A question I get asked a lot is if vegans can use infant formula. Some vegans will have different opinions. This is just my opinion.
I think of infant formula as being like medicine. Sometimes it is needed and the general consensus with most vegans, is that if a vegan needs to use medicine then it is morally acceptable to do so.
Some people may need to use infant formula, for medical reasons or because breastfeeding didn’t work out for them for whatever reason, and some may choose to use formula. They could choose to for many reasons, which are their own reasons, and nobody else’s business, in my opinion. You can’t force anyone to breastfeed. It is their choice what to do with their body.
Some vegans may say that our rights should not outweigh the cows’ rights, which I also completely understand. And I do think that most vegans would try to breastfeed if at all possible for this reason. And of the vegans I know, most do breastfeed or try their best to breastfeed.
There are a small amount of people who are not able to breastfeed for medical reasons. Then there are a people who try very hard to breastfeed, but encounter problems that they are sometimes not able to overcome and end up having to use formula.
Some may say that they should try harder, but I think if you have talked to people who have struggled with breastfeeding, and seen how hard it is for some people, and how hard they try, that you would not judge them for not being able to continue. I had some problems with breastfeeding my first baby at the start, and luckily was able to overcome them and continue breastfeeding, but I almost wasn’t able to.
I think it would be more helpful to offer support and help to parents who are struggling with breastfeeding, than to criticise or judge them. Most breastfeeding problems can be overcome with the right help, but parents need support.
If a parent is unable to breastfeed, then they need to feed their child. Donor breast milk would be the next best option, but if that is not available then they would need to use formula.
There are currently no 100% vegan formulas available. There are some soy formulas, which contain vitamin D from sheep’s wool. This is the closest you can get to vegan formula. They are properly formulated for infants so should be nutritionally suitable.
Some people may recommend making homemade vegan infant formula but I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s not medically recommended.
I struggled with breastfeeding my first baby for the first two months and ended up supplementing with formula for a while. He had a tongue tie, which caused me a lot of pain when feeding him. This led to other problems, and even though I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, it was too difficult for me to do so. We got his tongue tie released and I was able to build up my milk supply again, stop giving him formula, and continue breastfeeding for a long time. So I completely understand and sympathise who those who are struggling with breastfeeding. Some may overcome their problems, and some may not. And many people might have no problems at all. I tried my best and I think that is the important thing. When you’re vegan, you try to avoid using animal products as far as possible, and sometimes it may not be possible to avoid them completely.
The breastfeeding rate here in Ireland is very low and there is a lot of bad advice given to people, and not much support for those who want to breastfeed. I think the best way to help with this is to offer friendly and non-judgemental support.