Hi Gang! Here is part III of Alicia's interview on cultivating a healthy vegan pregnancy. We've covered everything from formulas and supplements to using soy in a vegan mama's diet. You can still check out part I and part II of Alicia's interview. And now, we answer questions of bringing up (vegan) baby.
If a mother is vegan, will there be enough nutrients in her breast milk?
Susan: Yes. But first, it’s important to note what her child will not be getting. Mothers who are not yet vegan have more chemical pollutants in their breast milk, compared with vegan mothers. Having said that, it is always important to ensure complete nutrition. Women need more Vitamin B-12 during pregnancy and lactation. For vegan moms, it is important to continue B-12 supplementation throughout all stages of the lifecycle.
Vegan mothers should make sure they have a reliable source of Vitamin D (sun exposure, fortified foods, or talk to a healthcare provider about supplementation) and iodine (iodized salt does the trick) in the mother’s diet while breastfeeding as well.
Will a pregnant woman, or woman who is breastfeeding, get enough calcium if she is vegan?
Susan: Yes, calcium needs are easily met when consuming plant foods. Leafy green vegetables have the most absorbable form of calcium (kale, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). Beans are a good choice. Supplemented beverages such as soy milk and rice milk can be part of a healthful diet as well.
Does a vegan baby get enough good fat?
Christina: They can if the mother is eating enough fat while nursing and once the baby moves to solid food. Foods like avocado, tofu, oils, oats, pureed cooked nuts and seeds in food (as long as there are no allergies) are good sources of fat for babies.
Susan: Yes. A vegan baby gets everything the mother consumes. If the mother is eating a good ratio of essential fatty acids and avoiding the less desirable fats, the baby will reap the benefits. If the mother is consuming a typical high-fat American diet, then the baby will be at a disadvantage.
Are there advantages to raising kids on vegan diets?
Susan: You are doing your kids a huge favor by starting them off on the right dietary path. Building meals from vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruits will help them to stay slim, and as research shows more and more, help them stay healthy for life.
When children have healthful, vegan eating habits right from the start, they will learn to maintain vitamin and fiber-rich, cholesterol-free eating style throughout their lives.
Will a vegan child get enough Vitamin B-12?
Susan: Yes, easily. So long as the mother takes a reliable source of B-12, then a breast-feeding child will get enough B-12. Anybody who consumes a vegan diet will need to take a reliable B-12 source. This is easily done either via fortified foods or supplements, such as any typical multiple vitamin.
Christina: For Vitamin B-12, both the sublingual tablets and the shots are effective. The difference is with the sublingual, you need to take the supplement daily, and with the shots, you have an immediate reaction - fabulous energy! Most people will not need another shot for several weeks or months. I like both the shots and the sublingual, but for most people, the sublingual is enough (anywhere from 500-1500 mcg daily).
Alicia: You can learn more about Vitamin B-12 here.
Is there a difference between raising girls vegan versus raising boys vegan?
Susan: There are no major differences between raising vegan boys and girls. Nutrient needs for the whole family are easily met by providing a varied plant-based diet. Vegan children, in general, tend to consume more protective foods such as fiber, iron, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, compared with non-vegetarians. They also eat fewer sweets and more fruits and vegetables!
What kind of vegan-friendly lotion helps with stretch marks?
Christina: There is a product called organic beauty breast cream that says it can prevent and can even help repair existing stretch marks...I have not used it, but it comes highly recommended. On the other hand, I have had experience with pure hemp seed oil and it does an amazing job or preventing and helping to repair stretch marks...and the cool thing is that it’s so high in omega 3 that is soaks right into the skin and doesn’t leave you oily...
Alicia: If you are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant, I highly recommend reading Dr. Holly Roberts' book Your Vegetarian Pregnancy. She has thirty years of experience as an obstetrician and a vegetarian. In her book, she covers the details of nutrition for vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic diets for pregnant women. She also discusses the experience of pregnancy month by month - it's a must-read!
Alicia Silverstone is author of The Kind Diet and you can catch up with her on all things vegan on her site, The Kind Life.