From the moment I announced I was pregnant, people immediately questioned whether I was going to – and I quote – “force” my daughter to eat the same way I do. Before I go any further I just want to confirm that I will not be “forcing” my child to do or eat anything she doesn’t want to, but her diet and upbringing is something I’ve pondered and deliberated hard over the past six months.
Initially I was completely set on the fact that she was going to follow my lifestyle of being vegan and cruelty free but, as time has gone on, I’ve decided I won’t be labelling my daughter’s diet because that would be putting her into a category which, in turn comes with a stereotype and stigma, before she’s even learnt to walk. Instead, I will encourage her to make up her own mind when it comes to what foods she eats.
I obviously – like most mothers – want to give my baby girl the best start in life and I believe, through extensive research, that starting her off on breast milk (naturally vegan, btw) will do just that. But, equally, I understand that things don’t always go according to plan and breast feeding may not be an option for us so I will be looking into a plant-based formula milk (NOT SOY) to have on hand as a back up.
When it comes to weaning my daughter, I will be steaming lots of different veggies, trying her out on different fruits, making my own raw snacks for on-the-go, cooking up rice and potatoes and incorporating various beans and pulses so that she’s able to experience a wide range of textures and flavours.
People often scoff at me when I tell them that I won’t be giving my little girl any jarred food (you know the pureed processed meals with a tonne of salt and sugar pumped into it to make it appealing). I usually get the response: “Haha OK, you won’t have time to make everything fresh with a baby to care for.”
Here’s the thing: I don’t eat anything processed; I make all my own meals from scratch because I like to know exactly how much sugar/salt/oil I’ve used and I want to know what’s going into my body. So why wouldn’t I do the same for the most precious thing I’ll ever have? In fact, I’ll be even more cautious!
Food is an important part of my life – I’m the type of person who will research everything I put into my mouth to find out its health benefits. What do you do when something is important to you? You prioritise it. Making sure I know exactly what my daughter is eating is essential to me so I don’t care if I’m up every hour breast feeding and functioning on 10 minutes sleep, I’ll still MAKE time to steam her vegetables.
I’ve also gone through my pregnancy eating a plant-based diet so she’s already tasted avocado, beans, homemade pasta sauce, chilli flakes, raw chocolate and a range of veggies and fruits through the placenta.
With that being said, I’m the only vegan – a label I’m proud to give myself – in my family so, although I won’t be cooking meats for my daughter, I won’t deprive her of tasting different meats when she’s with my mum, dad or around her cousins. I don’t want her to miss out on the birthday cake that all her friends are devouring or the roast dinner my family lay on at Christmas time. I spent the first 21 years of my life eating meat so I’d be a huge hypocrite if I were to deprive my daughter the chance to at least try them.
Having said that, I plan to be completely honest with my daughter when she asks me why I don’t eat meat and dairy. Kids are born loving animals, they’re intrigued by them and want to nurture them so why would I not tell my child the real reason why I don’t eat them? It’s a double-ended sword, you can’t claim to love animals but then eat them as well. Kids, in my opinion, deserve to know where their food comes from.
I feel like people are quick to jump down my throat when I tell them how I plan to bring up my child, yet if I were to question – I haven’t because it’s none of my business – why they think it’s healthy to give a child meat their teeth aren’t strong enough to chew and a bottle of milk filled with antibiotics and pus then I’m classed as being a ‘preachy vegan’.
The thing is, I’m happy with my decision to raise my daughter on a predominantly plant-based diet and I wouldn’t ever try and question why another mother has decided to give her child formula milk or a slab of cheese. Why? Because however you plan to raise your child is your decision.