By Helen Fletcher
My husband Joel and I were resolved to raise our baby vegan. We’ve been vegan for over three years and can’t imagine a life without compassion and respect for animals. We want to teach Beau to be empathetic and have compassion for all living beings who share our planet. To us, veganism is about kindness and compassion, and these are wonderful traits to have.
Although being vegan yourself is one thing, raising a vegan baby is a whole different beast. We expected criticism and judgment. Surprisingly, our family were very supportive which made it easy for us, and thankfully, we didn’t get much judgment in the likes of “Oh you’re harming your baby”. Some people may argue that vegan parents are not providing their kids a choice. Our response would be that feeding kids meat and animal products from birth isn’t exactly giving them a choice! Humans can thrive on plants alone; many studies confirm this. Yet we’ve noticed that when we tell people we’re vegan, they suddenly become experts on nutrition.
My vegan pregnancy was amazing. I wanted the best for my growing baby and eating vegan was the best I could do for us both. It is natural, and it is safe. I didn’t have to do anything drastic, it was purely an extension of my usual vegan foods. I did increase my intake of smoothies, leafy greens, sauerkraut, and tried to reduce junk foods although cravings made this difficult. Fries and Coke have never been more satisfying! Throughout my pregnancy, I felt good inside and out, and I had energy. I didn’t have morning sickness, and I slept well. I only had two day-naps in the whole nine months! You hear of so many women needing a midday nap due to extreme exhaustion. I have my nutritious vegan foods to thank – leafy greens, nuts and seeds, legumes, tofu, quinoa and the list goes on. My pregnancy blood tests passed with flying colours, confirming that I was doing the best for my baby and me. During pregnancy, I took vegan supplements for folic acid, iron, and omega-3 – all of which I would have taken even if I wasn’t vegan. I also continued my B12 drops. There’s a myth that B12 can only be obtained from eating animals, this isn’t true and taking a vegan supplement is just as good if not better.
Throughout my pregnancy, I felt good inside and out, and I had energy. I didn’t have morning sickness, and I slept well.
Breastfeeding and Cow’s Milk
I struggled with breastfeeding and almost gave up after having PTSD from a traumatic labour. Beau was tongue-tied and jaundiced at birth, so things were stressful. This meant that my milk supply didn’t come fully until weeks later, so I sourced donated milk from other breastfeeding mums. There’s a misconception that breast milk isn’t vegan. Of course it’s vegan! We choose to eat plant-based because we firmly believe that animals are not ours to use. Breast milk is vegan because there is consent, i.e. I consented for my baby to have my milk, and the incredible mums who donated their milk to me consented. Cow’s milk come from cows exploited for dairy production, they have no choice. Neither do billions of other animals used in exploitative industries like meat and eggs. Like all mammals, a human mum makes milk for the sole purpose of nourishing her baby. Therefore, for vegan mums and our babies, breastfeeding is as natural as it can be, and there’s no ethical dilemma in giving a baby human milk.