In a number of days, my daughter will turn six-months-old and I’ve been dreading making a decision that will affect her whole life.
Six months is a pretty big milestone. I no longer recall what hot tea tastes like. She’s figured out how to roll and can’t be left unattended anymore. I don’t ask my parent-friends questions about the parenting basics anymore… well at least not every single day. She’s a lover of purees.
So, what’s the problem, I hear you ask.
The baby books say she can start eating yogurt, chicken and lamb at six-months-old. I’m vegan.
When I decided to make the switch from vegetarian to vegan five years ago, the first question I got was: "Will you force your children to be vegan?" I've always maintained that I will never force my children into being vegan. I will let them taste animal products like meat, dairy and honey. At the same time though, they will probably eat what I cook which will be mainly plant and grain based.
For the past two months I've avoided this dilemma with the recommendation to start on low-allergy vegetables and fruits. My daughter's favourite is apple. Followed by pear. Followed by sweet potato. She hates potato and ever since I mixed some zucchini in with her pumpkin, she is very wary of pumpkin.
Before you start jumping up and down at how I'm going to harm my daughter if I don't give her meat (maybe you are already there), let me just say my goal as a mum is to do whatever is best for her.
The thing is... it's not that simple.
As a vegan, I've found there is conflicting advice on whether it's healthy. It really depends on the personal beliefs of the professional you are talking to. Doctors have told me that it is unhealthy. Cutting out animal products would deprive me of essential nutrients that my body biologically needs. This is often echoed at every dinner I go to with friends.
Other doctors have also said it is perfectly healthy. As long as I vary my food intake. In other words, not only eat potatoes. I even had one anti-vegan doctor remark at how incredibly healthy my blood work looked considering I didn't eat animals. My obstetrician assured me that being vegan wouldn't affect the health of my baby while pregnant... and it didn't.
When it comes to researching whether babies can be vegan and healthy, the information is just as complex. Research points to life-long harm without calcium taken from cow's milk. Research points to how vegan babies are far healthier and less prone to illnesses than their lamb-eating friends.
The current recommendation for babies on solids is to give them everything and anything (at appropriate ages of course). The varied diet, in theory, will help them not be picky eaters (you know, the kids who decide to only eat white food) and will prevent them from developing allergies to certain foods later in life. I don't want to have a picky eater. I don't want to give my daughter a food allergy.
Morally though, I hate the thought of going against what I believe. I hate the fact that animals have to suffer for my nutrition. I hate that I am about to teach my daughter that in order for her to be a healthy baby, she has to eat animals.
It would be different if she was, say, five-years-old and asked to have a hot dog. I would let her. See what she thought of it and if she liked it, that's her choice. A six-month-old baby however, can't really make that choice. She's entirely reliant on me to give her food and give it to her enough times to decide if she truly likes it.
I guess that's the real problem, by giving my daughter chicken, I would be making a moral decision on her behalf that I am completely against.
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