Whilst many families will take a traditional route when weaning their baby, choosing between baby-led weaning, parent-led weaning or a combination of the two, for others, they may decide on vegetarian or vegan weaning.
November sees World Vegan Month. For families taking an increasingly popular approach to wean their baby the vegan way, Sally Hall, author of Plant Based Baby, outlines some of the things to keep in mind when considering raising your baby as a vegan.
Supplement for optimum health
Some nutrients can be hard to get from a vegan diet – though non-vegan babies can have deficiencies if their diet is not fresh and varied too.
Omega-3 is hard to find naturally, though it is in milled seeds and seed oils (linseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds), so you can add these to your baby’s food.
Babies are born with enough stores of iron to last them around six months, so make sure iron-rich foods form part of their weaning diet. Green veg, broccoli, apricots, soya, lentils, beans and chickpeas are all good sources, as well as orange segments (pips, pulp and skin removed) or red pepper for vitamin C, as this helps iron be absorbed more easily by the body.
The NHS recommends that all babies and children have a Vitamin D supplement, so look for a good quality vegan vitamin that offers all your child’s daily allowance, especially D and B12, omega 3 and iodine.
When to offer protein
Your baby will start off on simple, single fruit or vegetable puree or steamed pieces of these for baby-led weaning.
You can start to introduce protein when they are around seven to eight months. A simple lentil purée or soup is very nutritious. Soya, cannellini, borlotti, butter or kidney beans can be mashed and mixed with another vegetable like carrots or peas. Don’t offer canned beans to babies under eight months. Mash tofu or use soya yoghurt and mix with vegetables or fruit purées. Hummus can be offered with steamed vegetable sticks to dip.
Plant Based Baby offers a wealth of advice for those who are vegan or vegetarian and have chosen to raise their baby the same way. Packed with tips, ideas and recipes it will help reassure parents their baby is getting the nutrients they require from a vegan diet to grow and develop.
You can see some great vegan and vegetarian weaning recipes on the Weaning Week website, including this Butternut Squash and Lentil Puree courtesy of Sally. Follow Sally on Instagram @PlantBasedBaby_uk and you can buy her book on Amazon
You can read more on vegan weaning and feeding on the NHS website