Vegetarian diets for infants need to be carefully planned. In the first year of life, a baby grows and develops astronomically fast. If for ethical or dietary reasons you have decided to feed your infant a vegetarian diet, be very careful in choosing formulas and solid foods.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby and you are also a vegetarian, you may need to supplement breast milk with additional sources of nutrition, depending on your dietary restrictions. If you are a vegan or an ovo-vegetarian, you should add sources of vitamin B-12 to your child’s diet.
Other than the B-12 supplements, your infant should be able to receive all micro and macro nutrients through breastfeeding.
If you plan to use formula rather than breast milk, you should stick to commercial formulas, which contain the proper amounts and ratios of nutrients. If you opt for a homemade formula or soy milk over a commercial product, your child could experience developmental problems from a lack of proper nutrition.
If you want to keep your infant on a vegan diet, you can select a soy commercial formula, as long as it is nutritionally-adequate. However, keep in mind that these types of formulas are relatively new in human evolution and haven’t been time tested to track growth and development of children into adults over several lifespans. Think long and hard before going down this road.
After about a year, you can begin to supplement formula or breast milk with other sources of nutrition, such as homemade formulas, yogurt, and cow’s milk.
Nutritionists suggest that you keep your infant on a full-fat, high protein diet after age one, which includes vegetarian-friendly foods, such as mashed and pureed avocados, nutrient-fortified tofu and yogurt.
When you are ready to switch your infant to solid vegetarian foods, you can introduce solid tofu, eggs, and cheese.
Vegetarian diets for infants and children need to be supplemented with B-12, plenty of protein and maintain a full-fat diet. If you carefully do this, you should have no problem maintaining a healthful vegetarian diet during your child’s crucial developmental stages.