Raising a baby vegan or vegetarian? What you need to know
Vanessa Millovich DCN RDN LDN
At Foublie we recommend babies are fed breastmilk as their primary source of nutrition up to 4-6 months of age. A mom can be vegan, vegetarian, an omnivore or pescatarian and still produce breastmilk that is perfect for your baby and evolves as he or she grows.
Do you want your baby to also be a vegetarian or vegan?
That’s cool. Here’s what you need to know as you introduce formula and first foods. This list is good to keep in mind until your baby turns 1.
Vegetarian or vegan formula
During the first 4-6 months, infants can also consume soy protein infant formula in place of breastmilk or as a supplement. Currently, there is not another vegan or plant-based infant formula available that is safe for infants to consume – plant-based “milk” is not appropriate for infants or toddlers as most of these products contain very little protein, calcium, or vitamin D.
Your baby needs iron
Once your baby is ready to for solid foods, you can start with iron-fortified baby cereal mixed into breastmilk or the soy formula. Iron is necessary to carry oxygen in our red blood cells. It is important for infants to have a source of iron in their diet, but this doesn’t need to come from pureed meat.
Another option to provide iron, is to provide a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement in a liquid form, that contains iron. You can usually find one of these at your local drug store.
Your baby needs vitamin B12
B12 is only found in animal products, like meat and eggs. If your infant regularly takes formula, it will contain B12. If you have been a vegan for more than 3 years before your infant was born, and you are breastfeeding, you should have your doctor check your B12 status. Mothers who are breastfeeding and have adequate B12 status, can provide enough B12 to their infants via breastmilk.
From 6 months, you can continue to introduce your infant to fruits, vegetables, and grains, just like any other baby who follows an omnivore diet. Continue to watch for iron and b12 as these are important for your baby to grow and develop.
Bottom line: You can raise your baby vegan or vegetarian from the beginning!
Following a vegetarian diet during infancy has less nutritional risk than a vegan diet, and any child with complex medical needs will likely require an in-depth nutritional consultation with a pediatric dietitian like one of our Foublie coaches.
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