Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

Raising a Vegan Baby: The First Year

Written by Amy Snyder | August 25, 2011

This is such a cliché, but it seems like just yesterday that my son was born. The 40-plus hours of labor that I suffered through felt like it lasted a lifetime, but the year since then has gone by in a flash. Now that I’m celebrating my son Dylan’s very first birthday—and a rock ‘n’ roll birthday, at that—I’ve realized it’s a good time to pass on what I’ve learned as a first-time vegan parent who is raising a vegan child.

Dylan enjoying vegan cake on his first birthday

First and foremost, raising your child vegan isn’t as difficult or complicated as some sources might lead you to believe. Babies need lots of love and care during their first year, but there are only a few areas of their early life that you need to veganize.

Milk

Doctors recommend breastfeeding infants, and yep, breast milk is vegan. If you can’t breastfeed or choose not to, you can try to score breast milk from a vegan donor by going through an approved milk bank, or you can go the soy formula route. The vitamins in soy formula may contain trace amounts of animal products, but you can check with the manufacturer and decide what is best for your family. Please be sure to read PETA’s stance on trace amounts of animal products.

Food

A baby’s first foods are typically fruits, veggies, and rice cereal—all of which are naturally vegan. Once your baby is ready for small pieces of food instead of having everything pureed, you can introduce proteins such as tofu, tempeh, and soft cooked beans, and there’s no need for meat! Just remember to feed your baby, vegan or not, a wide variety of foods and a balanced diet.  

Personal Care

There are currently a ton of options for all-natural, vegan baby lotion, bath wash, diaper cream, and more. I personally love the smell of Method’s Squeaky Green Hair + Body Wash, which is scented with rice milk and mallow. Delicious!

Clothing

Vegans skip fur, leather, and wool in favor of cruelty-free fabrics, but as most babies I know aren’t sporting leather pants or fur coats, this one is easy. Most play clothes are made from cotton—it’s only the dressier items that may contain wool and the shoes that may contain leather, so be sure to read the label.

The doctors and child-care providers that I’ve been in touch with during Dylan’s first year have been extremely knowledgeable about veganism and supportive of my choice. They seem to respect that every parent has the right to choose what is best for their child and raise them according to those beliefs, until the child can make his or her own choices. I realize that this isn’t the case for everyone and that some people might act like you are depriving your child by choosing a vegan diet for him or her, but who could say that this little guy doesn’t look healthy and happy?

This advice is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’d like to know what all the other vegan moms out there think too. What are your best tips or advice for parenting a vegan infant?

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  • veronika says:

    my son is now 14 months old, and has always been vegan from the start. my husband has meat on a rare occasion, but otherwise we are a vegan family. one resource that i found incredibly useful is the “vegan pregnancy guide” by sayward rebhal. this book is a short and highly instructive read, which covers a number of topics including nutrition, supplementation, and even dealing with people who demand that you explain your dietary and lifestyle preferences. [seriously, what's up with that?] alexandra: i wish you the best of luck. i think your best argument is logic. you don’t have to start with why the animal products are bad. you can start by saying that plants are sufficient for a healthy, balanced diet. meat was not a constant in human diet until fairly recently, and even now it’s mostly here in the west. in most cultures it is used as a flavor enhancer, or only eaten on special occasions. on a nutritional standpoint, i have found that reminding people that cows don’t *make* calcium but rather get it from grass, that salmon don’t *make* omega-3 fatty acids but rather get them from plankton, etc. really helps to drive my point. i’m simply cutting out the “middle animal” by choosing to go straight to the source of these nutrients. in a cruelty-free way! we forget sometimes that although fish accumulate the fatty acids and thus become such rich sources of them, they also accumulate other things from the oceans, like breakdown products of fuels and pollutants, and heavy metals. You should say that you are making the best decision by avoiding the bad and keeping all of the good. i think it is also important to note that quality plants are far cheaper than quality animal products, and far more transparent. the cleanest, organic-est kale is far more accessible (and easier on the environment) than a cow that definitely hasn’t been injected with hormones, antibiotics, and given sub-par feed (all of which take an eventual toll on the consumer by causing hormonal disruptions in children, and contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections). as a side note, the questions don’t stop. people still expect you to explain yourself and validate what you feel and know. the best you can do is to arm yourself with a set of arguments (“well, how do you get your calcium then?” – “same place as the cows, greens! and molasses, and almonds…”) and just put it on repeat. good luck!

  • vernisha says:

    hello I have been on and off vegan and vegetarian ….I am pregnant so am trying to balance it all out, I do not eat meat and I don’t like eating dairy! Is there a replacement for cream and cheese?? I want my girl to grow up as a vegan as from experience I know how nutritional vegan is when done right and I do not enjoy the idea of suggesting to my daughter that eating animal is even a little bit okay! I don’t appreciate the torture they endure and I don’t want to encourage it either. I have much support in my decision but people I know lack knowledge in replacements for certain foods. can anyone here help me??

  • Anna says:

    Hi there, my vegan baby is 13 months, at 10.5 months she bit me on both nipples and it hasn’t healed, as her teeth keep scraping where she bit so the wound has just gotten deeper and deeper. I have seen various lactation consultants but it still hasn’t healed. Nursing has been excrutiating but i persevered because I knew it was best for her, however at 12 months, I allowed myself to cut breastfeeding her down to just 4 times a day. However, she only drinks about 1-2
    minutes on each breast.(so she is getting approx 10-20 mins of breastmilk a day) Do you vegan mama’s think that is enough without having to give her soy formula? I asked a vegan nutritionist via email when i was thinking i might have to wean instead of going down to 4 x a day, and she said i should give her formula. which i really don’t want to do! plus, she won’t take a bottle, and never really drinks a lot when i give her liquids, just some sipping, never gulping it down….would love your help as I am worried, she is in the 3rd percentile so my family (mother, father, sister) are Very concerned…

  • luismommy says:

    I’ve got the confidence that I was looking for to continue bringing up my baby (and whole family) vegan (except fish once in a while)!!! Thanks Amy and all the comments!! Me and my husband decided to go vegetarian and 1 month later vegan last year. Best decision ever. Our son was 2 months at this point. I was always concerned about what I was eating, meat was the last food I choose!! My husband had a hard time eating my veggie meals, so he always ended up with some sausages after meal.He watched a video once that took him, and we are (almost) vegan since than. Everything is great about being vegan, except one, acceptance of the new diet from you friends and family!!! every single one becomes a doctor/nutritionist!!!People start judging before actually knowing what “vegan is”, OBVIOUSLY ITS EATING GRASS.
    Everyone is concerned about MY child, that we are torturing him. Luis is 8 months old and he loves veggies, fruits, cereals basically everything I give him and is a very healthy baby. But as soon as he has some red spot or is cranky or changes his behavior its because “he doesn’t it MEAT” I tried ignoring people, explaining, comparing but nothing works, has anyone experience dealing with all the “wise” advisers? At some point i get really dis-motivated and that makes me thing if that’s the right way especially when you are responsible for someone who cant choose yet…so, its great to find like minded people.

  • Mama S. says:

    The sky is the limit really, you can make your baby his/her own smoothie full of kale or spinach with lots of safe first fruits. The benefits of kale are incredible- there’s more protein in a serving than a serving of beef. Lentils are a great source of protein as well. Add silken tofu to your babies banana/apple puree (or any fruit they really enjoy) for extra nutrients/iron. We really don’t require a lot of protein, most people eat more then they need. Whole wheat/gluten free pasta is nice now and then, but you should aim for foods rich in vitamins and not just feed baby starchy carbs. A great food processor (or at least the one i’ve been using that works wonderfully) is the baby bullet. It makes processing organic purees so easy- it even comes with cute storage containers and freezer containers so you can preprepare meals. My son also enjoys organic teething biscuits, which are usually vegan.

  • ProudVegan says:

    Kymberli, I would like your email. I need desperate guidance on beginning to feed my baby. He turns five months next week. I would like to know different recipes and recommended food processors for food purees.

  • Alexandra Romanova says:

    Hi guys, please help: my girl is 5m old, and we will soon introduce other food than breastmilk. I am vegan, my man is NOT. I am afraid of starting to talk about that I will not accept anything but vegan for our daughter. I think I will be very aggressive in case he starts opposing this….. Is there a nice text that I can show him, describing awfullness of animal products for children?

  • Paula says:

    My only advice is: DONT BE SCARED. Read, learn, talk about it, and everything is going to be ok.

  • Katie says:

    Kimberli!! How do we email you? I need your wisdom! :)
    Anyone… Did you have a hard time telling your pediatrician you were raising your kid vegan? Ours is 6 months, just doing the fruit & veg now, scared to tell my ped about veganism, he’s super nice though, can’t imagine he’d be rude.

  • vegan baby in Baltimore says:

    let me add that I have been vegan for over 20 years, with a heavy reliance on soy. Thanks