Me again, I’ll be posting here every so often with some random thoughts vaguely connected to being a vegan parent and raising vegan children. My daughter is 18 months old, so I don’t have huge swathes of experience yet, but I will offer up what I can! One area I do have a fair bit of experience in is breastfeeding, we are practicing child-led weaning, which usually amounts to a few years of breastfeeding, obviously with solid food too!
The benefits of breastfeeding are many and varied (have a look at kellymom or La Leche League), and for vegan parents its big advantage is that you are not reliant on formula, which is usually dairy based. There are soy formulas readily available but it is increasingly difficult to find vegan formula, due to fish oils and vitamin D3 being added to most of them. Vegan mums also tend to have considerably lower levels of environmental toxins in their milk than the general population.
A nursing mum’s dietary requirements are pretty much the same as when she was pregnant and for vegan mums the main thing to watch is your vitamin b12.
You must take a reliable daily source of b12. A pregnant woman’s body will harvest her b12 stores to give to her baby, however these stores are not used to make milk. If you do not have a reliable dietary intake of b12, your breastfed baby won’t either and this can lead to many serious problems.
You also will want to keep your iron and Vitamin D levels topped up so that your milk is full of goodness. For your own good, as in pregnancy, ensure a good intake of calcium and zinc as your body will give up its own stores of these to make milk. I usually add hemp or flax oil to my salads and eat plenty of avocados, walnuts and hemp seeds to ensure a good supply of fatty acids too.
Remember, no matter what your well-meaning friends / nosey doctors tell you, you don’t need to drink milk to make milk. We’re mammals, it’s what we do!
Otherwise, you don’t need anything special diet-wise. Breastfeeding uses up the fat stored in your body during pregnancy, so while you’re sitting down on your rocking chair, feeding your baby, you are actually doing a workout, well done you! Drink enough water to stay hydrated, and make the most of your extra 300-500 calories a day. Or be like me and just eat as much as you want, you’ll probably be hungry!
Some delicious and easy to make vegan snack ideas for the nursing mum:
~ A bowl of whole grain cereal with chopped fruit and fortified soymilk
~ Granola tossed in soy yogurt with fruit and mixed seeds
~ A serving of mixed nuts – almonds, walnuts, pistachios (many women avoid peanuts if there is a family history of allergy)
~ Smoothies – blend soy milk/yogurt with a banana, orange juice and berries
~ Mashed avocado on wholegrain crackers
~ An avocado and a spoon, eat it like ice-cream straight from the container!
~ Toasted pitta strips with hummus
~ Carrot/veg sticks with hummus, baba ganoush or bean paste
~ Fruit – apples, bananas, nectarines, any fruit really!
~ Porridge/oat cookies – oats are known to boost milk production
~ Fried tofu cubes dipped in soy and sweet chili sauce (my all time favourite snack)
Your milk will take on the flavour of the food you eat, it is thought that this helps your baby develop a taste for the food that your family eats. So breastfeeding is a great way to give your baby a taste for your own unique cooking style long before he or she starts on solids, perhaps that explains why my daughter loves garlic mashed potatoes and toast so much!