baby

The awful "vegan mum" story this week taught us that mums need far more support.

You probably heard of the American “vegan” mum earlier this week. Elizabeth Hawk, 33, was arrested for allegedly feeding her 11-month-old son nothing but nuts and berries causing him to become seriously malnourished, so malnourished it was affecting his development.

The little boy had to be removed and placed into his father’s care (but according to reports is doing much better).

If there is just one lesson that we can take away from this story, it’s that new mums need more support in how best to care for their bub after those early sleepless weeks.

I’m a vegan mum (although, for the record, I don’t agree that Hawk’s diet, or the one she fed her baby, is vegan due to the strict limitations – but that’s a conversation for another time).

Elizabeth Hawk allegedly feed her 11-month-old son nothing but nuts and berries causing him to become seriously malnourished.

Before I even fell pregnant, I promised my husband (a non-vegan) that our future children could eat whatever they wanted including steak, Big Macs and sausage rolls. When my bub was about to cross the threshold of starting solids, I spent countless hours on the internet reading articles for and against giving babies a vegan diet.

I found nothing that convinced me that vegan-only was okay. Sure, there were articles sponsored by vegan groups claiming that vegan-only was perfectly nutritional, but what I wanted was an anti-vegan medical practitioner who had done conclusive research which found that a vegan diet was suitable for a growing baby. I want to acknowledge that I know there are a lot of cultures where babies eat vegan diets and grow up perfectly healthy, and I'm not saying babies shouldn't eat vegan diets. Personally, I just wanted a little bit more science to back up my decision.

My baby will have a varied diet, including animal products, and should she decide in the future that she wants to eat like mummy, well, we will cross that bridge then.

At her six-month check up, I explained to my doctor that I was vegan, but wanted to give my daughter a varied diet. Except, I had no idea how much meat you are supposed to have. Or how much diary. And is it different for a baby?

My doctor, amazing as she is, didn't really have a straight forward answer for me. She let me know what she fed her kids, but there wasn't a take home sheet that showed recommended portions sizes or amount of required nutrients per week.

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In the first few weeks there is an overabundance of support on how to squeeze milk out of your boobs and how to make sure your newborn is getting enough nutrients. Once they're on solids, well, new mums, you are on your own.

Mums are crying out for help. If you thought feeding a newborn was hard, wait until you try get them to eat healthy, home-cooked food. I'm a member of a few mummy facebook groups and every second day there is a question about feeding babies and toddlers:

"Is it okay if my baby only eats cheese and pasta for a week, he won't eat anything else?"

"My child refuses to eat anything green, should I give him a multivitamin?"

"My little daughter doesn't want to eat anything for dinner, she's been eating all day, I know they don't intentionally starve themselves, is it okay for her to miss a meal?"

"My one-year-old will only eat with his hands, any suggestions on what I can make him?"

Now, I understand from the reports that Hawk had gone a bit extreme in her dieting and understanding what was good for her baby was extraordinary, but what if she had some support before it got to the tipping point?

What if she had someone who wouldn't judge her for her beliefs, who would support her in trying to do the best for her baby, who would help educate her in what her baby needed in terms of nutritional minimums (and provided vegan options if that's what she wanted)?

What if mums had someone to ask all those questions that they post on Facebook? Someone who knows what they are talking about?

Perhaps then Hawk wouldn't have got to where she is now. Perhaps mums would have someone who knew how to get toddlers to find broccoli as delicious as ice-cream.

LISTEN to This Glorious Mess, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents (like us.)

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