According to the World Health Organization, “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
With that said, we can’t deny the importance of breastfeeding to a child.
Given the statement, some people like vegan mothers are probably wondering how vegan-friendly breast milk is.
Based on my research, I am happy to say that breast milk is vegan and it should not be something that you disregard regardless of your diet and lifestyle choices.
Can Vegans Breastfeed?
If you are concerned with breastfeeding not being in accordance with the ethical values and morals that vegans stand for, don’t be! Trust me when I say you shouldn’t sweat over something like this.
If you think about it, if the mother is vegan, and her breastmilk is clearly not from an animal but from herself, how can it not be vegan. Keep in mind, that veganism means not consuming animal products.
So let me say it again, without a shadow of a doubt, vegan moms can breastfeed. The female body is designed to produce milk that should be given to babies.
It must also be emphasized that the nutritional needs of both the breastfeeding mother and the baby must be supported and met.
A mother is able to create milk that has the best combination of nutrients and nourishment needed for the child.
When a mother decides to feed her baby using her breast milk, she has given her consent and she has consciously decided to nourish her offspring.
This is far different from getting milk from animals like cows, goats, and others as they are not in the position to give their consent.
Is There Dairy In Breast Milk?
If you are someone who has consumed dairy products that come from cows or any other animal, there is a possibility that milk proteins can pass through the breast milk.
However, if you are strictly adhering to your vegan, plant-based diet, then there is nothing you have to worry about.
This is why a mother’s diet during pregnancy and nursing is very important. What she consumes might be passed down to the baby in vitro or through the breast milk.
There is a reason why there are some foods that nursing mothers are told to skip or avoid and animal products is one of them!
What Are The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?
Now that we have addressed the ethical concern that vegans might have with breastfeeding, I felt that it’s important that we talk about its importance.
Whatever your lifestyle choices are, it’s crucial that you understand how beneficial breastmilk is to your baby.
1. Breast Milk Is The Best Source Of Nutrition For Babies
Yes! In the first six months of a baby’s life, he or she can get all the nutrients needed from breast milk. In his or her first month, the contents of the breast milk change, adapting to the needs of the baby.
In the first days following the baby’s birth, the breasts will produce a yellowish fluid with a thick texture called colostrum. This fluid has high protein levels and low sugar levels. It also contains beneficial compounds.
Colostrum is often referred to as the ideal first milk of the baby as it helps in the development of the newborn’s digestive tract.
Days after the baby is born, the breasts would start producing more milk to coincide with the baby’s stomach growth.
2. Is There Vitamin B12 in Breast Milk?
If you are wondering if breast milk has Vitamin B12, the answer is yes! Breast milk contains the same amount of B12 found in the mother’s bloodstream.
This is why it’s important for vegan mothers to ensure that they are getting the B12 their bodies need as the fulfilment of their children’s B12 requirements depends on them as well.
During pregnancy, B12 plays a big role in the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system as well as the physical aspects. Once the baby is born, the child’s development rates even more, upping the needed supply of B12.
If there is a B12 deficiency, it could be detrimental to the growth and development of a child. For vegan mothers out there, make sure you are able to meet the body’s B12 requirements.
During the course of the pregnancy and breastfeeding, mothers are often advised to take B12 supplements. For vegan mothers, they too can take these supplements provided that there are no animal by-products involved.
Apart from that, the following B12 rich vegan foods should be added to the diet:
- Soy Products
- Coconut Milk
- Nori (Seaweed)
- Nutritional Yeast
3. Breast Milk Has Antibodies
Breast milk contains antibodies that can help babies fight different bacteria and viruses. You can find high amounts of IgA or immunoglobulin and other bodies in colostrum which is also referred to as the first milk.
When a mother is exposed to bacteria or viruses, her body will start to produce antibodies. The antibodies being produced are then secreted into her breast milk. This is then passed on to the baby during feeding time.
4. Breastfeeding Helps Reduce Health Risks
As I have mentioned, breastfeeding has so many health benefits. If a child is being breastfed exclusively, he or she may be able to maximize these benefits. Here are some of the diseases and illnesses that breastfeeding might be able to reduce:
- Respiratory Tract Infections
- Childhood Leukemia
- Gut infections
- Middle Ear Infections
- Intestinal Tissue Damage
- Colds and Infections
- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
- Celiac Disease
5. Breastfeeding Helps Reduce Health Risks In Mothers
Babies are not the only ones who benefit from breastfeeding. There have been studies linking breastfeeding with mothers getting long-term protection from various diseases including cancer.
In one study, it was concluded that women who breastfed for more than 12 months during the course of their life had a lower risk of developing both ovarian and breast cancers.
It’s calculated that each year that a mother breastfeeds, there is a decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer by around 4.3%.
Is It Safe For Mothers On A Vegan Diet To Breastfeed?
You shouldn’t be worried about being a vegan mother and breastfeeding at the same time. It is safe for you to breastfeed your baby even when you are on a vegan diet.
As long as you are able to supplement the nutrients needed for you and your child through your plant-based diet, you should be good to go. Here are some vitamins that you need to be sure you are getting:
1. Vitamin B12
This vitamin is very important in both mother and child. It is responsible for keeping blood cells and nerve cells healthy as well as for DNA creation.
In fact, there are foods rich in Vitamin B12, such as nutritional yeast, tofu, and mushroom among others.
This mineral is very important as it is considered to be one of the building blocks of the body. Calcium helps in the creation and maintenance of healthy bones. It also promotes good enzymatic activity in the body.
As you are living off a plant-based diet, you can get your dose of calcium from eating foods such as:
- Greens (Kale, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Artichokes, etc.)
- Fruits (Dates, Oranges, Black Currant, Blackberries, etc.)
- Beans (Adzuki, Navy, Soy, etc.)
- Nuts and Seeds (Tahini, Sesame Seeds, Hemp, etc.)
- Orange Juice
- Fortified Soy Milk
BONUS: To learn more about what you can eat on a daily basis a vegan breastfeeding mother, check out the video below!
This mineral is essential for nursing moms. It’s responsible for the transportation of oxygen in the body through the red blood cells.
Mothers can take iron supplements but this is not the most advisable option as it can cause nausea.
It is suggested that you consume iron-rich foods such as the following:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
4. DHA (Omega-3)
DHA is an essential fatty acid that is important in the healthy development of a baby’s brain.
A deficiency of this can affect the mental health of the baby and can cause serious defects.
If you are looking for Omega- rich foods, look for these plant-based sources:
- Chia Seeds
- Algal Oil
- Hemp Seed
- Perilla Oil
- Brussels Sprouts
Whether a mother is a vegan or not, breastfeeding her newborn baby is vital in the growth and development of the child. And yes, breast milk is vegan!
As for vegan mothers, as long as you have the necessary minerals and vitamins in your body, you should be able to fill the nutritional requirements your baby needs.
You must make sure that regardless of your lifestyle choice, the welfare of your child is at the top of your priority list.
I strongly recommend that you also check my “The Complete Guide To Healthy Vegan Baby Food Choices!”
For vegan mothers out there, if you have other tips that can help others out there make the most of the breastfeeding experiences, share them on the comment section below.
Or if you know a pregnant or nursing vegan who needs more info about breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to share this on their socials.