Vegan mums share their experiences of raising children in a vegan household
As the number of vegans increases, so naturally, does the number of vegan parents and children.
Who better to give me an insight into the world of vegan parenting than the mums themselves (I’m single and childless), so I asked some mums (and one mum-to-be) about the experience of raising children in a vegan household.
Let’s start at the beginning with 29-year-old mum-to-be Floren and her experience as a pregnant vegan.
Floren explains: “So basically at the start of my pregnancy I had very little to mild symptoms. No sickness, slight nausea. I was worried about my first blood results as prior to being vegan I always suffered with low iron levels so it was one big concern.
“My results came back and my iron levels where higher than average. All my other levels where perfect and throughout my bloods levels have been great! I was tested for gestational diabetes and again my results came back perfect so no diabetes for me!
“I’m now 37 weeks and three days. I have had what is classed as a low risk pregnancy with no complications. When family found out I was pregnant, near enough everyone told me I would have to start consuming animal flesh and secretions to have a healthy pregnancy and every step of the way I have proved that is not the case. My little Mr has been measuring right for how far along I am in the pregnancy.
Now let’s meet our vegan mums: Sally’s kids are now all grown up; Andrea has a daughter aged 13, who has been vegan from birth; Luisa has three children, aged seven, five and three and they have been vegan since March 2015; Jo has two boys – one three and a half who turned vegan just before his second birthday and a 16-month-old, who was vegan “from the start in my womb.”
I asked the mums: “Do you find it easier or more difficult to feed your children a healthy diet?”
Sally found it was the “same as any other.”
But Andrea believes “it is easier to provide a healthy vegan diet than an omni one.”, which is something to which many adult vegans can relate.
Jo has had a similar experience: “Kids love the good stuff and the junk! Like me! So overall they do because I oversee that they don’t eat too much junk and I eat too much instead, ha ha.”
Luisa said something with which most parents, vegan or not can relate: “I find it fairly tricky trying to encourage my children to consume vegetables. They all have those that are favourable and those they won’t touch for love nor money. However, they are still getting their nutrients and I have learned tricks to hide vegetables by blending or disguising the flavour of individual items by adding them together in a lasagne or a stew. We work on a weekly dietary intake theory rather than a daily one. This is a new way of thinking with parents I believe and worked through weaning, so we’ve stuck to it.”
Next, I asked: “Do you find that being vegan means you keep a closer eye on what your children eat and it improves your/their relationship with food?”
Sally said: “Yes.”
Andrea commented: “I would take an interest in her food whatever diet we followed. We talk about food a lot.”
Luisa worries a little, as do many parents in general: “Yes I do panic and fret about what they are exposed to and what circumstances might put food in front of them. They generally know really well now already why we shouldn’t and wouldn’t consume this or that but they place far too much trust in the wrong people.
“Last term my daughter’s teacher gave her sweets coated with beeswax. I looked at the packet as I’d previously asked her teacher not to do this and supplied her with treats to give her.
“But it seems she wanted to go a step further, and when I explained to my daughter she ought not to eat them and put them in the bin she became really upset her teacher had given her something that was on the No-no list.
“She was more upset that shed trusted her teacher to safeguard her wishes and shed been let down than realising she had eaten an animal ingredient.”
Jo’s two eat very healthy diets: “I like to make sure they are getting a good variety of food – tastes, textures, nutrients and portions. My eldest grazes all day and still eats decent meals and both of them love things I didn’t eat until I was much older. I think their tastes are very mature.”
We move on to the subject of baby milk, and my question is, “what are your views on/experiences of vegan alternatives to baby milks?”
Sally saw no issue with the alternatives: “I had to use Wysoy once when I had a breast abscess. It was fine.”
Andrea believes the options just aren’t there now: “There was a vegan formula (Farleys) available when my daughter was a baby which she had to have as I couldn’t feed. There should be a formula available as new parents currently don’t have a vegan formula option.”
Luisa agrees: “There are NO vegan alternatives to human breastmilk. Even the soy-based formula has animal products in it. The only way a vegan can feed her baby avoiding dairy these days is to breastfeed/milkshare or wet nurse.”
Jo talks us through her method with her youngest boy: “I breast fed Owen for six months and then had him on Cow and Gate Infasoy formula until he was one where he went on to shop bought soya milk – all have B12 and other such ingredients that make it perfectly decent. Owen took well to every milk type and I have no concerns.”
I will be returning to the vegan mums with further questions in my next blog.