Baby-Led Weaning for Vegans
6 min read
The weaning journey can be so much fun, but it’s important your baby gets the nutrients they need as they grow.
In this guide, we look at the popular baby-led weaning method and things to consider when it comes to a vegan diet for your little one.
Weaning is the process by which your baby slowly begins to get their nutrients from solid foods instead of milk feeds (either breastmilk or formula). The weaning stages tend to start at around six months - although it can be earlier or later for some - and will continue until approximately 12-15 months, when they’ll start eating more traditional family meals.
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
As the name suggests, baby-led weaning (or BLW) is a weaning method that is all about allowing the baby to take the initiative during the weaning journey.
While every weaning experience is unique, BLW is the idea that your little one should be allowed to take control over what they eat and how much. Instead of traditional spoon-feeding, BLW embraces the use of finger foods, allowing your little one to self-feed from the beginning of their food journey.
The Advantages of Baby-Led Weaning
It’s important to stress that there is no right or wrong method of weaning - it’s all about finding what works for your little one.
However, parents have discovered some benefits to introducing a baby-led approach to weaning, such as:
- Improved Eating Patterns: By self-feeding at an early age, babies learn to regulate their intake, which can lead to healthier eating habits as they grow.
- More Enthusiasm: Some babies respond positively to having independence when it comes to feeding, and can be more receptive of weaning as a result.
What Style of Weaning is Right for Me?
Ultimately, the weaning journey is the same regardless of what weaning style you prefer - it’s all about introducing healthy, nutritious foods to your little one!
Most people find that a combination of traditional and baby-led weaning is the best approach. Doing bits of both allows you to take all the benefits of baby-led weaning and the advantages of a traditional method, such as ensuring your little one gets the nutrients they need.
Things to Consider When Weaning a Vegan Baby
Vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular, as plant-based options increase and we become more aware of our impact on the world. However, many vegan diets lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients that are important for your little one.
The good news is that it’s possible to raise your baby on a vegan diet, but careful planning is essential. We would strongly recommend speaking to a healthcare professional for personal advice about your baby first, but here are a few things you may want to consider.
Traditional vegan diets tend to be high in fibre, which is acceptable for adults as it leaves us feeling fuller. However, for little ones, feeling full too quickly can stop them eating and getting the nutrients they need.
Foods high in fibre to consider in moderation include:
- Wholegrain bread and rice
- Beans and pulses
- Certain dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
Commonly, protein is best sourced from animal products. The reason for this is that animal sources contain all the amino acids - the building blocks of protein - that our bodies need.
There are many vegan sources of protein available, such as:
- Beans and pulses
- Chia seeds
However, these plant-based sources don’t contain the wide range of amino acids needed. The key to overcome this is to ensure your little one gets as varied sources of protein as possible. Continue to introduce new foods to ensure your little one gets all the proteins they need.
Iron is a crucial part of any baby’s weaning diet. However, there are two different types:
- Haem iron: from animal sources.
- Non-haem iron: from plant sources.
Like protein, our bodies are better at absorbing haem iron from animal sources (such as meats and fish) than they are at absorbing non-haem iron, which can be found in cereals, vegetables and beans.
For vegans, vitamin C is vital, as this helps the body absorb non-haem iron sources. Serving iron-rich foods alongside vitamin C-rich foods can help ensure your little one gets the iron they need.
Milk is a hugely important part of a baby’s diet when weaning, as it provides a huge collection of vital nutrients. However, there are few vegan milk sources suitable for babies. As a result, breastmilk becomes increasingly important.
When breastfeeding your vegan baby, you need to make sure you are eating a balanced diet that passes on nutrients to your little one.
Supplements are essential for every baby during weaning, but you should take particular care with vegan babies.
The Department of Health recommends all little ones have a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D, while vitamin B12 is also recommended for vegans.
Note that not all supplements are suitable for vegans, particularly when it comes to vitamin D. Thankfully, there are many supplements on the market made for vegans.
Please speak to a healthcare professional about any concerns you have, as they may also recommend other supplements due to your little one’s vegan diet.
Weaning is a hugely important and exciting time for your little one, as they begin their journey into the wide world of food! Weaning on a vegan diet presents its own range of challenges, but with good planning and plenty of research and advice, you can ensure they get everything they need from their food.