New parents face a tricky dilemma when it comes to raising their newborn. There are dozens of parenting techniques out there covering every part of a baby's upbringing. From special discipline techniques to special baby formula, it's a period of constant decision-making made no easier by the opinions from family members and colleagues claiming parental jurisdiction. One such dilemma is veganism. Should I raise my child as a vegan?
Lydia Beauvais, a vegetarian and vegan for the past four years, made a conscious choice to wean her 18-month-old baby Sol onto a plant-based diet. When asked about her decision, the mother told Metro that the "facts are all there," claiming her family is living proof of veganism's health benefits.
Beauvais said her 60-year-old father, also a vegan, was told by a doctor that his health was like that of a healthy 30-year-old. In fact, both her parents are vegan and are apparently in good health for their age, according to Beauvais.
Despite her personal accounts proving otherwise, Beauvais says she still gets comments from family friends worried about Sol's health. Sol's mother defends, saying he is "healthy and chubby as ever."
The topic of veganism in the parenting world is contentious. Several news stories came out in 2017 pointing fingers at vegan parents for unintentionally causing their child's death by sticking to "alternative diets" like a strictly plant-based diet.
In 2017, WKBW reported a 7-month-old boy named Lucas died of malnutrition after being fed a vegan diet. He was found dehydrated and malnourished. The parents were sentenced to six months in prison for the unintentional death of their baby boy. Then in 2016, a 14-month-old Italian baby was found in a Milan hospital weighing just more than a 3-month-old. After further investigation, it was discovered the parents were keeping the baby on a strict vegan diet without dietary supplements.
Pediatric dietitian Ana Kristina Skrapac told The Independent that nutritional deficiencies are common in vegans. And considering the most important stage in a child's development is the first year of life, a vegan diet could lead to more than just nutrient deficiencies. Dietitian Judy Moore said an exclusively plant-based diet could also lead to "inadequate energy intake" and "faltering growth," according to The Independent.
The takeaway message from both dietitians was that there are no health benefits of a vegan diet over a vegetarian or meat-based diet for children.
However, vegan diets offer potential benefits due to the naturally low saturated fat content. Private dietitian Bahee Van de Bor argues that vegan parents can offset deficiencies with supplementation through fortified foods or yeast extracts. A healthy, nutritionally complete vegan diet is possible says Van de Bor, so long as the diets are carefully planned out. She advises that children's diets should include foods rich in vitamin C to boost iron absorption from plant sources.