News ID: 236339
Published: 0632 GMT December 24, 2018

Australian parents raising children vegan despite diet being bad for kids’ bones

Australian parents raising children vegan despite diet being bad for kids’ bones
NATALIA DERIABINA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Vegan parents opting to raise their children on the same restrictive diet are facing backlash for ignoring mainstream medical advice.

The diet, which excludes the use of animal products, is being used for babies as young as six months old as some mothers opt to go dairy-free, dailymail.co.uk wrote.

A growing number of online vegan communities and Facebook groups reflect Australia's increasing move towards veganism, now the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.

But some medical experts warn a vegan diet can carry more health risks for children than they do adults.

One group, ‘Vegan Baby Led Weaning’, caters for 'vegan mums, dads, and anyone that is doing baby led weaning with their little vegans.'

The closed group of 7,700 members describes itself as 'a place to share first foods, food ideas, recipes, stories, photos and everything you may come across on your baby led weaning journey.'

“This is a vegan group,” the rules state.

“Do not ask questions about, make posts about, or discuss animal products. This includes all meat, all animal milks and milk products, eggs, and honey.” 

One Sydney mother said she had replaced dairy yoghurt with a coconut-based alternative, posting to the group: “I'm doing a child nutrition course at the moment and it says to give children cow's milk products like yoghurt and cheese for protein and fat for healthy growth.'

Coconut yoghurt naturally contains significantly lower levels of calcium — an essential mineral for the development of healthy bones and brain function. 

Coconut milk has about 4mg calcium per 100g, compared with 193mg for regular dairy-based yoghurt, a CHOICE study found. 

Another mother mentioned her doctor had raised concerns about iron intake for her three children on a vegan diet.

Members in the group Vegan Parents Australia advised the woman to 'find another GP', in comment threads sourced by The Daily Telegraph.

“If the doctor is concerned, is it automatic, because they are vegan, without knowing anything about their diet? If so I would see another GP,” one member wrote.

A Melbourne mother wrote in Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting about switching her baby to soy milk against advice of her doctor who had suggested a formula made from cow's milk.

“We have a lot of kids who received the same advice, and have plant milk instead, and are doing absolutely wonderfully,” a group admin wrote.

Other mothers in Vegan Baby Led Weaning also wrote about ignoring their GPs.

“[The doctor] basically said that a vegan diet is irresponsible and that I could even hinder his brain development by not giving meat,” one mother said.

“My doctor said some things I really don't believe so I wanted some veggie mom's opinions,” another mother asked.

AMA President Doctor Tony Bartone said parents who placed their children on strict vegan diets ran the risk of leaving their children with iron and calcium deficiencies.

“Due to the developing nature of their brains and bones the consequences of nutritional deficiencies in children can be catastrophic,' Dr. Bartone said.

“Eliminating any food group from their diets should be done under the guidance of your medical practitioner.”

Leading obstetrician gynecologist Dr. Michael Gannon said vegan diets were ‘exclusion diets’ and held a concern that children would not get crucial micronutrients particularly iron and b12.  

“People should get health advice from their GPs not Facebook group echo chambers,” he said. 

Others defended the choices made by vegan parents, saying: “A carefully planned vegan diet is actually very healthy' and pointed out the hypocrisy of many parents who choose to feed their children junk and highly proceed food. 

In line with the trend towards veganism, a number of major formula companies are now making vegan formula, including food giant Nestle who announced the launch of their dairy-free formula in July.

A couple who fed their daughter an extreme vegan diet recently pleaded guilty to failing to provide for a child, causing serious injury. 

The 19-month-old girl was admitted to hospital in March this year when her mother told a hospital dietitian her entire family followed a vegan diet.

 

   
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