Feeding a vegan baby requires planning and knowledge. Infants have specific nutritional needs, so they require a diet that includes the proper balance of iron and vitamins. Breast milk will supply all the vital nutrients an infant needs during the first several months of her life. Therefore, a mother who wants her infant to adhere to a vegan diet should breast feed as long as possible, or be certain the baby is on an adequate soy milk diet. Consulting with a pediatrician can help determine if the infant requires additional supplements.
If a mother is not breast feeding her baby, infant soy formulas can supply the vital nutrients a vegan baby will need. It may be difficult to find an infant soy milk formula that meets vegan standards, however, choosing an organic formula should suffice. Parents of premature babies or babies with special health issues should seek advice from the child's pediatrician before deciding on a formula.
The baby on a vegan diet will benefit from being breast fed until about one year of age, preferably longer. The mother who is nursing should be certain her diet is enriched with vitamin B-12. This essential vitamin will help increase production of breast milk and help the infant's brain development.
Vitamin B-12 is typically found in animal proteins, such as eggs or meat. A baby on a vegan diet could be deficient of this vital nutrient if the nursing mother is not receiving adequate amounts. Parents also should be sure a vegan baby receives adequate exposure to sunlight. This will help the baby produce vitamin D if she is not receiving a supplement.
When the vegan baby has begun to eat solid foods, at approximately four to six months of age, a good choice would be infant cereal. This cereal should be fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Rice is a good starter choice, as it is generally well tolerated. Oat or barley-based cereals can also be offered if the infant does not have food allergies. The cereal may be mixed with formula or breast milk for added nutrition.
Most any vegetable is good for a vegan baby diet once the child is at least six months old. Vegetables can be pureed or mashed thoroughly. Fruits can be prepared the same way for a vegan baby diet. A child of about seven to nine months of age can begin to eat bread, crackers, and toast.
Tofu is a good protein source for the vegan baby diet. This soybean curd is very nutritional for vegan infants, but it should be finely mashed before it is fed to the baby. Experts recommend introducing tofu to a vegan baby at about eight or nine months old, as it will supply the protein, iron, and calcium a growing infant requires. As always, parents should check with the child's pediatrician before introducing new foods to a vegan diet.