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).
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.