It goes without saying that the most nutritious food for any infant, including a vegan infant, is human breast milk. If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely heard of some of the benefits, including boosting your baby’s immune system, offering protection against infection, and reducing the risk of allergies.
Being a breastfeeding vegan or vegetarian mama will have zero negative impact on your breast milk (yay!) You’ll just want to keep the following in mind when feeding your vegetarian or vegan kiddo:
- Be especially careful that you are getting enough vitamin B-12 when breastfeeding. This nutrient can be low in meat-free diets if you are not eating nutrient rich B-12 foods or taking a supplement.
- Ensure your infant receives at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure per week to stimulate the body to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D, since human milk contains very low levels.
- The iron content of breast milk is also generally low, no matter how good your diet is. The iron which is in breast milk is readily absorbed by the infant, however. The iron in breast milk is adequate for the first 4 to 6 months or longer. After the age of six months, it is recommended iron supplements are introduced.
- Soy milk, rice milk, and homemade formulas should not be used to replace breast milk or commercial infant formula during the first year. These foods do not contain the proper ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, nor do they have enough of many vitamins and minerals to be used as a significant part of the diet in the first year.
- Many people use iron-fortified infant rice cereal as the first food. Cereal can be mixed with expressed breast milk or soy formula so the consistency is fairly thin. Formula or breast milk feedings should continue as usual. Start with one cereal feeding daily and work up to 2 meals daily or 1/3 to 1/2 cup. Oats, barley, corn, and other grains can be ground in a blender and then cooked until very soft and smooth. These cereals can be introduced one at a time. However, they do not contain much iron, so iron supplements should be continued.
- When your baby becomes used to cereals, fruit, fruit juice, and vegetables can be introduced. Fruits and vegetables should be well mashed or puréed. Mashed banana or avocado, applesauce, and puréed canned peaches or pears are all good choices. Mild vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, and green beans should be cooked well and mashed. Grain foods such as soft, cooked pasta or rice, soft breads, dry cereals, and crackers can be added when your baby becomes better at chewing.
If you find your little darling isn’t digging your latest food creation, don’t give up! You’ll need to offer it several times before they catch on that it is amazing. All of your hard work will pay off when they get a bit older, and are able to enjoy a multitude of flavors and textures.
If you have any tips that worked for you, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below!