As promised, today I am going to be sharing with you my Vegan Pregnancy & Parenthood FAQ. I have written this up for two reasons: 1.) I want to ease the minds of anybody who reads this post. I am aware that some people will be concerned at the fact that I am the first in my family to become a vegan mother. For this, I feel it is my responsibility to set the record straight. 2.) I have learnt everything I know from other vegan parents so now I wish to pay it forward and help out those that are wanting to do the same but need further clarification/assurances first.
I am going to break this up into 3 categories: Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & Parenthood. If you don’t see a question you wanted answered, please ask it below and I will respond ASAP. Also please understand, I am not a GP or qualified medical practitioner. Everything you read today I have sourced from vegan parents, recommended books, my midwife and trusted online articles which I will link as I go.
1.) Is it safe to be vegan throughout your entire pregnancy?
Absolutely – if done correctly. Like any diet/lifestyle, it is your responsibility as a pregnant woman to eat healthy and ensure all of your nutritional needs are met. Whatever you do, do not rely purely on a wide range of wholefoods to give you and your baby adequate vitamins/minerals. You must take a pre-natal (which I will touch on in a moment), any supplements you are lacking or that are neccesary for baby’s development and to eat a balanced diet of grains, fats, carbohydrates, vegetables, proteins and fruits. I would advise this of anybody, vegan or not.
Please read this article hosted by The Vegetarian Resource Group for further information.
2.) Do doctors/midwives approve of vegan pregnancy?
I cannot speak for all doctors but my midwife certainly does. She was very happy and impressed to see how healthy I was as a vegan mama. My levels were excellent and my blood pressure has remained stable throughout these last 6 months. She also mentioned that as a vegan, I was not at risk for listeria (a bacteria found in certain foods that can cause serious illness). When most women fall pregnant, they are advised to stay away from certain foods, e.g soft cheeses, egg-whites, raw fish etc. Since I already do not consume any of these things, I just have to ensure all of my fruits/vegetables are thoroughly washed before eating. You may encounter a concerned GP/midwife who will try to persuade you to eat meat and dairy. Prove them wrong by doing everything I mentioned in Q1. If for some reason, you have a rare condition that requires you to eat non-vegan, that is fine. Do whatever you have to, to stay strong for you and baby.
3.) What do I do if I crave meat?
This one is entirely up to you. I’ll admit, I didn’t crave actual meat during my pregnancy but I ate a lot of mock-meats. I was adverse to a few foods in my first trimester but not them. If you happen to have strong cravings for meat, try the plant-based substitutes first and see if that satisfies you. From what I’ve researched, the smell of meat is the most common turn-off for non-vegans during pregnancy. A lot of them end up eating purely vegetarian anyway and resorting back to meat once they’ve given birth. If you are worried about meeting iron and protein needs, click here for a few evidence-based, scientific articles written by registered vegan dietician, Ginny Messina. If you’re still unsure, take an iron supplement!
4.) What do you typically eat in a day during vegan pregnancy?
I’m going to share some ‘What I Eat in a Day’ posts moving forward to give you a few ideas but at the moment, in my second trimester, I typically eat:
BREAKFAST: 1 cup of rolled oats (high in magnesium, protein, fibre, iron and zinc) , soaked in calcium-fortified plant milk. Topped with frozen berries (high in omega-3’s), blackstrap molasses (high in calcium), peanut butter (high in protein), chia seeds (high in omega-3’s, protein and fibre) and shredded coconut (high in healthy fats).
SNACK: Dried or fresh fruit (great for low-blood sugar and high in fibre), nuts (high in fibre, calcium, iron and zinc), seeds (high in calcium, zinc and magnesium) and whole-grain crackers (high in magnesium, protein, fibre, iron and zinc).
LUNCH: Smashed avocado (high in healthy fats, Vitamin C & fibre) on whole-grain bread (high in magnesium, protein, fibre, iron and zinc). Topped with fresh tomatoes (high in Vitamin C and K), cucumber (high in Vitamin C and K), lemon juice, garlic powder and black pepper.
SNACK: Coconut yoghurt (high in fibre and calcium) with granola (high in calcium, zinc and magnesium) or hummus (high in protein, calcium, magnesium and zinc) with carrot sticks (high in Vitamin C, A and K).
DINNER: Dahl made with leek (high in copper, folate and iron), potato (high in manganese and B6), cabbage (high in Vitamin C, K and B6), lentils (high in protein and fibre). Served on white or brown rice (high in carbohydrates, protein and fibre – great for low cholesterol).
With all of this fibre, you are likely to avoid one of pregnancy’s most common and harrowing symptoms: constipation!
5.) What pre-natal/supplements should I take?
I would strongly advise that your pre-natal contains B12 & folate, which most of them do. If you can, find one that provides DHA & EHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) and iodine as well. Once again, do not rely on whole-foods to give you an adequate supply of DHA/iodine. If you are deficient in either of these, you are at risk of hurting baby’s brain development. I am one of those rare adults that struggles to swallow pills so I take vegan gummies. I bought mine on iHerb which is the number one website I recommend for sourcing pre-natals/supplements that are completely plant-based. You would be surprised but a lot of them do contain gelatin (charred animal bones) so make sure you check the labels before purchase.
The brand I use is Premama, Prenatal Vitamin + DHA Gummy, Plus Iron. It unfortunately does not contain iodine so I take that separately in liquid form. Iodine is not found naturally in vegan foods nor do we store it for long periods of time so it is absolutely essential that we supplement it. Iodine is fortified into cow’s milk hence why vegetarians/meat-eaters do not have to worry as much about it. However, they should still take a supplement whilst pregnant. An iodine deficiency can lead to fetal brain damage. I also bought mine from iHerb. I take World Organic, Liquid Potassium Iodide. You must continue to use this (and up your dosage according to the bottle) if you decide to breastfeed. If you are raising a vegan child, like myself, you will need to add this to their solids/liquids later.
To learn more about iodine – watch Unnatural Vegan’s video below:
6.) What kind of birth will you be having?
This question doesn’t really relate to vegan pregnancy, however a lot of social-media vegans (not all) tend to have home/water births. They believe it to be more natural and organic. Personally, I have nothing against this (provided you have a qualified midwife/doctor present) but I will be giving birth in a hospital. This is my first baby and I want to make sure that I am in solid, experienced hands.
7.) Can you recommend a great vegan pregnancy book?
I absolutely can! The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book by RD Reed Mangels is a fantastic source. I am reading and re-reading it. Here is a synopsis to give you an idea on what to expect:
Do I need more protein? Am I getting enough nutrients for the baby? How do I defend my decision to stay vegan? These questions and more are on the minds of vegan moms-to-be who want to maintain their lifestyle but still nurture a healthy baby. Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because a vegan pregnancy is not only possible, it’s also healthy and completely safe. With this helpful guide, you will learn about all aspects of vegan pregnancy from conception to bringing home baby, including: * Which foods to eat (and avoid!) to get optimum nutrients for you and baby* How to deal with disapproval from family and friends* Methods to ensure a vegan-friendly hospital birth* Setting up a vegan nursery for the baby. Packed with information for both moms and dads, including 150 nutritious and healthy recipes for the whole family, this book is the ultimate resource for parents who want the best for their baby–without sacrificing the vegan life!
I could not recommend it enough!
8.) What do I do if my family/partner/friends disapprove of my vegan pregnancy?
Show them this FAQ! Or, get them to read The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book. Failing that, assure them that you are perfectly healthy and that your doctor/midwife is not concerned in the slightest (provided they aren’t). Remember that this is new to them as well and their worries stem from a place of love. Try not to get defensive straight away. If they still protest, you can state that it is your decision and to please respect it.
9.) Am I less likely to have morning sickness if I have a vegan pregnancy?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but…no. Morning sickness occurs most commonly in the first trimester, as the level of hormones rise each passing week. Your experience depends entirely on how you handle the increase of said hormones. If you have a strong constitution and rarely get motion sick, you will probably be fine. If you are prone to queasiness already, you may struggle. I was extremely lucky and didn’t get physically sick once. I only experienced slight nausea from time to time and even then, it only lasted an hour at most. You will typically feel the most ill when you are hungry. Make sure to eat small but frequent, filling meals. The best piece of advice I was given, was to eat oats for breakfast. They are slow burning so you will feel satiated for a longer period of time.
10.) Will my chances of conception increase if I am a vegan?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that being vegan will increase your chances of conception. However, as it is a healthier lifestyle, you are more likely to be in better physical condition which of course helps. Your age, overall health and mental well-being play a large factor in being able to conceive successfully. Still, more and more women are falling pregnant later in life now. It’s amazing how far medical science has advanced. I was 28 when I fell pregnant and will give birth when I’m 29. I’m hoping to fall pregnant with our second child at 31.
1.) Do you plan to breastfeed as a vegan?
I certainly do – provided I do not encounter any issues. I would like to breastfeed my children until they are at least two years old (with solids added in of course!). I am not against bottle-feeding but I do believe breastfeeding to be the healthiest, most natural form of helping a baby grow. I think it is amazing that women can provide everything baby needs from their breast milk. There are many, many advantages to breastfeeding. Please read Ellen Fisher’s Tips for Successful Breastfeeding. I got so much out of it! She is a vegan mother of three and such an inspiration for aspiring veggie mamas everywhere.
2.) What if you can’t breastfeed? What then?
If for some reason I am unsuccessful with breastfeeding, I will express my milk. Should that also be unsuccessful, I will be bottle-feeding baby with soy formula. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that supplies plant-based soy formula at our local Chemist Warehouse. Click here to see the brand I found. If you live outside of Australia, here is one I found on iHerb. Unfortunately neither are 100% vegan due to the Vitamin D but they are a lot better than the alternative. If you cannot find/afford soy formula nor can you breastfeed, of course I would tell you to use regular formula. Without it, your baby will die. I am using these options because I can and am able to do so but if I had no other choice, I would use regular. Baby is much more important than my ethics. Luckily for me though, I shouldn’t even have to entertain that idea.
3.) What if a midwife asks to bottle-feed your baby in the hospital because you’re struggling with breastfeeding?
My birth plan will state that baby is not to be fed formula unless there is no other option. Failing that, I am happy to bring soy formula to the hospital just in case.
4.) Will you take any vitamins/supplements whilst breastfeeding?
Yes! As mentioned above, I will continue taking my pre-natal plus iodine supplement whilst breastfeeding. In fact, I need to up my dosage as a breastfeeding mother requires more than when she was pregnant. This will ensure baby gets all it needs through me. Check labels for correct dosage amount or ask GP/midwife/lactation specialist.
1.) Are you planning on raising your children vegan?
100%. My husband and I will never be able to purchase/cook with animal products in our home, therefore our children will have to eat vegan growing up. We will instill in them the same morals and values that we have. Our children will visit animal sanctuaries and see firsthand that all living beings are our friends, not food. We will also educate them on the health/environmental benefits. If, when they are older, they decide they want to be vegetarian or meat-eaters, that is their decision and one we will respect. We will never force it on them or be angry if they choose differently. We understand that they will be a minority and this could be tough in social situations. I would never want them to feel uncomfortable. I want our children to want to be vegan. It has to be something they come to themselves as adults, not something they are shamed into.
2.) Is it healthy to raise children vegan?
It is extremely healthy, if done correctly as I always say. You need to ensure that your child is fed a well-balanced, nutritious diet and will take important supplements such as B12, iodine & a multivitamin (optional). Every single vegan child I have seen absolutely thrives on this lifestyle. They are so full of energy and vibrant. If you would like further proof, here are some online vegan mamas that post regular pictures of their children:
Also, Sarah Lemkus (see above) has an excellent blog all about raising vegan children. She writes about what her toddler eats in a day, what supplements to take and how to give them everything they need. Click here to read her amazing articles.
3.) Will you be putting your children in daycare or raising them yourself?
Francis and I decided long before I fell pregnant that I would be a stay-at-home mother until both children were old enough to go to school. It is a decision we are very happy and satisfied with. Let me state that I am not a daycare snob. I understand that not all women have the luxury to remain at home and be supported, especially in certain countries outside of Australia where welfare benefits are non-existent. For me, I am doing this because I am able to and couldn’t imagine my children being raised by anybody other than myself. My mother did the same with me and my sister and she said it was the most rewarding thing in the world. She never missed any of our first moments. Every experience was shared together. This is exactly what I want. I understand that this means living a much more minimalistic, budgeted lifestyle but I couldn’t care less. I learnt long ago what really matters in life and it’s certainly not material possessions. Once they both commence school, I will return to full-time work.
4.) What will you do if a family member or friend feeds your child something non-vegan?
By now, all of our family members and close friends understand that we will be raising our children vegan. If any of them are asked to babysit, I will come prepared with pre-made vegan meals/snacks so they don’t have to think of a single thing. If they decide to feed our child non-vegan food anyway, they will not be permitted to babysit again. Simple as that. To do so would be a blatant disregard against our wishes/values. I don’t foresee this happening however and of course, I understand that accidents happen but with all of the food ready to go, there should be no reason to give our child anything else. The same would be said for a parent asking me not to let their children watch any movie unless it is G-Rated. If they supply me with acceptable films and I put on something PG, they have every right to forbid me from babysitting again. It is the parents wishes and must be respected whether it is understood by the sitter or not.
5.) What about kid’s parties???
Like any child with an allergy/dietary requirement, special arrangements have to be made when attending any sort of event. As stated in Q4, I will provide all the food so the other parents do not have to. I can even ask them what they are making and whip up the vegan version so our child doesn’t feel left out. For example, fairy bread can be made with margarine, honey joys can become maple joys etc. There is a whole article on this topic from Vegan Parenting.Org which is an excellent resource for families raising vegan children. Click here to gather more tips. The same goes for schooling. I will make all their lunches and snacks. If, when they are teenagers, they go out with their friends and choose to eat non-vegan, that is not an issue. I understand how important fitting in is to a child. The promise I make is this: I will do the best I can but veganism will never exceed my child’s happiness.
6.) What tips can you give me to make vegan parenting simpler?
Well, I haven’t started yet so I’ll definitely revisit this question in a future blog post. For now, I can see that being organised is essential. You must have food prepared at all times – for babysitting, travel, daycare, parties etc. You also need to be willing to get creative (especially if you have a fussy kid). I am looking forward to using my food processor a lot more and making lots of blended fruits/veggies for baby. The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book (linked above) has plenty of recipes for infants and toddlers approved by a registered dietician. These valuable resources will make your vegan parenting experience so much simpler. Lastly, accept that it may be challenging at times. It’s not going to be a smooth ride but it will be worth it. In my part of the world, veganism is becoming so much more mainstream. I’m hoping by the time our children are older, it will be considered ‘normal.’
7.) How do I deal with judgmental parents/teachers?
I have started to realise that people will judge you no matter how you decide to raise your children. You will never be able to win so you might as well parent exactly how you want and ignore those that have something negative to say. I’m also a firm believer of leading by example and not making a fuss. If you provide all the food for school and social situations, what is there to complain about? If people can see your children are very healthy, what concern is it of theirs? Stay strong in your convictions. People fear what they don’t understand but once they see that it’s not a big deal, they will probably no longer care.
8.) Will you be vaccinating your children?
Yes! I know so many vegans that are anti-vax but my husband and I are not in that category. For any of you reading that are anti-vax, I highly encourage you to do your research. Vaccines save lives and prevent severe diseases. Please check out Unnatural Vegan’s video below and the many linked, science evidence-based articles.
- Vaccines are not associated with autism
- How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed
- Zero US Measles in 10 Years
- “Vaccines Didn’t Save Us” (Intellectual Dishonesty At Its Most Naked)
Unfortunately vaccines do contain animal-derived products but in this case, I value the life of my child much more highly than anything else. Hopefully, as the world changes and medical science advances, we can have the option of being injected with vegan vaccines. Until then, baby’s health comes first.
9.) What will you feed your vegan toddler?
This video by Unnatural Vegan will provide you with plenty of ideas:
The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book also covers a plethora of meal options. Once your child starts eating solids, you can feed them fortified soy milk, plant-based yoghurts, mushy oats, avocado, peanut butter, soft pasta, legume-based soups, pureed fruits, vegetables and so much more! Don’t forget to include important supplements like iodine, B-12, DHA etc…
I hope this FAQ helped somewhat. Please ask any further questions you may have in the comments below. I will continue posting about my vegan parenting experience as time goes on.
Peace & Love xoxo
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