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A vegetarian or vegan diet is a valid and sensible choice for an infant and a growing child. Balanced vegetarian/vegan diets provide all the nutrients and energy needed to grow.

Well planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.1

From birth

Breastmilk is the perfect food. Your baby will enjoy and thrive on your milk. Ask for help from your midwife, Plunket nurse, La Leche or lactation consultant to help get feeding going successfully.

Eat well while you are breastfeeding. The amount of food you eat should be the same as you ate during pregnancy. Adequate nutrition produces quality milk.

Protein requirements while breastfeeding are higher than in pregnancy, while iron recommendations are lower. Ensure a good supply of vegetarian protein such as beans, tofu, lentils, nuts and seeds (if there are no allergy concerns). Keep a bottle of water and snacks beside you to nibble on whilst breastfeeding. If you are too tired to cook, try easy to prepare nutritious foods such as ready made hummus, felafel, vege sausages and luncheon or baked beans with wholemeal pita bread.

Add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily to your salad dressings or shakes daily for Omega-3. If you are vegan, drink B12 fortified soy and rice milks so that B12 is present in your breast milk. To maintain a healthy Vitamin D intake, ensure that your baby enjoys a few minutes of sun everyday.

Get as much rest as you can and drink lots of water so that your body can make plentiful amounts of milk.

My healthy vegetarian babies were born 8lb6, 10lb2 and 9lb2. Not small!

– Stephanie, mother of Tate (12), Dean (10) and Jake (8)

Introducing solids

First weaning foods for most babies are vegetarian because they consist of fruit, vegetables and cereals.

At 6 months

Try cooked kumara, potato, pumpkin, carrot, apple, pear or uncooked avocado or banana. You can puree these with a little breastmilk or cooled boiled water to make them runny. Introduce solids slowly, a teaspoon a day at first. Gradually increase the amount and frequency over the next few months. Always give your baby the milk feed first, then offer solids.

N.B. check with your Plunket nurse as to when to start your baby on solids. Generally, this is advised at around 6 months, but every baby is different.

Long gone are the days when health professionals would advise all mothers to feed their babies meat ‘juice’. By the time I started having babies, I was delighted to find that Plunket’s regular hand-outs included vegetarian meal ideas.

– Tristan, mother of Vancouver (5) and Nate (4).

8–9 months

Increase the variety of foods. Great vegetarian foods to try now include tofu, crackers, corn, yams, bread, courgettes, broccoli, custard, yogurt, cauliflower, peas, soft fresh fruit and beans and lentils. Try a split pea soup, hummus on crackers or scrambled tofu. Slowly increase the lumpiness in your baby’s food and you can now mash some items instead of pureeing them.

12 months onwards

By about one year, most babies can eat family foods. Just mash or cut up whatever you are having. Eating together as a family teaches healthy eating habits, and babies love to copy you by eating the same. Continue to offer your baby milk: either breast or other milk (about 500-600mls per day). Whole cow’s milk should not be given as a milk drink until after 12 months of age. If using soya or rice milks, choose those that are fortified. If your baby has stopped breast feeding, add a teaspoon of flaxseed oil daily to ensure Omega-3.

Vegetarian babies (PDF)