Yes, I am going to raise my baby vegan

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» Yes, I am going to raise my baby vegan

Helen Rossiter looks at the challenges and triumphs of raising a vegan baby, and shares her favourite recipes.

As someone who hasn’t eaten meat or dairy for the last five years, I’m used to batting off questions from others about why I choose to live the way I do. But when meat eating friends and family found out that I planned on sticking to veganism through pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, the conversations started to get noticeably more intense.

Suddenly, everyone was an expert on nutrition, and even complete strangers seemed to have a problem with what I put on my plate. Friends of friends, family members and health professionals would all ask the same questions, their voices heavy with judgement. “So, are you going to stay vegan?”

What follows is a summary of what I have learned so far as a vegan parent, including a couple of my favourite recipes for pregnancy and childbirth. I hope that I can help more people to have the confidence to “stay vegan"!

Proud to have given my baby the best start in life

We’ve all read bad reports about vegan parents in the media. Stories of malnutrition and neglect are common; very rarely are we offered the chance to read about healthy, happy, well-nourished vegan babies. Because that wouldn’t be news, would it?

Vegan sceptics, I have news for you. My son Iolo was born a thriving 9lb 5oz. I produced so much breast milk I could easily donate to a milk bank. Many people say he is living proof that vegan babies can be perfectly healthy – actually glowing. He’s firmly in the top percentile for weight and height and is often complimented for looking incredibly happy and alert – even more so since we began weaning.

People’s interest in our diet hasn’t waned over the months; several parents continue to ask, “so, are you going to feed him meat?” I find this question quite hard to believe at times. I simply cannot comprehend why anyone would want to feed their baby the flesh of a dead animal. Or milk from another species. The sad thing is, I know many people believe it’s what children need to be healthy. I know this isn’t true.

How to survive an interrogation about what you choose to feed your child

1. Answer calmly

My first reaction was to be defensive, but I learned quickly that this was not the most effective way to win people over. Remember that if someone is questioning your choices, it’s probably because they care deeply about you and the health of your baby.

2. Know your stuff

Arm yourself with as much information as possible about veganism and nutrition so that you can speak with confidence about your choices. The Vegan Society has a free fully-referenced PDF here, while Sandra Hood’s Feeding Your Vegan Infant with Confidence and Rose Elliot’s Mother, Baby and Toddler are both excellent resources.

3. Speak the truth

Throughout my life, I have felt healthy, satisfied, and energised. I enjoy the foods that I cook and eat immensely, and have never been more adventurous and creative with food. Most importantly, I understand how a well-planned vegan diet can provide all the nutrition anyone ever needs. Including my baby.

4. Stand your ground

As a child, I turned to my mother one day and said “I don’t want to eat cows anymore.” Now a mother myself, I know that I can’t lie to my baby about what I believe to be right and wrong. Be in no doubt that your vegan diet is right for your baby, both pre- and post-natal. It’s just about education, confidence... and holding your head high.

Nutrients, nutrients, nutrients.

Are you getting enough? During pregnancy, your daily nutrient requirements increase considerably. You need more: iron, folic acid, B12 and other B vitamins, vitamins A, C and D, plus extra protein and calcium. I made sure I ate around ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day, including lots of leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, pulses, seeds, yeast extract, and fortified soya products. I also took Higher Nature’s Mum-to-Be supplement and Floradix Liquid Iron Formula, to ensure all bases were covered. That way, when my midwife asked about what I ate, she was left in no doubt that a vegan diet provided everything I needed.

From six months onwards, babies can enjoy fruit and vegetable purées, enriched with a variety of vegan protein, calcium and good fat sources. These include: lentils, mashed beans, quinoa, tofu, tahini, yeast extract, finely milled nuts and seeds and fortified soya products like milk or plain soya yoghurt.

In a rush? Top tips for a quick, nutritious dinner

Add quinoa to vegetables as they are cooking for a great source of protein. Almond butter on fingers of wholemeal bread makes a quick, calcium-packed snack. Cook polenta grain for just a minute on the hob with boiling water, then mix in readymade vegetable purée. Delicious and nutritious!

Tofu and Rocket Salad

For the salad:

½ packet rocket and spinach salad,

or other mixed leaves

½ block firm tofu (or about 120g), cubed

6 radishes, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 tbsp sunflower seeds½ yellow pepper, sliced

For the dressing:

1 tsp sweet chilli sauce

2 tbsp olive or linseed oil

1 tsp tamari or good quality soya sauce

1 tsp light tahini 

1 tsp cider vinegar

Sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

1. Mix all salad ingredients together in a serving bowl.

2. Make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jug and beating together with a fork until smooth and the tahini is fully mixed.

3. Pour dressing over the salad and serve with hummous and wholemeal bread.

By Helen Rossiter

Need more information? Check out the resources on our website.

Comments

Great blog by Helen Rossiter about raising a baby on vegan diet. Real life experiences on this subject are needed to take away people's fear. What I have always found puzzling regarding people's reactions to babies from vegan mothers is this: People generally have no problems accepting that babies thrive on cows' milk, but they worry when a baby is breastfed by a vegan mother, and raised on a plant based diet..They seem to forget that cows are in fact vegans, and therefore formula fed infants are being fed milk from a vegan mother (albeit from a different species, which comes with ethical, environmental and health problems on so many levels).

Great article. I'm 38 weeks this weekend and I did loads of research about a vegan pregnancy, too. It seems so silly to have to justify a very healthy diet to people! Anyway, I have been running a blog with links to different nutrients -it's basically an accumulation of the reading I did- if anyone wants to check it out. I'm also making all my own natural baby products. https://broccolibump.wordpress.com/

No vegans can guarantee that their child will choose veganism as an adult, so if you care about animals, it's best to devote your time to speaking with the thousands of non-vegans who are already here rather than risk creating another one. Or maybe adopt a non-plant-based child and help him or her choose veganism in adulthood. The world has enough people right now.

A baby or child can no more be vegan than they can be bred to be catholic or communist. Rather they are temporarily plant-based. Just as we were raised by non-vegan parents, they and their many possible descendants will make their own decisions on how to live, a decision that will be made in a speciesist culture, surrounded by speciesist peers. They will at best all require fuel/energy, finite resources, housing, land for agriculture, clean water etc. All will hugely impact wild animals who have seen their numbers halved in the the last 40 years, as human animals doubled. Consider this article from The Vegan Society magazine which connects the dots: https://www.facebook.com/notes/269life/should-vegans-procreate/481715355256508

First of all, i am sending my warm regards to you and family, and you know what, my baby is a vegan boy also, from pregnancy until now. Me and my wife felt the same, and to be honest we don't care what people said. I can't give my baby a murdered food, blood, etc. We believe the future is vegan. Now my baby is 2 years old, very smart, active and healthy. So, we're so happy to be a vegan family, until the rest of our life.

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The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.