's well below 10%), forget about doing radical things like making home made baby food. I had thought about baby led weaning but given the reaction I got when I said I gave her mashed up bananas instead of canned baby food I knew the idea of letting her feed herself was not going to go over well. That's the funny thing about all this--they think I'm being unreasonable when in fact I've had to bend over backwards to deal with all sorts of things that have come up.

I, too, have wondered how this is any different than having a nut/dairy/whatever allergy. If she were vegetarian they would just feed her crap sans the meat. They were nice enough to create a crappy menu for vegetarians as well. Isn't that nice of them?

The one thing that complicates this is the workers in the actual Infant Room LOVE Baby V to pieces (they have told me this on a regular basis) and other than the food thing I think she has benefited a lot from daycare. She loves to socialize and be around other people/babies and has clearly learned so much from the daycare--she follows simple commands, she's starting to talk, she walks....a lot of this is because I think the daycare fosters a good learning environment. Unfortunately, that does not extend to a good food or sleep environment. I think taking her out of this environment would hurt her social development.

I'm still contemplating going over the director's head and speaking to her boss, who would not be happy about the yelling argument we had in front of my daughter about the food issue the other day.

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Your experience is unfortunately common, for two primary reasons: 1. Cost. Most people can't or won't pay more for healthier food options. I looked over the list our director was using to order food for the daycare. There wasn't much in there that I could endorse. Best I could do was frozen berries instead of canned fruit in syrup. "Breakfast" on most days is some high carb item such as waffle sticks with syrup, boxed cereal, or cinnamon toast. So I make sure my child eats his breakfast at home, brings any leftovers, and he can eat their "second breakfast" as a treat. 2. Most parents don't care that much. They pack snacks and lunches that major in convenience and minor in nutrients. The teachers routinely make boxed cake mixes for birthday treats, distribute candy for the holidays, and walk the preschoolers to McDonald's for ice cream. No complaints from parents in any of that. Is it any surprise that most of the teachers are overweight, too?

It is a real uphill climb. I agree that to get a different menu, I would have to change daycares and that is not a trade I have been willing to make, given the options available. I do the best I can with what I feed them at home and what I send to school in their lunch boxes.

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Robin -

I totally feel for you in this situation. Our town is about 3x the size of yours (population) and there are only 3 daycares in town I would even consider letting my children near. If it were me, I would feel like my only option is to go higher in the chain. Part of the issue is that they (probably) get a government reimbursement for each meal (in compliance with USDA guidelines) they feed each child. Money is hard to argue with.

Stay the good guy, remind them how much she loves her teachers and how appreciative you are of the environment, but don't compromise just for their convenience. Get a doctors note saying no dairy and no gluten (that's what I do for my girls), make it very clear that you are happy to pack her food ready to eat and clearly labeled, and then refuse to back down. If the media in town will listen, tell them your story! Even if folks don't agree with your dietary philosophy, they are always willing to jump on the parental autonomy bandwagon. Make it clear that you're willing to do whatever it takes for the health of your daughter - physically and socially.

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I would be furious, its your child.

But at the same time they have their crappy rules they have to follow.

I have no experience in daycare as have never used it thankfully.

Is there elsewhere you can go?

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Thanks everyone for their reply.

I have called around and after originally being told by one daycare that they would let us bring in our own food, they called me back and told me they had changed their minds! Neither daycare is required to serve her their food (I had originally thought they might be required to serve her their food because they were receiving money from the government food program) but, nevertheless, they don't want to "set a precedent" and allow us to bring in our own healthy food. I was told this at both places. In fact, when I requested to see a menu at the place I called the other day the woman on the phone said she wouldn't send me one because they were revamping it, said good-bye and then literally hung up on me!

So, both places basically won't let me bring in my own food because they don't want to. WTF? Really?! I pay $175 per week and I have to compromise with these people on literally everything. I feel like I'm constantly asking permission to raise my kid the way I want to.

The good news: my mother is planning on moving here once she sells her house and retires. Once that happens we can put my daughter in daycare part-time. We have already constructed a plan in which she would pick V up before lunch from daycare, feed her and then put her down for her nap. This will solve our food problem, and hopefully ensure that she sleeps better during the day. My mom will definitely follow our food plan.

Unfortunately that means V is going to have start eating their crap starting in January 2013. This will continue until my mom moves here (which should be at the latest May). I really hope we don't have to undo some awful food habits at that time.

I'm still contemplating going over the director's head. I have had constant battles with this daycare--about overfeeding her breastmilk, about her napping less than 30 minutes a day, about food, etc.-- but despite that I hate being labeled as one of those parents who thinks the entire world revolves around their kid and throws a fit at everything. We are, in fact, NOT "those" parents. We just believe that sleep and food are the two most important things in her life and we need to do whatever it takes to make sure she gets what she needs. Besides, I'm not even sure the director's boss would do anything.

Did I mention I'm still really pissed?

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I haven't even mentioned the real kicker in this whole story.

We had obstensibly flown under the radar (i.e. bringing in our own food far past the time the director had said we needed to switch when V started table food at 8 months) on this whole food issue until a few weeks ago when another parent wanted to bring in junkfood for their kid to eat there. When the junkfood parent was told that the daycare coudn't accomodate that, they got upset and asked why we could bring food for Violet and they couldn't bring in their crap. Unbelieveable!

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Gah! This whole mess just makes me angry. Seriously, I would consider a doctor's note. They can't fight you on that (or you could take them to court and own their daycare).

I'm seriously considering it.

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Ditto on the doctor's note. I had to do it for elementary school, so that my daughter could have the "gluten-free" option for the school cafeteria. He wasn't totally convinced about gluten intolerance, but I told him it had made a world of difference in her digestion and other issues, so he agreed and signed the form.

So frustrating!!!

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My daughter is similar in age to yours. She just moved into the toddler classroom and they have a similar list of foods that they suggest you bring. Unlike yours, though, my daycare requires that I pack a lunch for my daughter. They only provide snack twice a day. The snacks are terrible nutritionally (crackers and the like) and I was kind of upset about their suggested meal list. There's a post about it somewhere on this forum.

Anyway, the way they are treating you is ridiculous. Have you looked into a nanny or in-home care - just to get you through until your mom can start watching your daughter? I was lucky that my daycare teachers were pretty reasonable when I approached them about it. If they had treated me the way you've been treated, I would have done everything in my power to find another care provider. I don't like giving my money to people who treat me like garbage.

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I have never dealt with a daycare, but I just wanted to chime in with the people who are saying either go over their heads or find another provider. What if you found someone on something like care.com and started your half-day plan now?

I had to wonder if the teachers, etc, like baby V so much BECAUSE she is doing well on the foods she eats, verses other children who are already struggling with the results of crappy food.

I applaud you for sticking to your guns! The doctor's note does also sound like a good idea, and she can't be the only kid the gluten/dairy thing is true for.

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Never feel bad for sticking up for your kid. Who cares if a bunch of ill informed people label you one of 'those' parents? Are there any other alternatives available to you? My kids went to a Mother's Day out program at our church. We had to pack their food. The hours might not work for you, but maybe you could put her in something for the social interaction and then hire a nanny for the other hours you need. It doesn't change when they get to school. My kids pack a lunch because they like our food better. My daughter (2nd grade) had to do a food log (based on SAD pyramid) for the weekend. She was heavy on protein, fat and veggies. Her teacher told her she needed more grains in her diet. WTF lady. She looked at me funny during conferences when she told me my daughter had a fear of cookies, cakes and other sugar heavy dishes. Apparently, most kids fear spiders and clowns. Stick to your guns. It's not always easy.

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Emily, I've also wondered if she isn't a delight because she eats well and we have a consistent non-negotiable (except for illness, of course) bed time routine. Toddlers especially love schedules, as do Type A mommies like me, so I think she's doing well because we really insist she eat and sleep well.

Another interesting development is that V has developed a small rash, a distended tummy and her hands have turned red in the past few days. We haven't really changed her diet, although I'm starting to wonder if it's not a food allergy. No fever, throwing up, etc. The only thing different is that she did have rice yesterday (yes, we gave it to her and no, I was not happy about it nor was I happy about eating it myself....but my husband made dinner and all three of us were hungry and grouchy so we ate it). She's had that before though and never had any sort of reaction. I put in a call to our doctor to see if she has any ideas and I will try and float the idea of her having a gluten free diet. She's generally pretty cool about this kind of thing. Does this sound like it could be an allergy?

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It sounds like the rash my oldest was getting from dairy (cheese, really, she never had cow's milk because of colic). So I'd say, yeah., there's a chance. It could also be environmental.

Sounds like a good reason to call the doc to me ;0)

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I called the doctor and the nurse at the office said to "keep an eye on it" and that it didn't sound like any sort of allergy. I'm going to talk to our doctor and see what she says. She's been tolerant of friends' alternate vaccine schedules, so maybe she'll hear me out on this one.

Thanks to everyone for all their help and encouragement. I really appreciate it!

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Robin D, I feel badly for your frustration. As a mom, I fully understand your angst. We have the most important job on earth as a mother: to protect and nourish our children and educate them to stand up for what they believe in, to stand up for themselves. How can you possibly do that effectively if you do not fight for tooth and nail for what YOU believe in?

Is your job necessary financially, or is there any possibility of being home with your Baby V? I understand that economic times are difficult, and the family may need your income. This is not judgement, but merely an alternative. Might you be able to stay home with your little one and ensure that she gets the nutrition and nurturing you know to be crucial in these early years?

Either way, I hope you are able to find a solution to this most exasperating problem.

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Breezygoat: No, I can't stay home. First, it would put us in such a financial position that we would have just barely enough money to get by but not enough money for me/us to ever get a break--and when I say "ever" I mean never ever. I went through this when V was between 4 and 12 weeks--before I had a job and after my husband went back to work and I was by myself all day everyday--and it caused me to be horribly depressed. I can't stay at home. We have no support network here--no friends, no family--and I would be completely and totally isolated. I thrive on interaction with people. When I stayed home before all three of us were miserable.

Second, I have my dream job and I would be stupid to give it up. I teach and advise medical students enrolled in a rural medicine program on public health and PH projects they're required to complete for graduation. It's an important job, I feel, as I am helping train the students going into very rural resource strapped areas about how to approach health problems on a community level. That and I am literally the only person in the area that could do this job (I have a MPH and a strong background in research and rural health). My boss is awesome. The pay is very good. And, honestly, I don't want to give it up. Besides, I just need a way to get through the next few months before my mom moves out here. Once that happens, I think we'll have the perfect set up.

Emily, I don't think the women in the Infant Room have been giving her their food. They don't seem to give a crap what we feed her, just the director cares and I think that's because she's personally insulted that we don't like her food because she created the menu herself. She made it crystal clear that she was insulted by my husband calling the food "inadequate". I'm pretty sure the people in the Infant Room are scared of me and wouldn't dare feed her their food as they know I would flip_my_$&^# :)

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