Plant-Based Mama: How Becoming a Mother Helped Me Become a Vegan Too

Photography: HADAS Images |

By Haylee Hackenberg

You’d have to be living under a bunch of kale to have not noticed the rise of plant-based eating in recent years. Cafés, supermarkets, and even your local pub are likely to have at least one vegan option on the menu, and a plethora of milk choices for your morning cuppa. The information age is making it harder and harder to ignore what makes us uncomfortable, and for me, veganism and motherhood are intrinsically aligned.

My journey to veganism was slightly more convoluted than others may have been. Having dabbled in vegetarianism my whole life, I was able to successfully compartmentalise and I’m ashamed to say I spent a great deal of time building a resistance to the guilt I felt for eating animals, and ignoring my own conscience.

Shortly after my daughter was born, it became apparent that she was suffering reflux. Doctor after doctor ordered we put her on medication, but that never sat right with me. Plus, it was an absolute pain in the ass. Think grinding and crushing tablets, mixing concoctions, only to have your three-month-old baby spit the whole thing down her front. None of us were getting any sleep, so I kept searching for answers (albeit deliriously).

One exhaustion-fuelled Google search after another led to nothing beyond bucking up and just accepting that I had, by my own poor luck, given birth to an unhappy child. Resigned to my fate, I returned to the doctor’s office to discuss my options for treating my daughter’s reflux. By sheer luck, my usual doctor was away, and I happened upon a fantastic GP, who had two children of her own. She sympathised and divulged that both her daughters suffered sever reflux, which was triggered by CMPI.

Wait, what?

Yep, Cows Milk Protein Intolerance, or CMPI as it’s more widely known, is one of the more common reasons babies suffer reflux. And if you think you are avoiding it by breastfeeding, think again! The protein, not to be confused with lactose, travels through breastmilk and unsettles your baby.

So, I stopped eating dairy. Point blank, that day. It was hard at first. I never really enjoyed the taste of milk, but I missed cheese dreadfully. But you know what? My baby went from waking every 45 minutes to an hour, as if being stuck by a pin, to sleeping a full three-hour stretch at the beginning of the evening, and stirring quietly for a feed before return to sleep. I was a new person, and so was my baby. Obviously, this doesn’t work for everyone, but for me, it was a no-brainer.

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