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 vegan baby formula in the UK – Bebe Mandorle Bébé M and Prémibio Prémiriz. These are both 100% plant-based with no animal-derived ingredients whatsoever. There are also dairy-free formulas that are mostly plant-based.
Bebe Mandorle’s Bébé M Follow-on Formula for babies aged 6 months and over is available to buy in the UK. However, the Stage 1 formula for 0-6 months is tricky to get hold of any must be shipped from Europe.
Prémibio Prémiriz infant formula is available in three stages for babies from birth to 356 months. It’s a French brand and the packaging is all in French, but it can be delivered to the UK when ordered online.
Vegan Vs Dairy-Free Formula
Aside from the two vegan baby formula brands that both come from France, there are some dairy-free infant formulas that are widely available in the UK.
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 a suitable alternative to breast milk for their vegan babies.
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 are available||Many brands to choose from|
|Must be ordered online||Widely available in the UK|
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 soy, oat or almond milk as part of a well-balanced diet.
Can you get vegan baby milk?
The best milk for a vegan baby is breastmilk. If breastfeeding is not possible, then expressed milk from the mother or from a donor may be used. It is possible to buy vegan baby formula milk, although many vegan parents prefer to use a dairy-free formula that may contain a small amount of lanolin from sheep’s wool as this is more widely available.
The milk options for vegan babies are:
- Expressed breast milk
- Donor breast milk
- Vegan baby formula
- Dairy-free baby formula (not 100% vegan)
Now, let’s look at these options in more detail so that you can decide which is the best option for your baby…
Breastfeeding is generally the healthiest option for all babies, whether vegan or not. However, despite our best intentions, it isn’t always possible.
If you are currently pregnant and planning to breastfeed your baby, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case that doesn’t work out for you.
2. 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.
While expressing breast milk for every feed can be hard work, many vegan mums who are unable to breastfeed find that it’s the best option that works for them.
3. 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.
4. Vegan baby formula
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.
If your baby is under six months old and you plan to feed him or her with any type of formula aside from the standard first infant formula you should first seek the advice of your midwife or health visitor.
5. 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 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.
It’s strongly recommended that you consult a healthcare professional before deciding which is the best infant formula milk for your baby.
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. Dairy-free infant formulas also have all of the added vitamins and minerals that you would find in a cows’ milk-based formula.
The Best Dairy-Free Baby Formulas
The most popular brand of dairy-free formula milk in the UK is SMA WYSOY. This is suitable for babies from birth to 18 months and is available at most large supermarkets.
Is soy baby formula safe?
The nutrition and safety of baby formulas are strictly regulated. While soy-based infant formula is considered to be safe, it is not suitable for every baby and so it should only be used on the advice of a qualified medical professional.
There are some concerns about the fact that soya contains phytoestrogens. These are found naturally in soya beans but are similar in structure to the female hormone oestrogen. Some people may worry the development of the reproductive systems of babies who drink only soya infant formula could be affected.
Also, because soya formula contains sugar, it’s more likely to harm a baby’s teeth as they emerge.
Soy formula isn’t for babies who were born prematurely, have low birth weights, kidney problems or allergies. So, you should only use dairy-free infant formula under medical supervision.
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. 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.
For more information on the various types of baby formulas, you should consult the NHS website.
Homemade Vegan Baby Formula
Whilst it may be tempting to look up vegan baby formula recipes online and consider making your own, please never do this. It’s just not safe.
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
Should young babies be vegan?
For the first six months of life, all babies who are exclusively breastfed will eat the same vegan-friendly diet of breastmilk.
However, if breastfeeding isn’t possible, then parents must decide what the next best option should be.
The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude— as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals”
Therefore, if it is not possible or practical to breastfeed your baby, then it is entirely okay to feed them with cows’ milk formula. You can still bring your child up as vegan after six months of age.
After all, most vegans today have consumed animal products before they made the decision to go vegan.
The Bottom Line
Breastfeeding is usually the best option for vegan mothers. If that isn’t possible, then expressed breast milk may be used, either from the mother or a donor.
Vegan formula milk is another option to consider. Whilst soy baby formula isn’t 100% vegan due to small amounts of lanolin from sheep’s wool, this may be the best option for some bottle-fed vegan babies.
Alternatively, when breastfeeding isn’t an option, many vegans would consider it to be okay to feed a baby with cows’ milk formula until they are considered to be old enough to be fully vegan.