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Why I don't feed my Vegan children Soy Milk...

Before you get too excited, don't worry, I am not about to tell you about how Soy is evil or Phytoestrogens are going to give your children hormonal issues. There are a lot of myths around soy that have been debunked here, here and here. Minimally processed Soy is actually good for you. However it's defiantly not my choice of plant milk for a few reasons.

My son and I had a rough feeding journey. Being WFPB, human milk was my obvious choice for feeding him, but man was it a bumpy road. By the time he was 5 months old I couldn't take the struggles anymore and met up with a lactation consultant who immediately helped me sort out a serious latch issues that I didn't know we had. It had caused me to barely produce any milk. Because of that she asked me to supplement him until we got my supply back to normal. (If you think you may have supply issues here is a great article)

 

The need to supplement him started my interest in researching different options for feeding. In North America there are no easy to buy Vegan formulas. Europe has one called Premiriz which is organic and rice based. Soy formula is available pretty readily around the world, though the D3 added to it is not Vegan. Earth's Best Non-GMO Soy Formula is a very popular option in the vegan community. Even the best Vegan options are no where near Whole Food or Minimally processed. Attempting to mimic human milk requires serious processes.

I also became aware of local grass roots organizations that help breast milk donors find families in need. The popular one is "Human Milk For Human Babies" which you can connect with on facebook.

 

Another thing I came across was DIY recipes for unprocessed vegan formulas. As much as I wanted a Whole Food source of nutrition for my son, I was increasingly aware of the magical properties of Human Milk and knew there was no way a 7 ingredients pinterest recipes could mimic what nature created. If it could - some one some where would already be selling it. There have unfortunately been stories in the news of Vegan Parents who starved their infants by feeding them with DIY formulas. I personally wasn't interested in going down that road. It is also important to point out that no plant milks are ever substitutes for human milk or infant formula.

We got some milk donations and used some commercial formula to get us through our rough patch and within a few months I was back to producing enough milk for him.

 

When my son was around one year old he was eating solids like a champ and would eat anything I gave him. So I was very capable of ensuring he got enough Fat, Protein and Calories. But how much is "enough" anyways? This is the info I found when looking at reliable sources for nutritional requirements for infants to toddlers aged 1-3 Years.

Calories 34 to 41 calories per pound of body weight

Fat 10-20% of calories from whole food fat

Protein 0.6 grams per lb of healthy body weight 

 

Vitamin D - 400 IU for any toddler in common deficiency zones

Saturated fats to less than 10%

For the first 2 Years of Life Sugar should not be added to foods

So at the time my son was 25lbs so he roughly needed 1000 Calories,15 g of Protein and 11-22g healthy Fat. And here is the thing about the protein requirements. There is not just a minimum, there is also a maximum. Our body doesn't store surplus protein. It takes what it can use and then our organs have to remove the excess. So it is very taxing, especially on little ones, to over load their bodies with protein they can't use. With that in mind, and looking at what my son ate in the run of a day, I knew I was going to likely want a lower protein plant milk. (Heck a WFPB peanut butter sandwich has 15g of protein!)

 

Low and behold when I looked at the break down of human milk it is actually low protein. Human milk is loaded with amazing things like immune cells, antibodies, enzymes and these special things called oligosaccharides! But it is not high in protein. None of the special qualities of human milk can be replicated. No food or milk you choose, plant or animal, can replace human milk. But as a complementary food I wanted something that was at least similar in the macro nutrient profile (Low Protein | High Fat)

Once breast feeding started winding down for us I started looking at plant milks to introduce to my son. Soy milk was the first one I looked into, as it is always suggested as the plant milk of choice in Vegan groups. I was surprised to find it is extremely high protein. 3.5 times the amount found in human milk. Now keep in mind, to believe that is a good thing is to accept the myth that more protein is always better. It is so easy to get caught up in the romantic idea that protein is the most important nutrient and make you big and strong. It truly is a lie though. So resist the urge to pick a high protein drink for your little one. Especially avoiding things that are actual protein drinks or isolated protein milks - like Pea milk.

Pea milk has become and extremely popular plant milk choice lately. I would say it is going to take over Soy as the vegan beverage of choice. Just like Soy though it is too high in protein for us. They have also added Vitamin D2 to it, not D3, which is incredibly misleading to most people looking at the nutrition label. D2 will do nothing to help your body obtain optimal Vitamin D levels. D3 is what you need. It is also mostly Oil. So extremely processed. Certainly not an optimal choice on a WFPB diet.

In the end we tried a few - cashew, oat and hemp were my top picks. Hemp ended up winning out for us because of the Omega 3 factor and because the protein amount was closest to human milk.  We mixed it with human milk for awhile when I was able to pump milk, using it to top up bottles when my son was in childcare away from me.  My son is 3.5 now and water is always our first choice beverage but on occasion he will get 100ml or so of hemp milk as a treat. His sister was born last summer and seeing her drinking human milk made him once again start asking for milk occasionally. You can buy hemp milk at most stores or you can make your own at home. Store homemade plant milks for up to 5 days in the fridge. Shake before serving.

Every infant and child has the right to good nutrition according to the "Convention on the Rights of the Child".

Easy Homemade Oat Milk

1 Cup Oats (Quick or Rolled)

3 1/2 Cups Water

2 pitted dates

Blend in a high speed blender until smooth. Strain through cheese cloth

or nut milk bag. Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Hemp Milk

3/4 Cup Hemp Hearts/Seeds

3 1/2 Cups Water

2 pitted dates

Blend in a high speed blender until smooth. Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Cashew Milk

1 Cup Soaked Cashews

3 1/2 Cups Water

2 pitted dates

Blend in a high speed blender until smooth. Enjoy!

Just a reminder that nothing on this website is medical advice. Please always consult with your health care provider with any questions about feeding little ones. A great book on the topic I highly recommend is "Disease Proof Your Child" written by Dr. Fuhrman.