When given in a well-balanced form, a vegan diet is good for little children. By adding the right ingredients into the baby’s diet, you can make sure your child gets enough nutrition for development. But for vegan parents who are unable to breastfeed, finding vegan alternatives that equally meet the nutritional requirements for the baby can be tough. Fortunately, there are infant formulas that can be given to vegan babies. As more people switch to vegan and vegetarian options, the industry of infant formulas evolved to introduce vegan formulas! Here is everything you need to know about vegan formulas and how to choose the right one for the baby!
What is Vegan Baby Formula Made Up of?
Most of the vegan formulas available in the market are made from soy. Formulas made from soy are different from soy baby milk since soy milk does not contain enough amounts of nutrition. Soy formulas for babies are regulated by the FDA only when it contains enough nutrition that ensures proper development in the baby.
You will not find a pure vegan baby formula in the market due to government regulations. Though these do not contain any dairy, these are still not 100% plant-based baby formulas. One important ingredient found in most formulas is vitamin D3. This is not vegan since it is manufactured from cholesterol, which is isolated from wool grease.
In some vegan baby formula, no soy protein and cow’s milk is present and this is specifically for babies that are lactose intolerant. However, if you are planning on giving the child any formulas made from soy, make sure the infant is not a premature baby or under-weight during birth. For these conditions, it is best to ask your paediatrician for the best baby formula for the infant.
Vegan Formula Diet as Per Child’s Age
You can give a vegan infant formula according to the age of your baby. Here is a guide to get you started.
1. Prior to 6 Months
When choosing an infant formula, you must make sure it contains ingredients that will provide the baby with enough energy and nutrients for growing up. Many parents may already be breastfeeding children while additionally following a nutritious vegan diet. However, the World Health Organization advises mothers to breastfeed babies for at least the first six months (until around 2.5 years) so that the immune system of the baby develops normally.
The market does not contain an exclusive vegan formula for children under the age of 6 months. However, you can go for soy-based formula since it is considered to be an alternative to breast milk. Many parents also go for formulas that are whey-based.
2. 6 Months or More
When the baby has reached 6 months, he will be ready to start eating some solid foods. Generally, for children below the age of 1 year, the main source of nutrition is formula milk or the mother’s milk. But after the first 6 months, the amount of iron and zinc in the breastmilk reduces. For this reason, you can give other foods that are rich in iron and zinc. You could add foods like peas, seeds, nuts, legumes, sweet potato, and many more in your baby’s diet. You may want to make it into a paste so that he can swallow it easily.
3. 1 Year
After 1 year, you can add a wide variety of foods that are nutrient-rich and is essential for the baby’s development into the regular diet of the baby, Babies that are breastfed would require additional vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin C supplements. Iodine and vitamin B12 supplements are essential for boosting the immune system of the infant. Also, ensure he is eating 3 meals a day. Additionally, you can give light snacks at least twice a day.
4. Prior to 2 Years
You can maintain the same dietary routine for your little one. However, do not just give him soy-based beverages since it cannot fulfil all his nutritional requirements.
For a toddler’s meal, you could include foods from the main food groups. You could also add these foods for snack time as well. At this stage, your toddler can eat almost the same foods as you.
What Ingredients Must Be Present in Your Baby’s Vegan Formula To Fulfill Nutritional Requirements?
The best vegan newborn formulas should contain ingredients that have these nutrients to make sure your baby gets enough for development. These are considered to be mandatory in any vegan baby formula. So check if the baby formula you want to buy has these nutrients!
1. Vitamin D
Though the human body produces vitamin D on its own, you may want to additionally give it to the baby. Vitamin D ensures that the bones absorb calcium. You could give the infant vitamin D supplements or foods that are rich in vitamin D. Babies under the age of 1 year need 400 IU of vitamin D supplements a day, and babies between 1 and 3 years need 600 IU daily intake of vitamin D.
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system, production of red cells, and protein synthesis. When giving the child a vegan diet, make sure you include foods that are rich in vitamin B12. Yeast extract is a good vitamin B12 supplement. Make sure the infant is getting around 0.9 mg of vitamin B12 every day. Vitamin B12 is also important for the breastfeeding mother, and the mother would need around 2.8 mcg every day!
Calcium is required for the development and support of teeth and bones. It is also essential for proper muscle functioning and a healthy nervous system. Vegan babies can get calcium from various sources including oat milk, almond milk, soy, tofu, pulses, leafy vegetables, seeds, ground almonds, figs, etc. There is also calcium in most vegan formulas and breastmilk.
There are so many vegan foods that contain protein, and you could consider giving these to the baby. These foods include lentils, beans, peas, seeds, nuts, soy, and tofu. Vegan diets should include protein-rich foods and, with these foods, you can make sure your baby gets enough protein. This will accelerate growth in babies and control body functions.
Zinc is required for the development and restoration of body tissues and a good immune system. It helps the body get enough energy. Wheat germ, pulses, tofu, whole grain seeds, and butter from nuts and seeds are rich in zinc.
Iron is mandatory for brain development and overall growth in babies. For a baby that is between 7 and 12 months of age, 11mg of iron intake is required every day. Iron-rich foods should be given to a baby at least twice a day. There is a large collection of vegan options containing iron and these include lentils, peas, broccoli, beans, kale, etc. Vitamin C rich foods are also required for little babies.
7. Omega- 3
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for eye and brain health. Though there are not many vegan options that are rich in omega-3, some omega-3 sources include:
- Chia seeds.
- Ground walnuts.
- Canola oil.
- Flaxseed oil.
- Hemp seeds.
Important for the development of brain functions and body metabolism, no diet should exclude iodine. Foods like whole grains and legumes contain little amounts of iodine. To make sure the baby’s diet has enough amounts of iodine, you can ask your doctor or paediatrician.
Homemade Vegan Formula Recipe
You can always make your own vegan formula at home for your baby. When compared to other recipes, this is one of the easiest formulas you could make in no time. Homemade organic formulas are not encouraged because the formulas you get from a store go through a much better processing system which cannot be done at home. Though this is not always suggested, you can still make this recipe using these ingredients.
- Maple syrup (1 tbsp).
- Probiotics (Dairy-free, ¼ tsp).
- Yeast (1 tsp).
- Sacha Inchi Oil (1 tbsp).
- Baby DHA (10 drops).
- Spirulina (1 tsp).
- Organic coconut oil (1 tbsp).
- Coconut oil (powdered).
- Almond milk (2 cups).
- The first step is to make the almond milk yourself.
- Remove the almond shell and then blend the almonds.
- Next, make the coconut water and mix all the ingredients.
- Put the mixture in a blender and blend it together until the formula is in a creamy form
- Strain the formula using a mesh bag
- You can now pour it in a container and keep it in the refrigerator.
How to Select the Right Organic Vegan Formula
Selecting the right vegan formula for the little one can be tough. But this information given below can help you to choose a good formula, though you would need to research more on a product before selecting one.
1. Organic Milk
Organic milk is non-fat but babies need cholesterol and fat in their milk. To bring it into powdered form, it goes through an intense process and the final product is finally devoid of nutrients. So, this is a type of vegan formula not suitable for babies.
2. Organic Mineral Whey
There are certain things you should avoid when you buy organic baby formula from the store. The organic mineral whey formulas have dried whey. Since they use high temperatures to extract the whey, the protein and probiotics from the formula are lost. So, this is an organic product you do not want to give the baby.
3. Organic Coconut Oil
Organic coconut oil is a good source of medium-chain fats that are present in breast milk. However, make sure the formula you get is expeller-pressed.
4. Organic Palm Oil
Organic palm oil is a good source of nutrition for the little one. If it is sold by a brand you are sure you can trust, then it is okay to add this supplement into the diet of your baby.
5. Organic Soy Oil
Soy oil and soy formulas are two different things and many parents do not know the difference. Soy oil should not be consumed and this is especially true for babies. It is also believed that if you add this formula to the infant’s diet, it may disrupt the entire hormonal balance in the baby’s body.
6. Organic Lactose
Organic lactose is a very good formula you can give the little one. Mother’s milk also contains lactose in very high amounts. Lactose is a sugar derived from milk and can be given to the baby to help develop the digestive system.
7. Organic Glucose Syrup
Most glucose syrups you get from the store are made from corn. Organic glucose syrup is also mostly made from corn syrup and it is best to not give this syrup to the little one.
You can check out any vegan formulas present in the market but it is best to make sure that it is not harmful to the baby before you feed him. Getting formulas from trusted brands is always recommended and you can find the most suitable one for the baby. Moreover, if you are unsure of any vegan milk formula for babies, then check with your paediatrician.