Do Vegans Spend All Day Cooking?

Something a lot of people ask me is if I have to spend all day cooking food from scratch because of being vegan.  I really enjoy cooking, and because I’m home with the kids I have the opportunity to cook homemade food when I can find time, but I really don’t think it’s necessary to spend any more time cooking than non-vegans, even when you have kids.  We don’t eat all homemade food for every meal in our house.  I don’t have the time or energy for that.

There are vegan convenience foods available, some of them are things than many non-vegans eat too.  Some are expensive but many of them aren’t.  And they’re not necessarily unhealthy either.  Sometimes people think that vegans need to eat all homemade food to get all their nutrients, but I don’t think that we do more than anyone else.  And vegan convenience foods usually aren’t any less healthy than non-vegan convenience foods (and may even be healthier in some cases).  It’s not like vegans need to plan out every meal carefully, or that non-vegans can just eat whatever they like and stay healthy without thinking about it.

A lot of vegan meals are very similar to what non-vegans might eat too.  We eat “normal” food, really!  Vegan “chicken” nuggets and chips or a lentil spaghetti bolognese wouldn’t take any longer to cook than the non-vegan version.

Some examples of easy meals that my family eat are, wholegrain toast with peanut butter or houmous, wholegrain breakfast cereals with plant milks, fruit, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, baked beans on toast, wholegrain pasta with a jar of tomato sauce and tinned lentils, quick chickpea curries made with a jar of sauce and tinned chickpeas, potato waffles, veggie sausages, veggie burgers, chips.  Many of these are healthy enough meals, and sure things like potato waffles are not that nutritious, but they’re no different to what many non-vegan families eat.

And the meals that I do cook from scratch generally take no longer than 20-30 minutes to cook.  I love cooking but don’t have the time or patience to spend hours cooking a meal.  Vegetables cook quickly and I use tinned beans most of the time, so it can be easy to cook something very quickly.  For most of our meals, I just make something up, using whatever ingredients we have, as quickly as possible.

For people who are new to being vegan, it might seem like a lot of hard work, but I think you soon get used to it and realise that it’s just as easy to make vegan meals.

 

 

Talking to my Kids about Veganism

In the past year or so, I’ve had to start explaining to Rian (4 years old) about what being vegan means, so I thought I’d do a blog post about how that is going for us.  I’ve always said that I won’t lie to my kids about what happens to animals, but will try to explain it to them, in an age appropriate way.  I also always said that I will never force them to be vegan (not that that’s even possible), but that I will simply give them all the information, and explain why I am vegan, and leave it up to them to decide (when they are old enough) if they want to be vegan or not.

We first introduced talking about veganism by reading V is for Vegan by Ruby Roth, since Rian was a toddler.  It’s a children’s book, for very young children, which explains what vegans do and don’t do, and the reasons why, in a simple way that won’t upset children.  It introduced simple ideas for him, like we don’t eat our friends, cow’s milk is for baby cows, eggs come from a chicken, etc.  I think it’s quite educational in general, I mean it’s amazing the amount of people who never think about why a cow produces milk or what an egg really is.  Rian found the idea of eating animals ridiculous at that age, and just didn’t think it actually happens.  Not drinking cow’s milk and eating chicken’s eggs seemed to make sense to him.  He already knew what breast milk was because he was breastfed and he saw me feeding Oran, so it was easy to explain that cow’s milk was cow “boobie milk” that is meant for their babies.  It’s interesting to see when a toddler thinks it’s ridiculous to drink the milk of a cow but most of our society see it as normal.

For a while now Rian has known that some animals eat some other animals.  He has learned about this from books and TV and asks me a lot of questions about which animals are carnivores, herbivores, etc.  He found the idea of animals eating each other quite upsetting, especially at first, but I think this is a normal age to learn about that so don’t feel it’s too early.  I’ve noticed that a lot of TV shows say things like, “lions eat meat”, instead of “lions eat animals”, and Rian didn’t know that meat means animals, so I told him that because I didn’t want him having the wrong idea.  I also explained how the carnivores need to eat meat, and they are not bad for doing it, they need to do it to survive, because he thought they were “bad animals” for eating other animals.

Our household has been completely vegan for all of Rian’s life, so he hasn’t really ever noticed people eating meat or other animal products.  Of course he has been around other people eating animal products, but he never noticed or asked for non-vegan food or anything like that.  So he didn’t actually know that humans eat animal products, and I had to tell him that.  It has been on of the hardest things for him, because he hates the idea that some humans eat animals, and gets upset and denies that it’s true.  Some people might think that it’s cruel for me to tell him since it upsets him, but like I said, I want him to know the truth, and I think all children should know.  I tell him that it doesn’t mean people are bad people for eating animal products, many of his loved ones aren’t vegan.  I explain that people just don’t feel the same way about it as we do.  He has asked me why people eat meat, and I can’t know the reasons for sure, but explain that perhaps they like the taste and enjoy eating it, and they don’t feel that there is something wrong with eating it.  It’s a good opportunity to ask Rian what he thinks about it.

Of course I’ve explained that we don’t eat animals, cow’s milk, eggs, honey or anything that comes from an animal.  The reasons I’ve given are very simple ones, and easy to explain to children, “because it’s not kind to the animals” and “because animals don’t want to be eaten”, and “that belongs to the cow/chicken/bees”.  Rian just understood this straight away.

I also try to say to Rian, “this is why I feel this way, what do you think?” so that he can think about how he feels as an individual.  I want him to be vegan, but I want him to be vegan for his own reasons, and to know why I am raising him vegan, not just to do it because I tell him to.  He says that he doesn’t want to eat meat or milk or eggs, etc. and I haven’t told him to say that, it’s what he really wants, so I guess that makes him officially vegan now!  But I think that a lot of 3 or 4 year olds would say the same if you asked them, “would you eat a chicken?” if they hadn’t gotten to like the taste of animal products already.

I also had to explain what the word vegan means to him, so I simply explained that we don’t eat animals, or anything that comes from an animal, and we just eat plants.  Rian said just the other day, “it’s not nice to eat animals, and that’s why we’re vegan!”  I’m always amazed at how simple it is for him, he just gets it.

Oran is also there when I explain all these things, and I feel like it’s also appropriate for his age too, because I don’t talk about anything too graphic, so I am also talking to him about it, though I’m not sure how much of it he understands yet (at almost 2 years old).

Rian has been asking me about death recently, and how people die, what it means, etc.  So he also asked me if animals die when people eat them.  I told him that they do (again not wanting to lie to him) and he was quite upset by this, and said, “animals don’t want to die”.  At this stage, I don’t think he knows that animals are killed specifically for people to eat, just that they are dead when they’re eaten, and he doesn’t know that animals die for milk and eggs to be produced for humans (male calves and chickens, and older cows and hens).  But I feel like that would be too upsetting for him at this age, so I haven’t gone into any detail about that.  All he knows about farms is from children’s books and TV, he knows nothing about factory farms or slaughter houses.  It’s actually a bit strange when you think about how children’s books and TV show farms just as a place where animals live, but don’t say why or that the animals get killed eventually.  So we will have to talk about that some day in the future, or maybe he will figure it out some day.  I’d like the be there when he finds out, though I’m not looking forward to breaking it to him.

I also try to teach the kids things like how we should be kind to animals, that they can think and feel like us, that we are animals too, that other animals are not that different to us.  Non-vegans may see it as brainwashing, but all these things are facts.  It took Rian a while to believe that humans are animals too.  People always talk about humans, animals and plants, as if we are separate to animals.  I remember when I was a kid some of the other kids I knew didn’t know that we are animals.  I think some adults don’t realise it either.  So I think it’s good for kids to know this.

I also talk to them a bit about healthy eating, and get them involved in cooking, so hope to teach them how to prepare vegan food and that a plant based diet can be very healthy.

As for explaining what we can and can’t eat, I haven’t found that to be much of a problem yet.  The kids are so young that I’m always with them, or they’re with other family members who know what they can have.  They also haven’t asked for anything non-vegan much, because they’re used to the food they eat all the time.  So, for example, they eat vegan sweets, so if we’re in a shop, they want the ones they’re used to, and only ask for them.  Sometimes they ask for things that look similar to the vegan products they eat, like milk chocolate, non-vegan marshmallows, or once Oran pointed at cow’s milk to ask for it.  In these cases we simply go find the vegan version of it, if possible.  At parties, I make sure to bring some vegan sweets and cake, unless I know there’ll be something there they can have.  If they see other children eating sweets, I can simply give them some vegan sweets, and so far they haven’t been bothered by having something slightly different.  I also explain why we have different things, like, “that chocolate has cow’s milk, this is the vegan chocolate” so that they are learning all the time and that hopefully will help them when they start going places on their own more.  I’ll have to learn as we go when they start going to parties without me and things like that.  Maybe they will want to try something non-vegan, and I won’t be there to stop them, and I won’t get upset with them or anything.  It’s all a learning experience for them too.

As the kids get older, I want to continue to talk to them about veganism and to learn together, because there’s a lot more I can learn too.  I also want to teach them what the reality of farming, and slaughtering, animals is like, when they are older.  I have been on farms myself from small dairy farms to intensive farms, and I’ve seen videos of animals being slaughtered, so I know what is involved.  And as anyone who has spent much time around animals knows, of course they have emotions and can feel pain too.  I think if they know a lot about animals, and about what producing animal products involves, that is the only way that they can make an informed decision about whether to be vegan or not.  I don’t even think I’ll have to try to convince them, because I think it’s fairly likely that they will choose to be vegan, if they know all this and are already used to eating a plant based diet.  Of course I will still love them if they choose not to be vegan, and I would have to accept that.

I want people to know that we do not teach them to judge those who aren’t vegan, or anything like that.  And we never want to force our children to feel the same way we do, simply to try to teach them what we believe is right (and ultimately let them make their own decisions), like all parents do for their children.

So that is how much we’ve talked about being vegan so far.  I’m really interested in hearing from other vegan parents about how that’s going for you, especially if your children are a bit older, because I have all that to come in the future.  So please leave a comment if you want to share about your experience of talking to kids about veganism.

 

Not Just about Food

I tend to talk about food and eating healthily a lot on this blog.  I think the reason why, is that as a vegan parent I sometimes worry (unnecessarily) about my kids getting everything they need and also feel the need to defend myself for raising them vegan (which I really shouldn’t have to do).  But of course there is much more to veganism than just food!  We are vegan for the animals, not for health reasons or any other reasons (though the health benefits are a bonus!).  So I wanted to do a blog post to talk about the other things that I think are relevant when raising a vegan family.

 

Other Products

Other than food, we don’t use any products that contain animal products (where possible), so I avoid buying cleaning products, cosmetics, furniture, and anything else that is made from animals or animal products.  This takes a bit of research at the start, but you get used to it.

 

Animal Testing

And it’s not just what is used to make products, we don’t use products that are tested on animals.  I have to do a bit of shopping around to find products that are cruelty-free, but it’s so worth it.  (The obvious exception to this is necessary medication, which we do use.)

 

Clothing

We avoid clothes made of materials like leather, suede, wool, fur and silk.  This is pretty easy, usually just a case of reading the labels.  It can be harder to tell if there are glues used, in shoes for example, that are made of animal products, although I’ve read that this is rare.  One way around that is to only buy from vegan companies if you can.  It may not be always possible to avoid animal products like glues 100% of the time, but we can try to avoid using animal products as much as possible.

 

Entertainment

We don’t visit zoos, aquariums, pet farms, or circuses that use animals.  We prefer instead to learn about animals from documentaries, books, getting outside in nature, and visiting sanctuaries.

 

Buying Animals

Even though I have bought animals in the past, I now feel extremely uncomfortable about domesticated animals being bred when there are animals being put to sleep every day, and I feel wrong about animals being bought and sold as commodities.  As a mother I also hate the thought of people taking baby animals away from their mothers, unless necessary.  I find it much more rewarding to adopt rescued animals, and will always adopt animals, when we are ready to add to our family.

 

Teaching my Kids 

I also feel that as a vegan parent, I should teach my kids to do what I believe is right, to treat animals as equals, including treating all groups of humans fairly.  Just as all parents teach their children what they believe, I want to teach them to be kind, caring and compassionate.  Some people may criticise vegan parents for even having children, but I think it is such a good thing to raise vegan children, who will hopefully make the world a better place.

Preparing Vegan Food for After Having a Baby

Let me start by saying that I’m the least organised person ever!  But when I was pregnant with Síofra the nesting instinct really kicked in, as well as panic about looking after the two boys with a newborn, and I decided to freeze lots of food for after she was born.  I also stocked up the cupboards with so much food that I still have about half of it left, two months later!  I started preparing a few weeks before she was due and kept buying and cooking and freezing more and more food until she was born at 41 weeks + 4 days!

I had never frozen any food before, apart from vegan ice-cream, so I really didn’t know what I was doing.  I always envied those people who were so prepared before having a baby with a freezer full of food, and also I was a bit restless waiting for the baby to get here so needed something to pass the time!  I did a bit of research and read that you can freeze almost any food and it’ll keep for ages, but will taste best if used within about two or three months.  I also found out that you can freeze cake, which has been life-changing…So I thought I’d try it out and write a blog post about my experience of it.

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Spanish Chickpea and Potato Bake

I decided to make a lot of meals from the Happy Pear cookbooks.  They are vegetarian cookbooks, not completely vegan, but most of the recipes are vegan or easy to adapt.  I had read that meals like curries, stews and shepherd’s pies are great for freezing, and The Happy Pear have a lot of those kinds of recipes.  They’re also really wholesome and hearty meals, so perfect for after having a baby.  I think a lot of vegans eat these kind of meals, so vegan food works well for freezing.

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Vegan Lasagne with Basil Cashew Cream

I got these foil dishes with lids in my local supermarket, that said suitable for freezing.  They were a little expensive but so worth it.  You could also just use regular casserole dishes to be more environmentally friendly, but I didn’t have enough dishes since I made two shepherd’s pies, two lasagnes and two potato and chickpea bakes!  I followed the recipe until the part where they’re meant to go in the oven, then simply froze them at that stage.  These were my favourite things after the baby was born, because they were so easy to cook in the oven from frozen, and were a meal all on their own, and just really comforting and nice.

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Vegan Lasagne 

I also made lots of curries, stews and chili, with plenty of vegetables and beans in them so they’d be really filling and healthy.  I put these in large freezer bags with enough to serve the whole family (keeping in mind how hungry I knew I’d be with breastfeeding a newborn).  You could also freeze them in resusable containers to be more environmentally friendly.  I just made far too much food to have enough containers!  And I guess using freezer bags saved on washing up, which is important when you have a new baby.  When I wanted to eat them, I simply took a bag out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost overnight, then heated it in a sauce pan or the microwave the next day, and cooked some rice to go with it.  They were really nutritious and filling meals, with minimal effort.  And they still tasted really good after freezing.  Some of the textures of the veg weren’t quite as good, but the convenience more than made up for that.

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Vietnamese Sweet Almond Curry
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Quinoa, Butternut Squash and Bean Burger

I also made big batches of veggie burgers and falafel, which I partly cooked and then froze in freezer bags.  These were so handy to pop in the oven straight from the freezer, and it was easy to make a double or triple batch of the recipes so we had enough for so many meals.  Then I simply served them with some simple things to prepare like salad, kale chips, frozen veg, bread, etc.  They tasted just as good after freezing.

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Baked Falafel

 

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Blueberry Muffins ready to go in the freezer

The best idea ever was making cake to freeze it!  I can’t explain how nice it was to be able to have a muffin or slice of cake every day when I was tired and hungry looking after a newborn.  As usual I used recipes from Ms Cupcake, which are always lovely.  I made a huge batch of blueberry muffins, which I simply put in a freezer bag to freeze, and a banana chocolate walnut loaf cake, which I sliced and then froze in a freezer bag.  When I wanted some cake, I either took some out of the freezer and left to defrost for a while, or defrosted it in the microwave.  They still tasted great after freezing!  I’ll definitely do this again all the time.

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Banana Walnut Chocolate Loaf Cake sliced and ready to freeze

I also stocked up the freezer with lots of store-bought bread, rolls, wraps, pitta and bagels, so that we always had some and I didn’t have to worry about shopping.  We ate wholegrain toast with houmous or beans on toast for many, many lunches, and it’s such an easy but still nutritious meal.

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Sweet potato wraps with houmous and salad

 

I also bought plenty of frozen veg, which I don’t usually bother with much.  I found these Strong Roots sweet potato fries especially handy, as well as frozen peas, sweetcorn, broccoli and spinach.

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Homemade veggie burger with sweet potato fries

 

 

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Vegan shopping haul from Nourish

I said how I stocked up the cupboards with food, well I might have gone a bit overboard!  It’s all stuff that lasts a long time, so worked out well.  I haven’t had to worry too much about running out of food or getting shopping in.  There’s always something you can prepare when you have plenty of grains, beans, lentils, tins of tomatoes, and a well-stocked spice cupboard.  I don’t usually buy ready-made sauces or things like that, but I found them really useful with a new baby.  They worked out a little expensive, but all the beans, lentils, rice, etc. were really cheap so it didn’t cost that much to fill up the cupboards.  There was another cupboard also full of wholegrain pasta, wholegrain rice, and more tinned food!  Another convenient thing I found was buying both wholegrain rice and white rice.  I prefer wholegrain and it’s healthier, but sometimes I only have the time to cook white rice so that’s fine.

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My food cupboards before Síofra was born

These Janet’s Just Delicious sauces were great.  We eat a lot of pasta because it’s so easy and the kids always love it, and the sauces contain no added sugar or salt so are great for the kids.  With some wholegrain pasta and a few tinned chickpeas or lentils thrown in, that’s a pretty good meal in about ten minutes!

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Lots of healthy pasta and pizza sauces

I also got a few of these Green Saffron curry sauces, which are suitable for vegans and fairly healthy, and a few jars of Korma, Tikka Masala and Thai curry pastes.  My favourite really quick curries are with tinned chickpeas, just add some to the sauce and simmer it for a few minutes, maybe add some spinach too.  So easy.

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Green Saffron curry sauces

And I got a few pizza bases.  (These are gluten free ones because I have coeliac disease, and are also suitable for vegans, but it’s usually easy enough to find regular vegan pizza bases too.)  These with some store-bought pizza sauce, a few vegetables and some vegan cheese (I like Violife pizza cheese or Mozzarella) makes a really easy meal.

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These didn’t last very long once the kids saw them!

I also stocked up on lots of different Amy’s Kitchen soups.  They made a really nice and filling quick meal or snack when I was really hungry (which is all the time).

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And I bought a LOT of cereal and UHT soya milk to have something easy to give the kids whenever they got hungry, or if I didn’t have time to cook, and so that we could all get breakfast fast before I got cranky from lack of food/sleep!  I always like having a few cartons of UHT soya milk in the cupboard so we don’t run out.  I had to hide a lot of the cereal because the boys wanted to eat it all before the baby got here!

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And after the baby was born I bought a lot of vegan convenience foods most weeks, like soups, houmous, etc. which really made life easier too.

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Happy Pear Country Vegetable Soup and Happy Houmous

And that’s pretty much it.  I hope I gave you some good ideas for preparing and buying food, whether you’re having a baby or just want to stock up on food.  It was definitely worthwhile doing, and a lot of fun.  I cooked so many meals that I’ve only finished eating them all recently, and it made the first few weeks with a baby so much easier.  I was able to concentrate on just spending time with my baby, and not worry too much about cooking or whether the boys were getting nutritious enough food.  I got all the food cooked over about three days, and as an added bonus everyone thought I was really organised for getting it all done!  Seriously though, I’m really not a very organised person, but it was much easier than it seems.  Even if you cook bigger batches of the meals you’re making anyway, then you can freeze half of it to eat later.  So it’s definitely worth freezing a few meals if you’re having a baby soon.

 

 

Do Vegan Kids get Vaccinated?

Long story short, some do, some don’t.  Like with any group of people, some vegans are pro-vaccine and some are not.  People may assume that all vegans are against vaccinating but that’s definitely not true.

This is a topic that’s often discussed in vegan parenting groups online, and can be very controversial.  I get asked about it a lot and have been meaning to do a post about it for a while now.

My kids are fully vaccinated and I believe that’s the best choice for our family.  I don’t really want to get into a debate with anyone about that because people have strong opinions on both sides and it can often turn into an argument.

But whether people believe in vaccination or not, they might wonder whether vaccines are really suitable for vegans and how vegans feel about it ethically.  I’m sure some vegans will have different opinions, but this is how I feel about it.  These are entirely just my opinions as a vegan parent.

Some vaccines do contain animal ingredients, and like all medication, vaccines are tested on animals.  So technically you could say they are not suitable for vegans.  But if you take the definition of veganism as, “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”, then you might agree it’s morally acceptable to use medication when necessary.

Vaccines are a little more complicated, since you could argue that they may not be absolutely necessary, but more of a precaution.  I have thought about this from a vegan point of view, and I see it as they save lives, so are important and even necessary.

I also think as parents we have a responsibility to look after our children and do what we think is best for them.  So if they need medication, we have to give it to them.  If someone chooses to not take medication themselves, I guess that is their choice, but for children we have to give them medication when it’s needed.

As a vegan, I really don’t agree with animal testing or experimenting and think it’s incredibly cruel.  We can avoid products that are tested on animals as far as possible, by buying cruelty free cleaning products, make up, shampoo, etc. but drugs and vaccines are required to be tested on animals.  We can still campaign against animal testing as there are alternatives, and support charities like the Dr Hadwen Trust who fund research that doesn’t use animals.  The Dr Hadwen Trust believes that animal testing is not necessary for medical research.

I would love to know how other people feel about it, but please keep comments respectful to others.

Why are we Judged for Extended Breastfeeding?

Last week was World Breastfeeding Week and so I saw a lot of articles about breastfeeding, mostly very positive.  But I was also sad to see a lot of negative comments and judgement about extended breastfeeding (which is not extended at all, of course, but is natural).  Vegans don’t always breastfeed but I thought this was especially interesting and strange from a vegan point of view.

From vegan parents I’ve met, it seems quite common for vegans to breastfeed for a longer time or until natural weaning age.  I think this is great for vegan kids (or any kids) because, even though kids can get all their nutrients from solid food by about 12 months, we are mammals and naturally would drink breast milk for years, and it has many benefits.  I would have thought since some people (wrongly) think that vegan diets are so lacking in nutrients, that they’d be happy for vegan kids to get breast milk for as long as possible.

But a lot of people have the opinion that a parent breastfeeding past 12 months (or even younger) is selfish, pointless or harmful in some way.  These are probably the same people who say a child needs cows’ milk to be healthy.  Sure, cows’ milk provides nutrients, but human milk is more naturally suited for a human child’s needs.  It provides calcium, iron, protein, healthy fats, vitamin B12, (all things people worry about vegans getting enough of) and much more.  As well as having many benefits that cows’ milk doesn’t have, such as supporting the immune system.  Breast milk continues to have benefits for as long as the child is breastfed.  The goodness doesn’t just disappear when the child reaches 12 months.  It doesn’t make any sense that cows’ milk would be necessary but that human milk would have no benefits, as some people think.

The natural age of weaning for humans is thought to be somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years.  The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years or longer, wherever you live in the world.  Yet I’ve seen people saying breastfeeding is weird “once the baby gets teeth”, “when they can walk” and “when they can ask for it” (which was 4 months, 9 months and 11 months for my second baby).  Strange that they think it’s weird to breastfeed an infant who can walk, say “boob” or has teeth, but that it’s completely normal for adults to drink the milk of another species.  I saw an article recently by a nutritionist saying that children should have cows’ milk until at least age 10, but why would they need milk after the natural age of weaning?  Even if a child is younger than the natural age of weaning, they can get their nutrients from other food as well.

There are also many toddlers who drink toddler formula, which most people would have no problem with.  If people see it as normal for an older child to drink a breast milk substitute then they should surely see breastfeeding an older child as normal too.  I saw an article today saying that toddler formula is unnecessary and parents could simply use regular cows’ milk.  But it failed to mention that parents who breastfeed could continue throughout toddlerhood and beyond, if they wanted, as that is completely normal.  They could have helped to normalise extended breastfeeding, instead of making cows’ milk sound like the only option.

I think if people saw a cow, dog, or other animal feeding their young, they would think it was cute, even if the “baby” was quite big.  So why is it weird if I feed my 15 month old?  I’m tired of other people thinking their opinion on how I raise my kids or what I do with my body actually matters.  I don’t judge those who choose that it’s best for them to not breastfeed or to stop at a certain age.  We are doing what we choose and what is best for our families and shouldn’t be judged for that.

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Can Vegans Use Baby Formula?

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.