As some of you already know Shane, Zinnia and myself are all vegetarian. This is a path that Shane and I each started before meeting each other, which made the decision to raise our daughter vegetarian that much simpler.
This post is not to turn meat-eaters to herbivores or to cast judgment on anyone's eating habits. I am writing this article to simply give some information on the subject of raising a vegetarian baby in case any parents out there are curious or trying to do the same.
When people find out that my daughter is vegetarian there are often a few questions that follow:
- how do I make sure my daughter is getting all the nutrients that she needs?
- does it take a lot of work and preparation?
- did I have to hire a nutritionist?
First and foremost, it is much easier than most people think! There is very little brain power going toward thoughts like protein, b12 or iron as most carnivores seem to think.
While I was pregnant my doctor was more than ok with me being a vegetarian and completely supported me in doing so. There were no extra supplements needed, just the normal prenatal that every pregnant woman is use to taking. In the case of vegans, some might take b12 supplements, but if you drink cow's milk, fortified soy milk or eat eggs then there is enough b12 in those.
Once Zinnia arrived she was perfectly healthy and plumped up QUICK. She was the chubbiest baby you could imagine and always as happy as a clam.
When it comes to raising a vegetarian baby I can only speak from my personal journey. I began with breastfeeding exclusively for six months which ticks off all the boxes in terms of what a baby needs (aside from vitamin D, which I used d-drops I found at my local drugstore). When Zinnia was six months old we then started introducing some new foods while continuing to breastfeed until she self-weaned at 17 months.
At 6 months it is recommended to start introducing iron enriched foods. We used rice cereals as they have 100% of the daily requirement for a baby. If your baby doesn't seem to like rice cereal after a few consecutive days of trying, you can always spruce it up with a puree like sweet potato or butternut squash. If you are interested in having your baby try a baby-led weaning (click for more info) method of feeding you can offer super soft foods like boiled apples, peas or avocado.
To find a list of plant proteins check out this article on 10Protein Packed Plants.Nursing, softer foods and homemade purees got us healthily to our 12 month checkup. Our doctor was very supportive and encouraging about our choice to be vegetarian and never made me feel like it was going to take much work (which it wasn't). Between 8 and 12 months I began adding things like lentils, nut butters and spinach.
At 12 months I began to introduce cow's milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs. I want to make it known that while we chose a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet is not only possible, but perfectly healthy for a growing baby. For more information on what to look out for when raising your baby vegan check out this article on What every vegan should know about b12 from the vegan society.
Zinnia is now 2o months and as healthy as always. I never stress over what she's had in a day because I have done my reading and know that my boxes are checked. If you or anyone you know is interested in raising their children vegetarian or vegan use the links I have provided to make an informed decision. It is MUCH easier than you might think.
Here is a fantastic link to Eat Right Ontario which breaks down all you need to know about this topic and also provides great recipes.