Vegan Diet for Infancy

Dietary guidelines for infancy (birth to age 12 months) suggest all children spend most of infancy on a vegetarian, if not vegan diet, as meat is the last food group to be introduced.

Breastfeeding is the recommended feeding method for infants. Assuming nutrient intake is adequate, the milk produced by vegan mothers is nutritionally comparable to non-vegetarian mothers. Breastfeeding rates among vegetarians are much higher than in the general population; breastfeeding rates above 95% in a vegan population have been reported. In the US, 39% of infants in the general population are still being breastfed at age 6 months while studies examining vegan children showed most were breastfed well into the second year of life. Breastfed infants of well-nourished vegetarian mothers grow and develop normally.

Current research indicates that only newly absorbed (as opposed to the mother's reserves) vitamin B12 is passed through the breast milk. Reliable daily sources of vitamin B12 for nursing mothers are fortified meat analogs, fortified cereals, and fortified soymilk. Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast or a supplement must be maintained throughout the nursing period.

Vegan infants who are not breastfed should receive soy-based infant formula until at least the first birthday. Soy or other "milks" are not suitable substitutes for infant formula. Soy infant formulas support normal growth in infants.

Solid foods should be added to the diet in accordance with accepted infant feeding guidelines, which generally suggest starting solids during the middle of the first year of life. Usually iron fortified infant cereal is the first food introduced, followed by vegetables, fruits and then protein foods. Individual food items should be introduced gradually and in small amounts. Parents should proceed with caution when introducing solid foods to the infants diet. Commonly identified vegan food allergens are wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and soybeans. Refer to pediatric guidelines for the introduction of known food allergens, particularly if a family allergy history exists.

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