Vegetarian diet - Infant feeding
Particular attention is needed for vegetarian mothers that breast feed. Without careful consideration of nutrition, these infants may be at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency. Providing the maternal diet is adequate, breast milk will be nutritionally complete for around the first 6 months of life. Specific attention must be paid to the motherís vitamin D, calcium and iron intakes, with a particular focus on Vitamin B12, which may need to be supplemented in vegan mothers. Neurological damage in infancy has been associated with severe Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Solid foods should be provided from around 6 months of age, or when developmentally ready. They should be gradually introduced, increasing flavours and textures with time. Infant rice cereal provides a significant source of iron. Fruit vegetables and legumes can be cooked with skin on to preserve nutrients, then removed to avoid excess fibre intake which adds bulk and may bind certain nutrients, inhibiting their absorption. Pulses should be thoroughly cooked to destroy toxins such as trypsin inhibitors and haemaglutinins that may cause vomiting and diarrhoea. As the child gets older full fat cows milk products or fortified soy products should continue to be encouraged.