One of the most important things to consider when raising a baby is how to feed them. What we feed our children has a massive impact on their overall health, perhaps more so than any other factor.
That might explain why there is so much debate over the prospect of raising their babies to eat vegan food. There are strong opinions on both sides, with some strongly opposing the suggestion, and others stalwartly defending the option. But what are the actual facts surrounding this relatively new concept? Can mothers actually raise their babies vegan and still provide them with adequate nutrition and health?
One thing is clear – it is possible. Very few healthcare professionals out there dismiss the idea altogether, and those who advise against such a move still admit that it's definitely doable. In this article, we will attempt to remain completely neutral on the matter as we explore both the good things and the bad things that can happen when your baby goes vegan. There are some surprising benefits to such a way of eating, but there are also real issues that all mothers have to be aware of. But at the end of the day, it's a viable option if you educate yourself on the matter.
Let's make one thing clear right out of the gate. There is a massive misconception out there that raising your baby as a vegan means not giving your baby breastmilk. That is simply false, as most vegans consider breastmilk to be vegan. Since the breastmilk is coming from a human source, and no animals are being affected, breastmilk is 100% vegan.
In fact, healthcare professionals are advising vegan mothers to breastfeed for longer than other moms, because of how nutritious it is. In a recent article, Fit Pregnancy quoted nutritionist Kaleigh McMordie as saying, "Vegan infants may need to be breastfed longer than non-vegans since breastmilk is such a great source of nutrients."
Too often, we get focused on the potential negatives of raising children with a vegan lifestyle. But what about the benefits of such a way of eating? They do exist, and it's nothing to scoff at, either. Because of all the veggies, fruits, and other healthy foods your baby will be eating, they will be at lower risk for all kinds of different illnesses and ailments. In a recent article, The Independent quoted nutritionist Bahee Van de Bor as saying “[Vegan children can] go on to benefit from reduced risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and type two diabetes as adults."
When it comes to raising your baby to be vegan, there are some potential negatives and downsides to consider, and this is something every good mom takes into consideration. The simple truth is that your baby will be at higher risk for a number of vitamin deficiencies. Dr. Keith Ayoob was quoted by Fit Pregnancy as stating that eating vegan"can be lower in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, as animal foods are the primary sources of these nutrients for omnivores. And with B12 especially, a fortified food source or a supplement will be necessary for most vegan children because B12 is only naturally present in animal foods." It's definitely something to consider – although you can easily factor these things when considering how and what you eat.
There's also another major upside of raising a vegan baby, and it's something a lot of moms probably never considered. Because being vegan follows strict rules and guidelines, it actually gives you an opportunity to teach your child the value of being aware of what we eat. Right from the get go, your baby will understand that it's important to think about what we put inside our bodies, and these are valuable lessons to learn going forward. Bahee Van de Bor echoes these statements in a recent article from The Independent, saying “Vegan [lifestyles] also present one opportunity for families to teach children about nutrition and healthy eating principles from an early age."
Some of the most convincing benefits of being vegan come not from nutritionists, but from the highest levels of scientific study. These studies have published information that further supports the idea that in many areas, a vegan lifestyle for a baby is actually healthier than a "traditional" way of eating, especially when it comes to fiber – a very important nutrient for all babies.
A recent study published by the National Center For Biotechnology Information stated that "Vegan children meet or exceed recommendations for most nutrients, and vegan children have higher intakes of fiber and lower intakes of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than omnivore children."
In a recent article by The Flaming Vegan, some of the benefits of relying on a vegan lifestyle when raising a baby are explored. One of the big things they mention is a reduced risk of osteoporosis. Because vegans avoid dairy altogether, osteoporosis is much less likely to occur, because dairy products have been linked to this illness. The fact is that there are plenty of alternatives to cow's milk if moms want to make sure their babies get enough calcium. These other options include chickpeas, kale, and other leafy vegetables.
Government-sponsored website Healthy Families BC reminds parents that before the age of two, plant-based milk substitutes are not recommended. Relying on them will not give your baby enough nutrition. But they note that soy-based formula is not the same as soy milk, and formula is acceptable.
Ana Kristina Skrapac echoes these statements, and was quoted by The Independent as saying: "There is NO appropriate vegan alternative breastmilk substitute."
There are many concerns that a mother might have when raising her baby, and what they feed the baby of course plays a major role in so many of the baby's health issues. We are what we eat, and that's why everyone responsible mother must take her baby's eating seriously. One of the benefits of raising your baby vegan seems to be a normal blood pressure level, as confirmed by a number of sources.
In an article by the well-known vegan activist organization, PETA, they explore the many benefits of being vegan, which of course remain the same when considering your baby. One of the most notable benefits of being vegan is the fact that it's linked to normal blood pressure levels.
One of the most common concerns people have with being vegan is the issue surrounding protein. And they do exist, make no doubt about it. Animal sources are a good way to ensure your baby is getting enough protein, and that's what most people opt for. When moms choose to be vegan, it means that supplying their baby with enough protein is slightly more challenging.
In a recent article by the CBC, Dr. Ayisha Kurji explained that meat-based proteins are actually easier to digest and absorb. What this means is that your baby will probably have to eat more plant-based proteins in order to get the same benefits as a baby who is eating meat as their primary source of protein. There is obviously a possibility here that your baby will not be getting enough protein, simply because they won't be able to absorb enough from vegan sources.
The debate over animal proteins versus plant proteins is a fierce one, and this extends to what infants eat. While your baby might need more plant-based protein with a vegan lifestyle than one containing meat, you can rest assured that plant-based proteins are actually healthier. This was explored in an article by Popular Science. They mention the fact that plant sources actually contain more protein per calorie than animal sources. They also point out that meat has more saturated fats, while plant sources contain more fiber. Amino acids is one area where plant proteins are lacking, but then again, meat sources are also proven to be carcinogenic.
Do some research on vegan eating for infants and children, and you will find the same concern being raised: You need to supply a lot of food to your baby with this way of life to provide adequate nutrition. A baby's food intake when eating vegan needs to be higher to provide them with the energy and growth they need, which typically means giving them more food. This problem can be tackled by simply making sure your baby is snacking throughout the day.
In a recent article published by Forks Over Knives, Dr. John McDougall stated that "Frequent meals and snacks, as well as large portions, help to insure adequate energy intake. Fats are the most concentrated source of calories. The fat intake of healthy young children can be liberalized."
The amount of young ones who put on too many pounds is definitely not a good sign for future generations, and it's a major indication that our children need to improve their lifestyles. Opting for a vegan lifestyle pretty much guarantees that your child will not put on too many pounds, and this notion is backed up by a variety of healthcare professionals.
In an article published by Forks Over Knives, Dr. John McDougall explores some of the benefits of being vegan, and also the negative aspects of a traditional way of eating. He expresses his concern that relying heavily on meat, sugars, dairy, and oils is causing people to be unhealthy.
Those who have tried being vegan know that in order to make life fun and interesting, you have to get creative in the kitchen. You're going to be working with fewer ingredients and you'll have to work extra hard if you want to make vegan versions of your favorite foods. This isn't a massive hurdle to overcome, however, and it can actually be quite fun. But mothers should expect even more challenges when they start preparing vegan food for their infants.
Fit Pregnancy quotes Diana K. Rice as explaining: "In the case of children—who are still developing their taste preferences and have specific nutrient needs as compared to adults—it might take more work on the parents' part to make sure that they are offering and the child is consuming a variety of foods that will meet the child's nutritional needs."
If there's one thing that you should take away from this article, it's this. Always consult a healthcare professional or a nutritionist before choosing to raise your baby vegan. No matter how much you think you know, you can always benefit from getting the facts from a professional. There are far too many stories out there about those who have given their babies inadequate nutrition because they thought they knew what they were doing.
Fit Pregnancy quotes Diana K. Rice as stating, "Your pediatrician should be aware of your child's [...] restrictions so they can look for certain nutrient deficiencies, notably iron and vitamin B12. Such deficiencies should be uncommon [...] If your pediatrician is closed-minded [...], I suggest finding another practitioner who is open to it as you want to be working with someone who will be helpful as you navigate this process."
One of the most notable and surprising things that can happen when you choose to raise your child vegan is the way other parents will react. Don't kid yourself, other parents will judge you, and you will be the target of snarky comments and other such jabs. Many parents feel like vegan moms think they're better than other people, and that they're just looking for attention. They might even call into question your parenting skills and knowledge.
It's important to remember that this all stems from ignorance and a lack of education. Don't let this derail you from providing a healthy lifestyle for your child. Some people are open-minded enough to hear the facts about being vegan, while others will simply remain convinced that you're doing something wrong. While it's easy to shrug off the judgement of others, conflicts can arise if other parents try to sabotage your goals by feeding your child meat and dairy when you're not around.
As important as it is to maintain your ideals and stick with being vegan if you choose it for your baby, it's also important to recognize that someday, this might change. Babies cannot choose what they eat, and they rely on your for nutrition. But as children go older, they become capable of making their own choices, and parents need to respect that. If they one day decide that they want to try meat, then you shouldn't stand in the way of that.
Fit Pregnancy quoted Grace Wong as saying, "At some point during a child's life, he or she may wonder why she or he eats differently from others. As children grow, they would eventually assume more autonomy with their own eating. They may make their own food choices at a friend's birthday party."
One of the major hurdles when choosing to raise a baby vegan is providing him or her with Omega-3. Everyone knows that Omega-3 comes mostly from fish sources, and this is a nutrient that is essential to growth in the early stages of child development, especially when it comes to the brain.
The good news is that there are plenty of fish-free, vegan-friendly Omega-3 sources out there. The more important news is that you're going to have to use them when raising your baby to be vegan. According to government-sponsored website Healthy Families BC, these vegan sources include ground walnuts, flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds or chia seeds, canola oil, and hemp seeds. Additionally, this resource specifically recommends that vegan parents feed their toddlers aged 1-3 a specific Omega-3 fat called ALA – at least 1.4 grams per day.
Another amazing thing that can happen when you raise a child vegan has nothing to do with how they eat. People often forget that veganism isn't just about what you eat;it's an entire lifestyle that revolves around not interfering with animals. Raising your child vegan will teach them to be more compassionate towards animals, and that every life, big or small, has value. This is perhaps one of the most lasting and meaningful lessons you can teach your children.
Sure, you can teach your children the same thing while feeding them meat. But does that really make any sense? One of the strangest psychological phenomena of modern times is that many people consider themselves "animal lovers" while still consuming animal products. By teaching your baby to be vegan, you also teach them that this irrational line of thinking makes zero sense.
According to CBS News, one Italian official suggested a law that would jail parents who attempted to raise their children as vegans, and separate them from their offspring. This was a reaction to several babies who had to get medical help in Italy after their parents had made failed attempts at raising their kids vegan. These parents did not do enough research, and it ended in their children lacking in nutrients. It's a situation that is sadly popping up all over the world, and it should be considered by anyone who is thinking about a vegan lifestyle for their young ones.
Another thing that parents should really consider before raising their baby vegan is the potential for slowed or stunted growth. Rest assured, this issue only exists if you fail to give them a healthy lfiestyle, but the issue is there nonetheless. One of the biggest fears many parents have is that their children won't grow up to be big and strong, and so it's essential that every parent takes vital care in providing a fully nutritious way of eating.
The Independent quoted Ana Kristina Skrapac as stating "Growth restriction may also occur if the [lifestyle] is not optimally providing fats, protein and total energy [...] Infants have high requirements for nutrients and energy with vegan alternatives often being low in energy."