Breaking the Rule: The 12-Month Rule that Just Doesn’t Fit


Sometimes you’ve got to be the Momma who is breaking the rule.


“They can’t give him breastmilk now that he’s one.”


Wait, what? The mama-rage was filling my body, and it wasn’t even 8 am on a Monday. Always a good omen for the week.


I’m sure I read this policy in a handbook at least a year ago when I put my son on the waiting list, but hearing those words stung. To be fair (to me), this was his first day back at daycare after our week-long family vacation. I wasn’t prepared, or even thinking, that he’d have to give up pumped milk in his sippy cups exactly on his first birthday – which happened to be this specific day (yes, I sent him to daycare on his birthday – it’s ok). I was on auto-pilot, just getting the kids out the door and in that frazzled state one typically feels after vacation and being “off” from routine.


a woman sitting on a bed with a white comforter as she packs a bottle of breastmilk in her baby's backpack for daycare


Thankfully, the kids got dropped off, but then my husband called me right before 8 am – never a good sign. I assumed one child puked and needed to be picked up and quarantined. Nope. It was the message that because he turned one, they could no longer give him breastmilk. Here were my stages of rage for the next 3 minutes:


  1. Anger: are you kidding me (my exact words were a bit more colorful, as you would expect from yours truly)?!
  2. Sarcasm: so, uh, what are you going to give him when he’s screaming for milk?
  3. Righteousness: no one has the authority to tell me when my kid stops getting the juice I’ve been laboriously pumping from my body for the past 12 months.
  4. Acceptance (or defiance, depending on your perspective): yeah, no. Give him my milk.


Luckily, this was all resolved with a doctor’s note that will “allow” him to continue drinking the milk I send to daycare. I realize this is probably a pretty universal policy – and this is my second kid. I know the general policies and knew this was coming. I just wasn’t with it that day. It happens (more often than I’d like to admit).


But this event got me thinking. Is there an expectation that once a baby hits the 12-month milestone that a magic switch flips, and all babies need to be doing the same things because something somewhere says so? I’m all for child development benchmarks and all that jazz, but it just seems so weird to me that not even 6 hours into my son’s first birthday, this line in the sand was drawn, and all the things have to change (he was also required to start napping on a cot – which he did like a boss, for the record).


a baby boy breastfeeding on his mom's chest

What’s my point? I’m not totally sure. Maybe that this time around, with #2, I’ve seemed to let up on the “I need him to do xyz by 1” mentality. Right now, my son is almost 13 months and still prefers to nurse. I’ve almost entirely stopped pumping, but all of a sudden, he’s stopped drinking from anything other than…me. So, I’m just going with it. It’s not ideal at daycare, but I’m trying to accept that if he’s thirsty, he’ll drink (I hope). I won’t nurse him forever, and there have been times in the recent week or two where he actually hasn’t shown interest in nursing. So, I know our time to stop will come.


Until then, I’ll send the milk I have left if I feel like he needs it, and I’ll continue to give my kids what I think is best for them and our family – and try not to get tripped up by the rules in the meantime.


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A St. Louis area transplant of 12 years, Kelly now considers herself at home with her husband and daughter. Having spent time in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and even Orange County, California, throughout her childhood and adolescence, Kelly and her husband are committed to putting down roots in St. Charles, Missouri to raise their (hopefully growing) family. As a full-time working mom, Kelly is focused on navigating the twists and turns of motherhood while still building her career in corporate America. When Kelly finds a spare hour of time to herself, she’s likely doing something active – running, walking, or sweating through a class at Orangetheory Fitness. Or just enjoying a glass of wine!