Recently, the beautiful Angela at Oh She Glows posted about whether she was raising her daughter on a vegan diet or not. Her post created a bit of controversy – Angela is a vegan, her husband is an omnivore, so what is the “right” answer for their child? They have decided to not label their daughter’s diet and let her eat how she chooses. I can completely relate with Angela here – my husband is an omnivore too, and I started with the same approach to my first son’s diet. I’d like to share with you how I feed my own children now…
Meet Amir. He is 6, and my eldest child. When he was born, I was 19 – young and naive. I had no idea what to do with a baby! I listened to bad (albeit well-meaning) advice. Controlled crying, scheduled feeding…and I weaned my son onto non-vegan foods. Yes, I feel ashamed about that. But what else do you do when your partner, mother, and other well-meaning relatives, friends and strangers keep suggesting to do so? Ads on television for baby yoghurts, baby books that tell you to introduce cheese at 9 months. Advice on weaning from the breast to cows milk or formula. People telling me he won’t get enough calcium or protein without animal products. I got to the point where I felt like Amir NEEDED dairy or he wouldn’t thrive, according to everyone. As a sleep-deprived parent, I just did as I was told.
As for meat, well, as much husband eats meat, it was just natural that he would feed our son meat. And other family members would give him meat when we ate away from home.
As he is now 6 and well aware of why I don’t eat meat, milk, cheese, eggs and other animal products, he is at the point where he can make his own decisions about what he eats. Unfortunately he often still chooses animal products, but as he grows older I believe he may decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle. But I consider Amir to be a vegan about 90% of the time, as he eats what I feed him, which is a 100% plant based diet.
EDIT (October 2015): I thought I would come back and edit this post to let you know that Amir has made the decision himself to eat 100% vegan! Even when we have been on holidays with our non-vegan extended family, and surrounded by meat, cheese, etc., he continually chooses the vegan option. I’M SUCH A PROUD MUM RIGHT NOW :D
Now meet Zebulon, Zebby for short. He will be 3 in a few months. And he is a vegan. Zebby was brought up much differently to Amir, right from the time I discovered I was pregnant. We had a glorious homebirth, co-slept with all 4 of us crammed in our bed, breastfed on demand, and Zebby was always in my arms or in the Ergobaby carrier. Finally it felt like I was parenting the right way!
When it came to introducing solid foods, we tried out “baby-led weaning”, which is where you offer your baby finger foods when they are pretty much grabbing food off your plate or out of your own hands. This method of feeding my baby seemed sooo much more natural than constantly cooking separate meals to puree or mash, as I did for Amir. And I put my foot down – I made it clear to everyone that Zebby would be a vegan. Veganism isn’t some fad diet – it is healthy, full of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Combined with breastmilk (I breastfed Zebby until he was nearly 2, only weaning because I was pregnant and breastfeeding became excruciatingly painful) I was certain Zebby’s diet would be complete of everything he needed.
And now meet Vani, my nearly 7 month old daughter. She is also being raised as a vegan. I am raising her much the same as Zebby – attachment parenting, baby led weaning, baby wearing, co-sleeping. She has recently started eating solids – carrot, apple, sweet potato, pear, plum, and her latest favourite – cucumber!
So why am I raising vegan children?
There are a few reasons. As a vegan myself, I just don’t feel comfortable feeding my children animal products. I believe veganism is natural and healthy – this isn’t just some fad diet to lose weight, this is my philosophy, veganism is my whole life. So if I can’t get my children to thrive on a vegan diet, it would shatter my beliefs.
Sure, it’s hard when my husband is cooking some bacon or sausages and the kids want what “daddy” is eating. My husband only eats meat at home maybe once a fortnight, so it’s not too much of an issue, however it is hard to explain to a 2 year old why he can’t eat what his father is eating. (It’s days like those I wish my husband was a vegan…)
Some people have said that vegans “force” their beliefs onto their children. But the opposite could also be true – omnivores force their animal-product-eating-beliefs onto their children. If a child in an omnivorous family decides to stop eating meat, the parents might say, “You won’t grow up big and strong if you don’t eat meat!” – many people believe that humans NEED to eat animal products to thrive (however this is far from the truth, and my children and myself are living proof that you don’t need to eat any animal products and can be perfectly healthy).
In short: I’m raising vegan children because as a vegan, I feel this is the natural choice to make for my children. Young children rely on their parents to feed them, so I am making what I feel is the right choice for my children. And as a parent, that’s all you can do – just try to make the right choices. If my kids decide later in life to consume animal products, that is their choice, but for now they are vegans :)
Ok, that is all for now for my ranty vegan post! I’ll be back to scrumptious vegan recipes shortly :)
I’d love to know what you think though.
- If you are a vegan, are you raising your children as vegans? Or if you don’t have children yet – would you?
- Or (dare I ask): why wouldn’t you raise your children as vegans?