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Pre school milk policy causing me sleepless nights, advice please (sorry long post)

(17 Posts)
Bilbomum Fri 17-Jul-09 10:11:39

Ds will be 3 next month and is due to start pre school in October. He has multiple food allergies the most severe of which are milk, nuts and eggs. The only time we have had a slip up and he got hold of a tiny piece of milk chocolate we ended up in A&E and his breathing was affected. The consultant has now decided to issue him with an epi pen.

I waited until we were offered the place before I warned the nursery of his allergies and was told it wouldn't be a problem. However at the parents evening on Tuesday we found out that there was a 'milk table' available to all children at all times during the session. The kids arrive and choose either water or milk, label it up and are free to drink from it all morning. I called and spoke to the teacher in charge yesterday, and she said that as long as he know he couldn't drink milk because it would make him poorly "it would be ok".

Now ds is very sensible and always asks me if he can eat things BUT he is only 3 and he's never been left without myself or the childminder before. I'm dismayed at the thought of him having to police his allergy himself. Although the teacher seems very nice I was made to feel a little neurotic by my line of questioning.

To me it's no different than putting out bowls of peanuts in front of a nut allergic 3 year old and saying "it's alright, he knows nuts make him poorly" so he won't eat them.

Can you more experienced parents help me to deal with this please? I presume the nursery has some obligation to safeguard my child rather than such a "I'm sure it'll be ok" attitude.

It's a nursery attached to a primary school not a private nursery which is why I chose it. They are also aware he will have an epi pen so know the allergy is severe.

Thanks in advance for any advice you might be able to give me.

OmicronPersei8 Fri 17-Jul-09 10:35:35

I'd ask to speak to the headteacher to be honest, also the teacher might feel differently when confronted with an epipen: I think it makes it more real. I used to teach a boy with a peanut allergy and although of course he was sensible, the responisbility of knowing I'd have to jab him with the epipen (I never did in the end) made me extra vigilant.

musicalmum43 Fri 17-Jul-09 10:36:24

Pre-schools are the worst in terms of taking information you give them about your child's health seriously. Should 3 year olds be able to access all the milk they want? Some of them probably fill up on the stuff and don't eat their lunches. Why can't it all be water? Speak to the committee and explain what the consequences would be if your child ended up drinking milk. As the mother of a child with allergies, I think at 3 he probably is quite reliable if you show him milk and make him understand that he must not drink it - my children aren't always sure what foods are, my daughter thought walnuts were popcorn! However, are staff at pre-school happy to take on making sure he NEVER experiments or forgets? If it were me running the group, and I have run scout groups, I would make it a water table, and then we would see how thirsty these children are, and how many just like lots of milk as a snack. Not that much of a hardship for the children, and cheaper for the pre-school!

OmicronPersei8 Fri 17-Jul-09 10:37:06

I think it would be reasonable for them to offer only water, for this year at least.

Bilbomum Fri 17-Jul-09 10:43:25

Thanks for your quick responses, what you all say makes sense to me so I think I'll have to spell it out for the school.

If the milk was served in cups or glasses I would probably be able to trust ds, however they serve it in little cartons with straws. One of ds's biggest treats is having 'juice in a box' so to him it won't be obvious it's milk.

StealthPolarBear Fri 17-Jul-09 10:48:02

Just on a related point, sorry if this should be somewhere else, but they leave the cups of milk out all morning? Does that include hot days?

Bilbomum Fri 17-Jul-09 10:52:31

It's left out for the three hour sessions, presumably on hot days as well. Couldn't quite believe it myself, I wasn't suprised she said a lot of the kids have water anyway. You think it would put them off milk for life...

bridewolf Fri 17-Jul-09 11:44:11

i dont think its a question of your child knowing the difference, its a question of safety.

pre-schools seem to be being asked to do set ups like this by ofsted recently. Based on independance, and pouring skills etc.

however, for a allergic child, there are more dangers of cross contamintion, and spills.

I must admit i am not in favour of such young age children doing this with out supervision. and a pre-school cant spare one member of staff to sit there with the milk an water all morining.

I like the circle time, when children learn social manners and skills, sitting down drinking altogther.
this is also a safer way to handle milk, as children sitting in circle in seats with adults means that spills are seen and cleaned up quickly and safely.

I would go back to school, and talk about the other children causing cross contamination issues with ie children who have milk on hands, touching water cups ,or and children pouring milk on table, which runs on to all bottoms of clean cups.

They do have a duty of care, and this extends to allergic children that they have accepted in nursery.

I would also explain, in writing, reaction history and push for a written plan to cover emegencies , and daily managment and avoidance of accidental contact and ingestion.
cover craft areas/ (empty milk plastic milk bottles etc) and cooking.

If they havent had the experience of caring for a severe milk allergic child, explain that clearly. individual plans are needed for each allergic child because of this.

good luck.

babybarrister Fri 17-Jul-09 13:19:35

agree with al;l above my DS also anaphylactic to milk - I think the problem is that people do not appreciate that there can be a "peanut type" reaction to other products and so assume it is limited to vomit/bad skin etc - I think you need to be very clear that it can KILL! sorry to sound over dramatic but that is what I said to DS nursery who are extremely good. after all they would not leave a bowl of peanuts out for all the children so they could police themselves would they?!

shoshe Fri 17-Jul-09 13:28:14

Bridewolf is right, it is a Ofsted requirement, that all children have access to water or milk at their own free will.

It is a bloody silly idea.

Asa CM I have my mindees drinks in lidded cups, I am not suppose to, I am suppose to leave water and milk on the table in jugs for them to pour into open cups themselves.

The children are 15, 19 and 27 months.

I dont care what Ofsted say and they can mark me down, but I am not doing it.

Sorry I digress, but you will probably find this is why the milk is left out.

headabovewater Fri 17-Jul-09 13:35:24

I think your instincts are correct and this is too much for a 3 year to police by himself. When I was choosing a nursery for dd (multiple allergies inc anaphylaxis to milk) I opted not to go for one because there was milk/snack table - they poured milk themselves throughout the day and then 'roamed' with them. The idea was to generate independence etc.

From our perspective this seemed an accident waiting to happen and we went for one where there was milk and snack at a predefined time at a table (with a teacher sitting near my daughter to police things, mop up spills etc).

FWIW getting a workable solution that was safe and also not too heavy handed was really hard at pre-school level. Every nursery we saw was IMO either terrifyingly casual about it or very defensive (and clearly wanted us to go away). School has been much easier. It was worth persisting with, though. Her time in nursery went well - she loved it and there were no problems at all.

I would keep communicating in a firm but sensible way. In retrospect things picked up once nursery staff realised I wan't totally insane and neurotic. When I feel scared about dd's allergies I think sound slightly hysterical wink which feeds the cycle of other people not listening, me feeling panicky etc etc.

Good luck

musicalmum43 Fri 17-Jul-09 13:57:25

Staff at Pre-schools often tend to see reason only when you tell them that should your child have a reaction it is THEY who will have to use the epi-pen and call an ambulance. That's my experience anyway, and there were one or two staff who just hated me for having the nerve to ask them to make sure biscuits didn't have nuts in - they made life very uncomfortable for me, but were still good to my DS, so I just put up with it. Welcome to the reality of having a child with a life-threatening allergy - obviously you chose to have a child like this just to inconvenience them! BTW, I bought a trainer epi-pen and they used it for a training session which I think woke them up to the facts of life with an allergy.

Bilbomum Fri 17-Jul-09 15:49:08

I have called and made an appointment with the headteacher when the schools return from holidays. She has suggested I bring the allergy nurse from the hospital with me so hopefully that should help my case (and perhaps correct her impression of me being neurotic!).

I was unaware of the Ofsted requirement so at least I now know why they have the policy. The teachers are all epi pen trained as they already have a nut allergic boy in the main school so that's helpful.

Babybarrister - I did use the peanut example whilst I was talking to the head and I think it got my point across successfully.

Headabovewater - I take your point about communication, I do start to feel panicky when I have to discuss it and I'm sure this is picked up on. I'll have to get working on my 'reasonable' tone of voice!

Thanks everyone for all your suggestions and comments, it's been much appreciated and made me feel a little calmer about the situation and how to deal with it. Mumsnetters to the rescue again smile.

motherducky Fri 17-Jul-09 18:01:52

I'm glad you seem to have got it sorted, just in case it is of any help...

I was unaware that ofsted require us to leave milk out for the children throughout the morning as well as water (we don't and neither do any other nurseries I know). I do know though that milk should not be out of the fridge for more than 30minutes in a nursery - so not sure how that works out!

If the nursery really felt they had to continue with this, (which I doubt after detailed risk assessments and references to 'Every Child Matters') surely they would be able to have separate milk/water tables with closer supervision of the milk - ie it stays at the table or in that 'zone' with colour-coded cups etc.

IME a letter explaining the effects of milk on your child's physical and emotional long and short-term wellbeing referring to a health professional eg dietician and offering several possible solutions, including some ridiculously difficult ones works wellwink. A letter can be reworded as many times as necessary to remove that hint of hysteria grin.

gigglewitch Fri 17-Jul-09 18:12:13

Bilbomum, FWIW (and I've read the whole thread so I can see you are getting sorted) I'll tell you about our school just so you have "experience" as it were. My ds1 is allergic to milk, ds2 and dd are intolerant to it and have been df since birth. Obv my children are (in some ways unfortunately) used to a dairy free household blush
When they got to school nursery class, [dd going in september and had her visit today] they have the Alpro soya milkshakes in cartons and are instructed to drink only this or water. Works a treat. The staff are fantastic (with ds2 I wasn't as confident, with a different/new teacher, who initially hadn't the first clue about it, but I needn't have worried) and I "program" my dc not to have anything unless they are happy it has been checked with me. I send their snack in their own box, they know to only eat this or fresh fruit. IMHO the teachers do catch on pretty quickly and when they realise they can ring me at any time to check stuff, it's very reassuring on both sides smile

trixymalixy Fri 17-Jul-09 22:50:01

Have you actually seen this in operation?

I was very concerned when DS moved up to the ante pre school as they said breakfast was buffet style and the children could choose their own breakfast.

DS is allergic to dairy, eggs,soya and pretty much all legumes and I provide bread for him. I had this image of him helping himself to allsorts. They seemed not to be worried about it and a bit blase when I questioned them and thought I would reserve judgement and on his first day stay for breakfast so I could determine what the risk was to DS. The baby room of the nursery had dealt with his allergies very well so I hoped the ante pre school would as well.

In reality the "buffet" is too high for them to reach and they have to ask the member of staff in the room to pass them their choice. Fruit is laid out at their height to choose from and they are each given an individual cup of milk or oat milk in DS' case. So breakfast isn't too different to how it was in the baby room in reality.

foxinsocks Fri 17-Jul-09 22:52:24

oh yes, no way you could trust a 3 year old to get this right. Even if you had a very sensible 3 year old, it wouldn't be fair to make them entirely responsible for their own health!

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