Your baby’s diet can significantly affect the food choices they will make as they grow up. So if you are a vegan parent that wants to raise vegan kids, it’s best to start from the beginning of your child’s life.
I’m sure you want your child to get the same health benefits you’re enjoying from veganism. However, you must do this with preparation.
Babies require a lot of nutrients to grow healthy, so you must plan their diet wisely. Here’s a guide to help you make the best choices when it comes to vegan baby food. Yes, it includes milk, too!
Vegan Milk For Babies
For the first 4-6 months, babies can only have milk. And while we know breast milk is the best milk we can give them, unfortunately for various reasons not all mothers can do that. These days, you can consider it luck if you’re able to breastfeed your baby fully for at least a year. Why? Because a lot of mothers today cannot produce enough breast milk.
Milk production is a common problem among new mothers these days. This is why formula milk is often a must just to meet a baby’s nourishment needs. So, the search for a vegan formula milk begins. However, one challenge you will face is finding a vegan infant formula as it can be quite difficult to get hold of. There are plenty of soy-based formula milks in the market today, but there’s some problems.
1. The Problem With Soy Milk For Babies
Soy is a known allergen. It also contains types of proteins that may be harmful to babies since their organs are not developmentally ready yet. It has:
- Trypsin inhibitors – can hinder your baby’s normal growth.
- Phytic acid – can block mineral absorption.
- Phytoestrogens – can disrupt a baby’s hormonal development.
Soy-based formula milk is only given to premature babies and infants with medical conditions. Most importantly, they should be given with medical supervision.
You must wait until your baby is at least 1 year old before they can have soy milk. However, they should only have it in moderation.
2. Vegan Baby Formula Brands
If you can’t produce enough milk to sustain your baby, chances are you can only rely on formula milk. The good news is there’s a vegan formula milk now. The bad news? It can be difficult to find and is so much more expensive than other formula milks.
Meet the French brand Prémibio Prémiriz formula milk. Currently, it’s the only 100% vegan formula milk in the market that is sold worldwide.
This rice milk is organic, soy-free, gluten-free, palm oil-free, and has no added sugar. Yes, it’s that good that’s why it’s often out of stock everywhere! *Sigh*
Another choice you have for your vegan baby is donor milk from milk banks. The problem is, access to milk banks can be a problem for a lot of people.
Also, meticulous moms would prefer they get it from someone they know, or someone who has undergone screening.
On a lighter note, some vegans are okay with trace amounts of animal products, usually as a last resort. If that is your case, then your next best choices are dairy-free or hypoallergenic formula milk:
- Nutricia Neocate Hypoallergenic Formula Milk
- EleCare Hypoallergenic
- Nutramigen Puramino
- SMA Alfamino Hypoallergenic Infant Formula
Most hypoallergenic formula milks are based on amino acids. However, in most countries, like the U.S., government regulations strictly require formula milks to have vitamin D3, which manufacturers can only get from sheep wool. This is why vegan formula milk is quite rare. But…
More good news!
Nestlé just recently filed a patent for a vegan formula milk from potato protein, pea, quinoa, oat, sunflower, and coconut. No release dates yet, but it’s surely something vegan moms will purchase!
By the way, if milk allergy runs in the family, your baby may benefit from vegan formula milk.
Plant or nut milks are actually NOT good for infants because plant milks just don’t have enough nutrients to sustain a growing infant’s dietary needs.
Warning!!! DO NOT use homemade formula! Don’t even try to make one! Formula milk follows strict production requirements or sterility and should be made in laboratories only.
The way they are made is just impossible to replicate at home. I know, I know, vegans love DIY. But trust me, you should give it up on this one!
Since breast milk is still the best for babies, I would suggest you exhaust all means first for your own production. Drink plenty of fluids, eat milk-boosting foods, take supplements, and get breast massages. Breast milk is still much cheaper plus you also get to bond more with your baby.
Nutrition Table For Infants
Remember that these figures are only estimates. It’s a guide for when you make nutritional meal plans for your baby.
You don’t have to obsess over every milli- or microgram. If your baby requires special nutrition (premature babies, etc.), you must consult a doctor or dietitian first.
For breastfeeding mothers, it is important to remember that your daily nutrition also matters. A lot of the nutrients you take will pass through your milk and onto your baby. So make smart food choices every day.
What To Avoid Feeding Your Baby
What you don’t feed your baby is just as important as what you feed them. With all the convenient foods we see in groceries, it can be tempting to just resort to them.
While we know most convenient foods have poor nutritive value, it is easy to just fall for the convenience they offer especially when you’re busy.
One of the best things about putting your baby on a vegan diet is you can naturally avoid a lot of food items that are bad for them. These are items that many non-vegan babies may end up eating like honey, cow’s milk, egg whites, seafoods, and hot dogs.
However, there are also vegan food items that you have to hold back from. Not that they aren’t healthy, but they are food items with possible sanitary issues and choking hazards. Avoid these food items until your baby reaches 12 months at least.
- Berries – contain proteins that are hard to digest for babies
- Citrus fruits – may cause stomach acidity
- Nuts and seeds – choking hazard
- Raw veggies and fruits – some are too hard for babies; raw veggies may also contain botulinum, a common toxin that’s harmful for babies even in small amounts, but are generally okay for babies over 12 months
- Small, hard fruits – choking hazard
- Thick, sticky foods – like peanut butter; choking hazard
- Wheat (cereals, pasta, bread, crackers) – known allergen; introduce gradually
Then always keep them away from these common children foods that don’t really contain nutrients:
- Beverages with caffeine
- Milk chocolates
- Gums and candies
- High-sugar fruit juices
- Salty foods
BONUS: To learn how you can make your homemade, vegan friendly baby food, check out the video below!
Vegan Baby Food Brands
Ready-to-eat baby foods are the most convenient for babies and their parents. The good news is, there are now brands that offer vegan baby food products!
Here are your choices for the best vegan baby food brands to date. Most of these brands also offer baby and toddler foods and snacks!
Top Vegan Baby Food Brands
(click on the brand to find out where to buy them!)
Speaking of brands, there’s one question I always get and see: “Is Gerber baby food vegan?” Unfortunately, Gerber’s product website (through Nestlé) has been down for I don’t know how long now (been checking it for days).
However, from Gerber’s medical website, most of their baby foods appear vegan based on their ingredient lists. Some of them contain milk though.
What worries me is the added ascorbic acid. One serving has anywhere from 40-70% of the recommended daily value. This means that a serving or two may easily leave your baby with too much ascorbic acid.
While vitamin C is water soluble, risking your baby’s underdeveloped kidneys and delicate (and possibly sensitive too!) stomach is never a good idea.
Tips For Making Homemade Vegan Baby Foods
Now this one can absolutely be a DIY! It’s actually pretty easy to make vegan baby foods. You just boil ‘em and mash ‘em, mostly. But in case you forgot or don’t know how to yet, here are some tips to keep your vegan baby’s foods healthy.
- Single ingredient. When starting your baby on solid foods, introduce one ingredient at a time. If, for one week, there are no allergic reactions, then you can introduce a new single ingredient the following week.
Continue with new single ingredients as long as there are no adverse reactions. As your baby progresses, only combine ingredients that he/she has tried before. Those that didn’t trigger allergies of course.
- Don’t add sugar and salt. It will be best for your child to not get used to these tastes. For salt, maybe you can add the smallest pinch but only do it occasionally.
- Steam vegetables instead of boiling them. This way, your veggies don’t lose a lot of its nutrients.
- Pureed fruits and veggies are great for initial solid food. Steam the veggies before processing (or mashing) them so they aren’t raw. For veggies, freezing before processing will do.
- Baby food storage. The maximum you can freeze baby food is up to 1 week only. However, it’s best to avoid making big batches and just make what your baby can eat in the same day, at the most.
The Best Vegan Baby Food Recipe Books To Buy
Do you keep running out of ideas and recipes to make for your baby’s meal plans? Check out these feeding guides and recipe books for babies!
- Baby & Toddler Vegan Feeding Guide by Julia Feliz Brueck
- Baby Led Weaning For Vegans by Cathleen Woods
- The Secrets of Vegan Baby Nutrition by Nataly Shvinkelstain
- Vegan Babies First Foods by Project Vegan
- Vive Le Vegan! by Dreena Burton
Raising a vegan baby from birth is challenging. For mothers, your breast milk is one of the best gifts you can give your baby as they grow.
Just always remember that when you breastfeed, your health and nutrition will matter the most when it comes to producing the best milk possible.
Lastly, raise your child in a way that nurtures their future ability to make healthy food choices independently. So choose only the best vegan baby foods.
Therefore, if you haven’t yet, go back and read all the vegan baby foods I listed above.
Are you raising a vegan baby? How did you manage the challenges along the way? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.