Does the Vegan Diet Influence Breast Milk?

· February 21, 2019
The vegan diet is usually healthy and nutritious for babies. However, it's important that you also add a B12 vitamin supplement to their diet.

As the years go by and new information comes out, some women choose to follow the vegan diet. In fact, well-planned vegetarian diets are usually very healthy.

However, if women are pregnant, it’s important to pay special attention to breastfeeding to know if they’re getting enough nutrients for their baby.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that you need to plan your vegan diet with a specialist. An unplanned diet could cause health problems, both for the mother and child.

Vegan diet and breast milk

Babies that grow up in vegan families also need breast milk for proper development.

You should supplement this milk with vitamin B12 so that your baby gets all the necessary nutrients. Depending on the type of food the family eats, the baby might also need iodine.

Does the Vegan Diet Influence Breast Milk?

If the vegan mother doesn’t want to or can’t breastfeed, or needs some sort of supplement, there are formulas made with soy or hydrolyzed rice to feed your baby. Another option is to use formula made from organic cow’s or goat’s milk.

According to the guidelines on baby formulas from the European Union, they all have the necessary ingredients to properly nourish your baby. Therefore, lots of vegan and vegetarian families choose to use them.

As always, it’s important to speak with your doctor to receive professional guidelines and recommendations for your particular case.

Complementary foods to include

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology emphasizes that you don’t need to wait to introduce peanuts, nuts and soybeans. Your child can start eating them starting at about 6 or 7 months old.

On the other hand, it’s important to note that some foods are great substitutes. What are these foods?

Legumes

Legumes function as the main substitute for meat and fish in the vegan or vegetarian diet. They have a high amount of protein, iron and zinc. This makes them one of the first foods that you should feed your baby. Usually, you should accompany them with vegetables.

Some of the best options of legumes are:

  • The best legume to introduce is peeled red lentils. It doesn’t have a lot of fiber and is easy to digest.
  • Later on, you can add cooked chickpeas and tender peas, as well as other types of lentils. You can also give them non-peeled legumes.

Solid foods

If your baby is old enough to eat them, you can give him more solid foods. For example, you can give him hummus made of chickpeas, cooked tofu, shredded peas and lentil stews.

You can also give him peanut butter without sugar, spread on bananas or bread. Occasionally, for ovo-lacto vegetarians, you can give him an omelet.

Cereals

As for cereals, we recommend that they’re whole grain. Generally, cereals are made with dextrinated grains. In these grains, complex carbohydrate chains are partially hydrolyzed. In 20% or 30% of these products, they’re in a very simple form, like glucose.

Since they have lots of sugar, we don’t recommend them for both babies who eat meat and vegetarians.

Does the Vegan Diet Influence Breast Milk?

Gluten

According to the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, you should introduce gluten when your baby is 6 months old. Do this when you start introducing solid foods.

The best way to add them is with whole wheat bread. Babies partially digest it, and they generally do well with it.

A vegetarian or vegan diet can be perfectly healthy. Additionally, it can give important health benefits, both short-term and long-term.

What do experts say about vegan food?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegan food can be remarkably healthy, but only if experts plan and supervise it. In fact, this type of diet is good for all life stages, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and childhood.

According to research, vegetarian women need enough vitamin B12 during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is because vegan mothers usually have lower levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

In conclusion, the vegan diet is usually healthy, but it’s important for an expert to supervise it. Your baby’s proper development will depend on it.

  • Biarge, M. M. (2018). Niños vegetarianos, ¿niños sanos? En: AEPap (ed.). Curso de Actualización Pediatría 2017. Madrid: Lúa Ediciones 3.0.
  • Moreno Díez, A. I. (2003). Manual de supervivencia para “veganos” novatos: por un mundo lleno de amor. Madrid: Mandala.
  • Vilaplana, E., y Román, D. (2003). La dieta ética: ética y dietética del “veganismo”.Alicante: Román Molto.