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As a vegan, the best way to feed your baby is with breast milk, but this isn’t possible for everyone.
If you’re not able to breastfeed for whatever reason, you can still raise your baby as a vegan. But, it’s important that you do your research and plan carefully to ensure that all of his or her nutritional needs are met.
Vegan baby formula exists, but it might not be the best option. Read on for all the information on vegan baby milk substitutes, so that you can decide on the best way to feed your baby.
Warning: It’s important to contact a healthcare professional before making any changes to your baby’s diet
Is there a vegan baby formula?
There are currently two brands of baby formula which are 100% vegan – Premiriz and Baby Mandorle. These are available to buy online, but they are expensive and must be shipped from Europe.
Other dairy-free infant formulas are widely available. These aren’t 100% vegan as they contain vitamin D3 which is made using lanolin from sheep’s wool. However, many vegans find that they are the next best alternative to breast milk for their baby.
If you want to feed your vegan baby with formula, you should weigh up the pros and cons of vegan baby milk versus dairy-free baby milk:
|Vegan baby formula||Dairy-free baby formula|
|100% vegan||Contains lanolin from sheep’s wool|
|Only two brands available||Many brands to choose from|
|Must be shipped from continental Europe||Widely available locally|
For many vegan parents, using a small amount of oil from sheep’s wool is the lesser of the two evils when compared to the environmental costs of shipping baby formula across the world.
What milk do vegan babies drink?
Most vegan babies drink breast milk as this is 100% vegan. If breastfeeding isn’t possible, then other options include expressing milk with a breast pump, using donor breast milk, vegan baby formula or dairy-free baby formula.
Babies over 12 months of age can drink most kinds of unsweetened plant-based milk including soya, oat or almond milk as part of a well-balanced diet.
Can you get vegan baby milk?
Here are all the milk options for vegan babies:
- Expressing breast milk
- Donor breast milk
- Vegan baby formula
- Dairy-free baby formula (not 100% vegan)
Breastfeeding is generally the best option for babies, whether vegan or not. However, this isn’t always possible. If you are currently pregnant and planning to breastfeed your baby, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan in case that doesn’t work out for you.
Expressing breast milk
The next route to try for many mothers who want to breastfeed but can’t is to express milk with a breast pump and feed it to the baby using a bottle.
Expressing milk requires dedication as it can be twice as time-consuming as breastfeeding. Each feed involves a routine of taking a bottle of breast milk from the fridge, warming it up, feeding the baby, expressing milk for the next feed then cleaning and sterilising the breast pump and bottles.
Donor breast milk
Donor milk comes from mothers who have an over-supply of milk, who wish to continue producing milk after their child is weaned, or who have sadly lost their baby.
Donor milk is given in order of priority, so depending on how much is available in your area, it may only be available for babies who have certain medical conditions. Also, donor milk is often pasteurised, which will affect the nutritional benefit.
You’ll find more information on milk donation from La Leche League.
Vegan baby formula
Currently, vegan baby milk formula is available from only two brands, both of which are based in continental Europe. These are Premiriz and Baby Mandorle.
Whilst some parents have been able to have these shipped as far as the United States and Australia, this can be incredibly expensive and not great for your carbon footprint. Using a brand of baby formula that isn’t widely available is risky because there is always the potential for an interruption in supply.
Dairy-free baby formula
Many vegans who choose to formula feed their babies opt for a dairy-free soy-based baby milk formula. These contain vitamin D3 which is made using a lanolin, a waxy substance extracted from the wool of sheep.
Whilst dairy-free baby formulas aren’t 100% vegan, the lanolin is present in such small amounts that this may be an acceptable option for many vegan parents to consider.
What is dairy-free baby formula made from?
Most dairy-free baby formulas are made from soya beans. There are also some dairy-free baby formulas that are made from corn, coconut, almond and rice protein.
Is soy baby formula safe?
The nutrition and safety of baby formulas are strictly regulated. Soy baby formula is safe for most healthy babies and is just as nutritious as other types of formula.
Some people worry that soy formula may negatively affect a baby’s development, but studies have found no evidence to support this.
Soy formula isn’t suitable for every baby, particularly those who were born prematurely, have low birth weights, kidney problems or allergies.
Further reading: Is soy formula safe for your baby?
Is there a soy-free vegan baby formula?
Soy-free and dairy-free baby formulas are hard to come by and aren’t available globally. One option to consider is Neocate Infant DHA/ARA. This is an amino acid-based formula and is one of the best dairy-free soy-free baby formulas.
Other amino acid-based formulas do not have soy as the main ingredient as soy-based formulas do, but they still contain some soy. One to consider would be Gerber Good Start Plant-Based Protein Infant Formula.
Vegan homemade baby formula
Whilst it may be tempting to look up vegan baby formula recipes online and consider making your own, please don’t!
Commercially-produced infant formulas are developed by scientists and undergo rigorous testing to ensure their safety. If you try to do it yourself at home, there’s a huge potential for error with imprecise measurements, unsafe ingredients and the potential for contamination with bacteria.
Further reading: Why homemade baby formula isn’t safe
Is it healthy for a baby to be vegan?
For the first six months of their life, breastfed vegan babies will eat exactly the same as non-vegan babies. After six months, it’s important that parents pay extra attention to their baby’s diet to ensure that they receive all the nutrients they need.
It’s particularly important that vegan babies take in enough vitamin B12, iodine, omega-3, iron, calcium, protein and calories. This can be achieved by offering a healthy balanced diet along with some supplements.
Further reading: Vegetarian and vegan babies and children
The bottom line
Breastfeeding is usually the best option for vegan mothers. Where that isn’t possible, then formula milk should be considered. Whilst soy baby formula isn’t 100% vegan due to small amounts of lanolin from sheep’s wool, this is often the best option for most bottle-fed vegan babies.