Becoming a vegan is a lot of work at first, and if you are reading this article I am sure you know what I mean. Learning what to buy, eat, and supplement was challenging enough, not to mention learning how to talk about your decision to family and friends. Becoming a new parent is overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a vegan. Doctors, family, and friends suddenly care more than ever about what you’re eating and what you’re planning to feed your baby. Even non-vegan parents seem to always be judged for their parenting choices, but it’s even more so for a vegan parent. I remember feeling like there was very little information available for raising a vegan baby. If you do your research you can raise a healthy and happy vegan baby from day one! Plus, the more knowledgeable you are, the less people will be able to argue against you. My husband and I felt very alone in the beginning, but after a lot of trial and error, I feel we finally are starting to figure it out. This is the first of the Vegan Parenting Articles I am planning to write, so stay tuned. I hope that they will offer some guidance and reassurance to expecting and new vegan parents. If you have any comments or question please feel free to message me!
Breastfeeding or Formula Feeding Your Vegan Baby
Breastfeeding is the obvious first choice for vegan parents to nourish their new bundle of joy. It’s the ideal food for a growing human and exactly what Mother Nature intended. With that being said, a vegan who doesn’t supplement and eat right will not make the best food for their baby. It is highly important for vegan breastfeeding mothers to not only eat a well balanced diet, but also to supplement properly. Breastfeeding mothers need to drink lots and lots of water. Increasing calorie consumption is highly important, but many breastfeeding mothers forget to increase their fat consumption too (poly- and monounsaturated fats are best). Easy ways to do this are sautéing veggies in olive oil, using coconut oil, using nut butters, snacking on nuts, and eating avocado. Most breastfeeding women are well supported with just a simple multivitamin that includes iron. However, a vegan breastfeeding mamma needs to add a good B-12 supplement as well as additional iron. I found that taking my prenatal vitamin, non fish oil DHA, methyl B-12, blackstrap molasses, cooking with nutritional yeast, and eating fortified vegan foods was more than sufficient to produce the highest quality breast milk for my little one.
When I was researching raising a vegan baby I noticed all of the advice was to breastfeed for as long as possible. The articles all made it seem so simple. I guess for some, breastfeeding really is that simple. The day my daughter was born I had expected that she would latch and we would have a great breastfeeding relationship for years to come. I really wish I would have known that breastfeeding is not easy for everyone. Long story made short, IT WAS HARD. It was not as easy as others had made it seem. It took a lot of crying nights and perseverance for me to breastfeed. My advice is that if breastfeeding is important to you, you should hope for the best, but plan for the worst from day one. This way, if you hit some obstacles, you will be prepared and not discouraged. Have a Medela Double Breast Pump before your bundle arrives. Familiarize yourself with how to use it. Even if you want to exclusively feed your baby from your breast, the pump will help you build up your milk supply quickly. With the extra milk, you can store it for when you begin to introduce cereals, veggies, and other purees. Also, you never know when something in your life can go wrong. You may need a surgery or you may need to leave your little one with a family member to take care of something important. It’s nice to have a large stash of breast milk on hand for when a rainy day happens.
Not everyone is a stay at home mother and not everyone will find breastfeeding to be easy or work for them. It’s definitely worth a try, but if you find it is not working for you, don’t beat yourself up for it. Part of being a vegan is being kind, and many people are not so kind to mom’s who choose not to breastfeed. Mothers who formula feed are often made to feel like they don’t love or care for the baby as much, or that they are selfish and less womanly. Being a new mommy is tough enough as it is and you don’t need to feel guilty. If you can breastfeed for any amount of time at all, it will serve your child greatly. Many moms choose to breastfeed exclusively for a while, but then supplement with formula down the road. It is not a bad thing. If you have to use formula for part or all of your baby’s nutrition just remember that your baby will value having a happy, not stressed out mommy that used formula, much more than a stressed mommy who breastfed. Also, if you are supplementing with formula you have the ease of mind knowing that whatever nutrition your breast milk may lack, the formula is making up for. By breastfeeding even some, you are still ensuring that your baby is getting the antibodies that boost their immune system. If you find yourself needing to supplement or deciding to completely formula feed your baby, there are lots of options and even breast milk donor banks. For formula, I suggest soy based organic. A popular option is Earth’s Best Organic Soy Infant Formula. I have found that Whole Foods Market makes their own version of it, and it actually mixes a lot better and is cheaper. Plus, if you buy it by the case, they will give you a 10% discount. Keep in mind that although the formulas are soy based, some of the vitamins are likely derived from non-vegan sources. To my knowledge there are no 100% vegan infant formula options on the market in the U.S. If this is a problem for you, definitely do all you can to prepare yourself for a successful breastfeeding experience and also know about your local breast milk donation suppliers before you ever find yourself needing it.
- Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
- My Brest Friend (I liked my Boppy too, but not as much in the beginning)
- Bebe au Lait Nursing Cover,
- Boob Ease (Bamboobies) Natural Nipple Balm (organic and vegan)
- TL Care Organic Cotton Nursing Pads
- 365 Organic Soy Based Infant Formula with Iron
Next: Diapering a Vegan Baby and Beyond Milk for a Vegan Baby