Weaning your Vegetarian or Vegan Baby
Why? The Best Start in Life – why
bringing up your baby as a veggie is a winner!
How & When? Weaning Without
Tears – the
stress-free and healthy approach!
What? Recipes plus Tried & Tested -
practical tips on weaning and more food ideas
Why? The Best Start In Life – why
bringing up your baby as a veggie is a winner!
First of all, congratulations! You’ve decided to bring up your
child as a vegetarian or vegan. There are many good
reasons for doing so, as no doubt you’re aware – here are
just a few of them. To go straight to weaning ideas
look at Foods
for Weaning and How to Prepare Them and Tried & Tested
by Viva! Babies
- Plant based diets are the key to good health.
The scientific evidence points again and again to
the advantages of a veggie/vegan diet over meat eating – and
even more so for children. With
such conditions as diabetes, obesity, heart disease
and cancer reaching epidemic proportions – largely
a result of the typical Western diet - it makes complete
sense to feed your child in the healthiest possible
way. Many medics are now knowledgeable about veggie
and vegan children – including
midwives and health visitors - but if you come up against
any problems, there is plenty of evidence to reassure
- Vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary
heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel
disorders and cancers and gall stones. Cholesterol
levels tend to be lower and vegetarian diets have
been noted to lower blood cholesterol. The vegetarian
diet is adequate for the nutritional needs of infants.
British Medical Association
- Appropriately planned vegan and lactovegetarian
diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children
and adolescents, and promote normal growth. The
American Dietetic Association
- A diet free of meat, fish, milk and eggs
is by far the safest and one that I highly recommend.
Emanuel Goldman, Professor of Microbiology & Genetics.
- A well balanced vegetarian or vegan diet
is a fabulous way of feeding babies and young
children too. Childhood asthma is rare in infants
who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Dr
Chris Fenn, Accredited Nutritionist
- Although human beings eat meat, we are
not natural carnivores. No matter how much fat
carnivores eat, they do not develop atherosclerosis
[clogged up arteries]. When we kill animals to
eat them, they end up killing us because their
flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated
fat, was never intended for human beings, who are
Dr WC Roberts, Editor-in-Chief of ‘The American Journal of
- The emphasis of our meals needs to be reversed;
it is plant foods that should be the focal point
of our dinner plate, not meat and dairy products.
World Cancer Research Fund.
- All the protein and calcium required for
human health, including during pregnancy and
childraising, are abundantly available from plant
Michael Klaper MD
- Plant based diets are the safest way to
Animal foods present a greater danger
to children because modern meat production methods
mean high levels of drugs, contaminated feedstuffs
and cross-infection – all of which can be
fatal to the most vulnerable – the very young
and very old. Even organic meat isn’t as
safe as its proponents would like to think – after
all, organically raised animals are killed in the
same disease-ridden slaughterhouses.
- Plant-based diets are the most compassionate
and environmentally friendly way to eat – and
as a parent you want the most ethical choice for
- Dairy and eggs aren’t the cure-all
for protein needs.
Despite the anxious
comments you may hear from
well-meaning family and friends, it’s not
necessary to overload your vegetarian baby with
dairy products and eggs, even if they are organic!
Vegan or demi-vegan babies are extremely healthy and run even fewer
health risks than their vegetarian counterparts. Indeed, there have
been some excellent studies on ‘vegan from birth’ children
which show that they thrive extremely well. All the health problems caused
by meat – are also triggered by dairy consumption – heart
disease, cancer, stokes, obesity and diabetes are strongly linked to
high animal protein/high saturated fat diets (abundant in dairy). Also,
allergies to cow’s milk in babies and children are common (to the
sugar lactose or protein casein which humans have not evolved to digest – and
which may be attacked as a foreign invader) (please
see www.vegetarian.org.uk for
information on the health problems caused by dairy).
Anaemia in infants is a major problem in the UK and much
of it is linked to cow’s milk and cow’s milk formulas as dairy is low in
iron and inhibits iron absorption from other foods. As already stated,
allergies to cow’s milk are common worldwide and can cause intestinal
bleeding in infants – another cause of anaemia in young children.
- Telling your child the truth– how
do meat-eating parents explain that the pretty lambs
and chickens loved by their child will become dinner?
- Traditional Eating?
One of the many myths that meat eaters cling to is that meat is ‘traditional’ and
part of our culture. Well, there is plenty of evidence
to the contrary if you take human development as a whole! It is only during a
relatively short period of human existence – one and a half million years
ago - that we started to eat flesh. If you place
this in the context of an 80 year-old human, it means that meat would have been
eaten only in the last 15 years of life – for 65 years the diet would have
been completely vegetarian. Even then, the amount
of meat eaten was minimal. Indeed, our closest relatives
such as gorillas and other primates are almost entirely vegan.
Meat has long been associated with prosperity and power and also,
with strength and virility – yet ironically, men (and women)
who eat meat regularly are more likely to succumb
to heart diseases and cancer than vegetarians. The human body thrives
best on a truly traditional diet of plant-based foods!
- Other Traditions
Millions of Hindus
and Buddhists can’t be wrong! There are countless
generations of healthy children from Asia who were
reared veggie from birth because of cultural and
spiritual beliefs. Here in the
West we are now seeing fourth and fifth generations
of vegetarian and vegan children.
How & When?
Weaning Without Tears – the stress-free
and healthy approach!
really isn’t as complicated as it seems. The
secret is to keep reintroducing foods to your
child – just because she
or he spits out something once or even a dozen times
it’s a no-no forever! Children’s taste buds develop
at different rates and what might seem horrible one
week or one month ago might be utterly delicious later on.
Most parents start weaning by introducing a little rice milk at four
to six months old. (Babies need to start the weaning
process at this age because breast milk stops supplying all vital nutrients
and needs to be supplemented by other foods.) For lots more help on
weaning at different ages and suggested daily feeding patterns see
Viva!'s popular Vegetarian & Vegan
Mother & Baby Guide. See also Babies and Toddlers on
the books section of our web shop or else phone for
a Books For Life catalogue -
these books deal with raising veggie children at
When to wean?
Breast milk (or formula) supplies all the baby’s needs, including
vitamin C, for the first six months of his/her life. So if the baby is
happy and thriving, there is no need to think about introducing solids
until she is six months old. However, if after four months the baby doesn’t
seem fully satisfied with milk, you might try giving a first taste of
food - but don’t start before four months old as introducing solids
too early to an immature digestive system could possibly
cause an allergic reaction.
The first spoonfuls are really just to get the baby used to the taste
and feel of solid food. Do not think of them as a real source of nourishment
at this stage. The baby still needs milk feeds for that and the emotional
satisfaction of sucking.
Although weaning – getting your baby to graduate from an all-milk
diet to solids – sometimes makes mothers feel nervous, it’s
really very simple. Most babies (and their mums) get through the
process easily, so relax! You can also feel reassured that a meat
(and dairy)-free diet is so natural that your baby will get all the nutrients
she or he needs. The World Health Organisation suggests that solids are
introduced from six months old (your baby will start with tiny amounts
of solids, still relying on breast milk or formula for their nutritional
requirements and gradually you’ll introduce more and more solids
and reduce the amount of milk. See Viva!’s Mother & Baby Guide for further information
One of the most important things to remember is that salt must be avoided – at
this stage in life your baby’s digestive system is not able to
cope with foods high in salt. So don’t add salt to home-cooked
foods and choose no-salt or low-salt prepared foods.
For simple, healthy ways to start your baby on solids, go to Recipes and Tried and Tested
Introduction | Foods for Weaning
and How to Prepare Them | Tried & Tested
by Viva! Babies
|Soya Formula Milk
For a fact sheet on soya formula see www.vegetarian.org.uk or
call the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation on 0117 970 5190 for a copy)