Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Feeding My Vegan Baby

From as soon as I announced my pregnancy, people started paying more interest to my diet. Was I taking vitamins? Yes, all pregnant women are advised to take supplements. Was I craving meat? No, I’m actually not Phoebe Buffay. Was I thinking of raising the baby vegan, or just vegetarian? Always said as though vegetarian would be ok, but vegan would be a step too far.


The only people who weren’t interested in my diet were the healthcare professionals. They checked I was taking folic acid (which they do with all pregnant women), and then moved on. My doctor said that my vegan diet probably meant I was better clued up about food and health than most other pregnant women. I’m not sure it was strictly true at the time, but it is now.


vegan baby memeNothing gets you learning about nutrition than having a vegan baby to feed. The first six months were easy of course, I breastfed on demand and that gave her everything she needed. I took supplements while breastfeeding, when I remembered to, and was sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Except on the days I only ate biscuits, but those were pretty early on, and I’m pretty sure even meat eating mums have those days in the newborn stage.


Then it came time to wean, and I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see her enjoying her first tastes of solid food. The very first thing to pass her lips was a strawberry, stolen from my dish the day before she turned six months. With that one solitary strawberry, she managed to stain her vest, a blanket and a teddy as she gummed it round her mouth. From that point on, I started to give her solids three times a day. Fresh fruit for breakfast, salad or steamed vegetables for lunch, and for dinner she would have what we were having. During her first week this included dahl and madras. She was happy to eat anything, or play with it at least, I’m not sure very much of it made it through her digestive system for the first month at least. But that was fine, I was more worried about her exploring the food than eating it. She was still being breastfed on demand so I wasn’t worried about her missing any nutrients.

As the months went on, she started to eat more at mealtimes. As she got more teeth, she became better at chewing. Baby led weaning gave us hours of fun, and hours of cleaning, watching her enjoy new things. For the first six months of eating solid food, she ate mostly fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, rice and pasta. Sometimes she would clean her tray, other times she would just explore her food but not eat much of it. I didn’t want to force her to eat when she wasn’t hungry, so trusted her to decide what and how much she ate.


As she became mobile, I started leaving snacks in the living room for her so she could eat them at her own will. She would mosey over to the snack table for a nibble every now and again, eating what she wanted and leaving what she didn’t. She had favourite foods, and things she was less keen on, but I kept everything available to accommodate her changing tastes.  


Sometime after her first birthday I started giving her the 1+ alpro soya milk in a cup. She still drinks this, as well as almond milk and water. Despite what some vegan charities may advise, I have never given her fruit juice (even diluted) because it causes tooth decay. Instead I make sure she is offered fresh fruit throughout the day - an offer she rarely refuses.


Without being overly meticulous, I offered her a mix of foods each day. I made sure to give her fruits and vegetables of each colour (red, yellow, green, orange and purple), to make sure she got a proper mix of nutrients. But if she chose not to eat any yellow food one day, then that was fine. I made sure she was regularly offered nuts, seeds, beans and lentils by including them in her daily diet.


At some point after her first birthday I started offering her soya yoghurts and cereal. These are both sugary foods so I tried to limit her intake, but I wanted to make sure she had some B12 fortified foods in her diet and these seemed to be a decent(ish) option.


When she became a toddler, I added more fat into her diet because this is important for brain development. Luckily she loves avocado so this was pretty easy. She will happily wolf down a whole avocado. She also loves coconut oil, which I add to her porridge, popcorn and any baking we do. I use flaxseed oil in her porridge too, and add it to her bowl of soup just before I serve it. She loves tofu, vegan cheese and the odd vegan burger.


Though I received a lot of comments and questions about vegan babies when I was pregnant and when I had a newborn, I very rarely get quizzed about this now. I can only assume this is because my daughter looks as healthy and full of energy as any other two year old, which she is.

19 comments:

  1. people can be silly, I'm not surprised you got all sorts of questions when you were pregnant. I made a joke on FB once when wild put his toy sheep in his play kitchen oven and him being a veggie and someone was like WHAT?? WILF IS A VEGETARIAN?? like I was forcing him to be in some weird cult or something. I was brought up vegan until I was about 3 I think but my parent found it a bit tricky moving from Bristol to Hull with the lack of vegan eating options there in the 80's! Lot's of people think I'm doing this vegan january as a bid to loose weight which is mildly insulting, the other day someone said 'what ARE you eating then??" so I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you sometimes! xx

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    1. I didn't know you grew up in Bristol & Hull, yes I can imagine Hull was a bit of a shock after the vegan utopia that Bristol offers! Well, why else would a person decide to stop eating something, surely vanity is the only sane reason ;) x

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  2. As vegetarians we raised Amy veggie rather than vegan, but our experience was almost identical. In fact, because we were concerned about lactose intolerance at one point we started her on soya milk then almond milk and now, while she has other dairy products, all her actual milk consumption is almond.

    I've just come from a parents meeting at the school where, once again, someone said: "She eats everything." I love the fact that people think she eats everything and that the fact that she doesn't eat meat, fish or the zillions upon zillions of gelatine laden sweets that nursery, school and kids parties push her way passes them by. It proves that you can have a vegearian diet and fit right into the mainstream. Though a word of caution on this, it really is important that Ebony learns to identify what she can't have before she goes to school. We had some very unfortunate incidents at nursery, borne of mistakes, staff ignorance, arrogance and stupidity that identified this to us. However, she now knows what she can eat and that you can't always trust the person serving and actively asks about the ingredients, which is fantastic.

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    1. Hey, thank you for the word of caution. What issues have you run into with your daughter's nursery? I am slightly terrified of her eating things accidentally, so always try to say "vegan cheese/nugget/cake" to help her make the connection. We've been attending second birthday parties this month, so she's slowly becoming aware that not all croissants/cakes/crisps etc are vegan, and that we eat differently, but is obviously too young to really grasp it yet. x

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  3. I'm veggie, and raised my three as veggie's as babies. The bigger two choose to eat meat, I raised them to think for themselves so this is there choice - they no all the in's and out's and know why I only buy them organic, free range meat etc {and never eat at Mcd's ;) } But when they were little, and didn't eat any meat I had SO many comments, people asking if they were not growing as well as they should and the like :/ DD2 and DD3 were raised vegan for a while too, and that got even more questions asked.

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    1. It's so strange, isn't it? I would never think to go and question someone about their parenting/lifestyle choices, and yet it seems to happen to me all the time. x

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  4. My little boy LOVES avocado too! I was vegetarian for six years and vegan for about a year. I had actually started eating meat and dairy again before getting pregnant with Cherry so I never really considered how I would find it raising them the same way but I think it is far healthier than most normal diets. It always amazes me that people find those who don't eat dairy so odd, I mean dairy is all made from the milk of another species, that's weird! Don't get me wrong, I do eat it and enjoy it, mainly because I'm so rubbish at organising meals, but I still find it odd! x

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  5. Hey there-just came across your blog! I too started off raising my daughter vegan for the first year and got a lot of questions from my pediatrician, so I switched. I do give her some fish and chicken on occasion for now (since my husband eats it), but she still mostly eats a vegan diet and is perfectly healthy-albeit very thin...

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    1. Thank you for commenting :) what sort of questions was your paediatrician asking? x

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  6. Such an interesting post! I love reading about how other mums have gotten on with weaning, and it sounds like you are way more clued up about nutrition than those who had the cheek to question you! xx

    Quite Frankly She Said - UK Lifestyle Blog

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    1. Ah thank you, that's very nice of you to say x

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  7. This is so interesting! I'm always vegan-curious so loved reading about this.

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  8. tbh shes got a healthier diet than most and she looks bursting with health - I struggle with my son as he is severely autistic and likes about 5 things total I will never even manage to be a veggie but Im trying to do a few meat free days lately . could do with some varied recipies for a noob like me though.

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    1. I will have a think for some recipes, thanks for the suggestion :) x

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  9. I've never been a vegetarian or vegan but naturally choose healthy produce, fresh fruit, vegetable, seeds nut and lentils. although I don't eat much meat (fish mainly) I don't think could give it up but reading this does makes me want to read more into nutrition and mix up our diet a bit. I think if I had another baby I might be more inclined to go down the baby led weaning rather than puree, it sounds so much more exciting for them x

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    1. I loved baby led weaning, it was so much fun seeing her explore things. It is really messy though, my poor floors! ;) x

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  10. Sounds like Ebony eats a wider variety of good than my meat-eating child (actually, he's not too bad, I know people with really fussy eaters who eat way less variety). People are obsessed about how vegans and vegetarians feed their kids aren't they? I am vegetarian, hubbie isn't and Bagl has always been offered meat and fish (which to his dad's delight, he loves), that's just how we've chosen to do things. But the second anyone new to me finds out I'm vegetarian the next question is if a Bagl is. They always look relieved when I say no, which I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with.

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    1. Obsessed indeed! It's very strange :) x

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