Weaning Vegetarian Babies
Taking the first steps in bringing your child up as a vegetarian
isn't difficult. Remember that the nutritional requirements of a small
baby are high, needing more protein, calcium and most other nutrients
than at any other time of life. It is now widely recognised, even by the
British Medical Association, that a vegetarian diet can provide all the
nutrients needed for growing infants.
Bringing up your child as a vegetarian, you will want to get them
used to the vegetarian food groups: cereals, beans, nuts and seeds,
dairy and soya produce, fruit and vegetables. Your baby may reject
stronger-tasting foods, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, at
six months but may like them several months later.
It is quite safe to bring up your baby as a vegan, with no animal
foods at all, as long as you make sure that plenty of nutrient-rich
foods are included. Vegan babies need good sources of calcium, vitamin
B12, vitamin D and protein.
Weaning is a gradual process that begins when you start to replace
milk with solid foods. Solid foods should not be introduced earlier than
three months and the majority of infants should not be given solid
foods before the age of four months. A mixed diet should be offered by
the age of six months, at which stage babies need a source of iron in
their diet as breast or formula milk can no longer provide enough.
Especially if there is a family history of allergies, when you begin
weaning your baby, introduce one food at a time and leave a few days
between each new food. This way, you will be able to tell if your baby
is allergic or sensitive to any particular food.
Stages of Weaning
Breast or formula milk is still the most important source of
nutrition. Start by introducing one teaspoon of baby rice or pureed
fruit after a milk feed or in the middle if this works best for your
baby. The nutrition of the food is not so important at this stage as
milk still supplies all the baby's needs. Just one solid feed a day
should be enough for most babies at this stage.
Other foods to try are:
- Puréed vegetables, such as potatoes, carrot or spinach.
- Puréed fruit, such as apple, banana or pear.
- Baby rice, corn meal, sago or millet can all be given as a thin porridge.
Do not give wheat, oats, milk, nuts or eggs.
Milk is still the most important food in your baby's diet, but
gradually increase the number of times solid food is given from once to
twice and then three times a day.
Try mashed lentils with some added vegetable oil and a wider variety
of fruit and vegetables such as avocado and green vegetables. It is
still too early to introduce wheat, oats, milk, nuts or eggs.
Most babies will by now eat solids although milk is a large part in
their diets. Solid foods now provide an important source of iron. Most
babies will be having solids three times a day. From six months you can
start to introduce wheat and oat-based cereal such as bread and
porridge. You can purée or sieve family foods to give variety, as long
as they do not contain added salt.
Try introducing tofu, smooth nut butter, and mashed beans. Dairy
foods (cow's milk, yoghurt and cheese) should not be introduced before
six months because of the risk of intolerance. Free-range eggs can be
given after six months, as long as they are hard-boiled. Some experts
recommend avoiding all dairy products and eggs until 12 months.
Your baby will gradually be able to cope with lumpier foods. Foods
from the family table can be given as long as they do not contain salt.
Well cooked and mashed peas and beans can be introduced at around 8 to
12 months. They are difficult to digest and so can cause problems if