Navigating the NICU as a Vegan

Guest blog post by Kim Ward.

Having a premature baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) is hard. When you are a vegan family, there are several things that might be challenging. Here is my guide to being vegan in the NICU, based on my own experience.

Human Milk Fortifier
The first thing that is likely to come up is the issue of HMF (human milk fortifier). Premature babies need extra calories and nutrients. Usually cow milk-based HMF will be added to your pumped breastmilk to make it more nutritionally dense, since preemies can only take in a limited amount of fluids.

Prolacta is a company that makes donor breastmilk-based HMF.  You can request that Prolact HMF be given to your baby instead of cow milk-based HMF. Here is their website: http://www.prolacta.com/human-milk-fortifier/. Even if the hospital has never used Prolact HMF before, you can ask to speak to your baby’s doctor or the NICU unit manager to discuss ordering it for your baby. It is very expensive compared to the cow-milk based HMF so the hospital may only be willing to order it if you offer to pay for it yourself.

In my case, I started by calling the Prolacta sales representative and asking them what I needed to do to get it for my baby. I then asked to speak to my baby’s doctor about it. He raised the issue with the unit manager, who agreed to order it if we paid for it.

Fortifying with Formula/Exclusive Breastfeeding
When your baby is closer to going home, the next step is to switch from HMF to fortifying your pumped breastmilk with formula. The hospital will recommend a cow milk-based formula specifically for premature infants, such as Neosure, which is higher in calories and nutrients than regular formula. The only truly vegan option here is to try exclusive breastfeeding or bottle feeding your pumped breastmilk. If your preemie is not taking in enough volume of breastmilk to meet their needs nutritionally, your medical team will recommend fortifying with a formula by mixing it in with the breastmilk. 

If your baby is losing weight on just breastmilk, you may need to consider using soy formula. Since it is not intended for premature infants, you will need to add more of it to get the same amount of calories as you would get from a cow milk-based preterm formula. Your doctor can tell you how many teaspoons of soy formula to add to your breastmilk. You may also need to supplement with extra minerals such as sodium phosphate for bone growth. Your doctor can do a blood test to see if this is necessary.

Unfortunately, soy formula is not completely vegan because it contains vitamin D3 from animal sources. If your baby is unable to use soy formula, there are dairy-free amino acid based formulas such as PurAmino by Enfamil. However, one of the amino acids in them is made from chicken feathers, so they are not vegan either. Be aware that there are also formulas that are advertised for babies who are allergic to dairy, such as Alimentum, but these formulas are in fact made from hydrolyzed cow milk, so the milk protein has been broken down enough for babies with allergies, but cow milk is still the main ingredient.

Before resorting to fortifying with formula you can also try putting your breastmilk in the fridge until a layer of fat forms at the top. You can then skim the fat off of this bottle using a spoon and add it to another bottle of breastmilk to make a higher fat breastmilk. This will add calories to your breastmilk which may help with your preemie’s growth.

Vitamins
Your baby will most likely be given a multi-vitamin specifically for infants, such as Pediavit. This contains Vitamins A, C, and D. Unfortunately it contains Vitamin D3 from animal sources, so it is not vegan. You can ask to have the individual vitamins made up by a compounding pharmacist instead. A compounding pharmacist makes prescriptions from individual ingredients and can make vegan versions of many things if you ask them to find alternatives to animal products.

For us, the pharmacist at the NICU was able to work with a compounding pharmacist in the community to get vegan versions of Vitamins A, D, and C for my baby when I asked for an alternative to Pediavit. Make sure you ask what they are giving your baby, because often they will not ask for consent first when it is considered routine, such as with vitamins. In my case, I thought they were giving my baby “Pedialyte” (electrolytes, which are vegan) for a while before I realized they were actually saying “Pediavit”. Once I realized what it was I asked for a vegan alternative.

Nipple cream
You will be asked to try lanolin nipple cream many times by many different lactation consultants. Lanolin is an animal product made from sheep. There are vegan alternatives such as Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter http://earthmamaangelbaby.com/products/natural-nipple-butter, or you can use coconut oil. Just politely explain that you are vegan and do not use animal products when they offer you a free sample of the lanolin cream in the hospital.

Educating Staff
Remember that this is likely the first time any of the NICU staff have dealt with a vegan family. We were lucky enough to have a doctor who was willing to listen to our questions and work with us to come up with a plan for our baby. You will come in contact with many different professionals, including doctors, nurses, dieticians, social workers, pharmacists, and lactation consultants. Politely explain that you are an ethical vegan who does not use animal products. You may need to be firm when advocating for your baby.

Remember that if one staff member is unwilling to work with you to find alternatives, you can always ask to speak to someone else. Although nurses and dieticians will be the first to speak to you about things like HMF and fortifying with formula, it is the doctors who make the final decisions about your baby’s care (with your input). If the dietician is not listening to your concerns, raise them with your baby’s doctor. You will likely be asked about being vegan on a daily basis as you get a new nurse each day. Think of a short respectful answer that might hopefully get them thinking about their own animal use. When asked why I don’t use animal products I always just say, “because I don’t want to hurt animals.”

About the Author
Kim Ward is a new mother, on maternity leave from teaching. Her baby was born prematurely at 28 weeks, and spent 77 days in the NICU. She has been vegan for 15 years. She is passionate about animal rights and feminism. She enjoys baking and travelling.

Meet Tomas

Say hello to Tomas our latest Veggie Kid Feature Kid!

Tomas has been vegan since he was in utero and he is now an active and compassionate 8 year old. He lives in British Columbia, Canada with his Mom and Dad who are both vegan.

Tomas loves food and is especially passionate about pizza, miso soup, pho, and brussels sprouts (no, really), which are neck and neck with kale as his favourite vegetable.

In his spare time Tomas likes playing video games (Minecraft is a big one right now), hanging out with his friends, spending time with his dad and really, just being a regular kid.

Tomas has been known to sit down in protest when his choir is singing a "funny" song about a toad getting squished, and he has no problem telling people why they're vegan. He talks about veganism to other people more than his parents do nowadays! Way to go Tomas!

Tomas' Mom shares some tips on raising vegan kids:

"There's a lot of talk out there about "hiding vegetables" from our kids but we never found we had to do that. We modeled trying new things for him, and encouraged him to try all new foods, and when we grocery shop and he wants to try a new fruit or vegetable we always do. He feels he has a lot of control over family foods and that's a positive for him and for us!"

You can find Tomas' parents on:

IG: Brightbluegirl

Want to feature your veggie kid on The Hungry Taurus? Fill out our Story Form!

Tame the Tantrums at Dinner Time

This is what I've been facing every night at dinner for the past month. A screaming, crying, angry almost two year old. I was tired, frustrated and done with making meals that he just wouldn't eat. At the end of my rope I reached out and asked my friends for help. Here's what they said:

Ditch the tray. If you are comfortable with them sitting at the table then have them come closer by getting rid of the tray. I realized we did this all the time at restaurants and he's really well behaved there so maybe this would help!

Get some fancy "just for him" table settings. Logan is obsessed with Paw Patrol. His new Paw Patrol place mat and dish set make dinner very exciting for him.

My friend Jen was a wealth of information that really helped us. She made me think different about his meals and realize that he was getting overwhelmed with choices on this plate. I needed to tone it down and let him make his own choices during dinner so that he has the semblance of control over this aspect of his life. With this new information I now do the following:

I leave his plate empty in front of him.

Serve dinner "family style" with at least two servings of food I know he will eat.

I let him choose which food he would like to eat. He now points to something very happily and declares "THAT ONE". He also now tries things he didn't want to try before. He may not eat it but he is actually trying it. It's like a miracle! He continues with choosing his foods until he is done.

If he declares that he is "ALL DONE" before we are finished we are now allowing him to leave the table by explaining that Momma and Dada are still eating and will be remaining at the table. He is welcome to stay and join us or he may be excused to go play. Sometimes he goes to play and sometimes he comes and will sit back again with us.

For the past week there has been no more screaming at dinner time. This has blown my mind. The drawbacks are that serving family style means more dishes (blech) and that generally he is not eating a whole lot at dinner but I'm okay with that as he eats well during the day.

We are now able to get through a family meal without tears and tantrums and can now enjoy each others company. That to me is the most important thing.

The Importance of Music

Dancing like no one is watching...

Dancing like no one is watching...

Today I learned that David Bowie passed away at the age of 69. I'm in my late thirties and I grew up listening to the Beatles, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and then Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Beck through my teens. Not only did I benefit from having my teenage-hood happen during the grunge era but I also got to experience the music of the 70's and 80's through my parents. These bands and artists were revolutionary for their time. They were ground breakers and innovators. I can't honestly say that any band in the last ten years has even come close to being that important.

Will all the artists that I treasured be long gone by the time my son is in his teens? It breaks my heart to think that by the time Logan is old enough to really appreciate them they will all be gone. Who will step up to take David Bowie's place?

Ever since Logan was born he has had a passion for music. Kid is crying? Play some music. Bored? Play some music. Tired? Play music. Seriously music is the answer to everything for him. He loves to play guitar, drums, bells - anything that makes music. He could sing the entire Jingle Bells song at 20 months. 

As parents we feel it is our job to provide our son with a musical education of sorts. We want him to listen to a variety of genres and to appreciate each for their unique sounds. Every time we start a new artist or album with him it's like unwrapping a gift. Today I realized that we have yet to unwrap the magic that is David Bowie.

The following are a few songs that make Logan stop everything and dance for absolute pure joy;

Is This Love - Bob Marley
Logan has loved Bob Marley ever since he was a few months old. We spent many an hour dancing to his songs.

Burn One Down - Ben Harper
It's the drums man! I swear!

All About That Base - Meghan Trainor
There is something so catchy and fun about this song. Logan loves it so much. Some people buy their kids Bobs & Lolo... I bought mine Meghan Trainor.

Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
This song plays a lot on our favorite radio station. I like to watch Logan head bang as he listens to it in his car seat.

She Loves You - The Beatles
Even though there are 10 or so other songs on this album of  The Beatles' he does not believe me that they are actually by the Beatles. Every time this song ends he yells MORE BEATLES and I have to play it again and again. I wish I was joking.

Shake it Off - Taylor Swift
This is our favorite dance around the house party song :)

Music lifts the soul, sets your heart free and takes your problems away. Music can make you dance like no one is watching. These are the gifts that I want to unwrap and pass onto my son.

Meet Breena

Meet our next Veggie Child Feature Kid – Breena! Breena has been vegan since she was born and she is now two years old.

Breena and her mom are the only vegans in their household. Everyone else in their lives are omnivores but thankfully most are very supportive!

Breena has a great appetite! Zucchini, broccoli, red onions, pasta, potatoes, mangoes, blackberries... anything goes. (Editor note: Melissa is very jealous and would like Breena to come over and teach her toddler a thing or two about eating yummy foods.)

Breena likes to play with playdoh, blocks, play cooking, art projects, ballet and running around.

As far as her volunteering career goes she's been to dog rescue events and weekly volunteer duties. Breena has been doing those with her mom since she was in the womb and they haven't missed a beat. Their family is very dedicated to their dog rescue.

Thank you Breena for sharing your story with us, we loved meeting you!

If you would like to share your child's story please fill in our online form. Thank you for helping us spread the word that vegan kids are awesome!

 

7 Vegan Friendly Parenting Facebook Groups

Let's face it, we are all searching for community. Whether your "village" is online or in the town you live in we all need a place to go to where we feel we belong. Raising plant powered kids can be tough. Sometimes family members aren't supportive and you can feel isolated. Below is a list of groups I've discovered on Facebook that are helping me connect and creating my online village.

Conversations include everything from what you fed your kids for lunch to how to navigate birthday parties. It's a great way to pass on information you have learned as well as learn a new point of view.

How Vegan Children Thrive
Our group’s purpose is simple: to provide support and guidance for fellow parents raising vegan children. Share your worries, problems, ideas, experiences and the joys of being a parent to vegan children. We realise that parents within the vegan community often face challenges when negotiating the non-vegan world we live in and this is your place to find the answers you may need in how best to deal with those experiences in life. 

What Vegan Children Eat
A sister group to How Vegan Children Thrive. Our group’s purpose is simple: to provide culinary inspiration and support for fellow parents raising vegan children. Share your favorite mealtime recipes, snack suggestions and lunchbox ideas. Your tried-and-true recipes will certainly inspire other struggling parents. Everyone is welcomed here, whether you are vegan yourself (with or without vegan children), preparing meals for other vegan family members, or just curious. Come and join in!.  

Raising Little Vegans
A group for vegans with children or who do not believe you must remain childless to be considered vegan. Respectful non-vegans who are curious are welcome to join to learn more about the lifestyle if they are interested. Family members of vegan children besides the parents/guardians are welcome to join and learn more about the lifestyle as well. This is a place for positivity and support so bashing others or making them feel unsafe here won't be tolerated. Enjoy!

Vegan Parents
This is just a group for vegan parents the world over to share information, chat, and talk to other vegan parents. If you are a vegan parent, join, if you know a vegan parent, invite them!
While I think it's important to reach out to and be accepting non-vegans, there are plenty of groups for that. No one is looking in your pantry, but this group really is a space for vegan parents to come together, not for promoting veganism to others. 

Vegan Babies and Bumps
Welcome to the group for expectant mothers, excited fathers, new and experienced vegan and vegetarian parents to share their recipes, meal plans and experiences of raising a vibrant, healthy vegan baby.

Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting
This group is open to all. Opinion posts are not allowed, we are all vegan here, and are also here to help people transition into a vegan lifestyle, no judgements or attacks will be tolerated.

Generation Veggie Families
An online community for families raising plant-powered kids! We welcome vegan, vegetarian, mixed, and transitioning families to share experiences, questions, recipes, inspiration, and resources. 

Additional groups:

Vegans with Non-vegan Partners
Simply a place to come to support and banter and vent with other vegans that have non vegan partners, swap ideas, share experiences, share wins and losses and be yourself.

Plant-Powered Families
A place for plant-powered parents to share tips and insights on raising "weegans", and of course talk about delicious vegan, family-friendly recipes. We are about encouraging and uplifting, not shaming or blaming!

Vegan Breastfeeding Support
Welcome to Vegan Breastfeeding Support. We hope to be a helpful resource for vegans on their parenting journey. We are here to promote and support breastfeeding in all forms. This group is solely for the use of individuals currently breastfeeding, that have breastfed (to offer peer support) or those who are intending to breastfeed in the near future.

International Vegan Kids Package Swap
Welcome to the vegan kids package swap!! I will create the first Swap soon so stay tuned for the rules!!! This is all about the kids so we will make it lots of fun. A lovely way to show our little ones all about the international vegan community and to swap treats, letters, pictures, vegan awesomeness with fellow vegan children across the globe.

The Hungry Taurus (shameless plug for my page)
Tips on vegan parenting, healthy eating and a buffet of tasty reviews.

Conscious Living Mums
Conscious Living Mums is a group for Mummas or expecting Mummas wishing to connect, support and share with earthy, Eco, zen loving like-minded Mums. It's about health, healing, balance, taking control of your life and most importantly the joys and challenges of rearing young children in a busy world. If you look beyond the conventional when answering questions about raising your kiddlets then this is the place to share, vent and help each other out.

Ethical Vegan Pregnancy & Parenting
A friendly group for ethical vegan parents, parents to be or hopeful parents! A place to ask questions, seek advice, complain, share tips and recipes and politely discuss issues. A place for parents seeking to follow a vegan lifestyle for the animals - not only focusing on diet. Disrespectful, rude or offensive posts and comments will not be tolerated.

If you know of any other great resources of Facebook please post in the comments below!

 

Meet Oran

We’d like to introduce you to Oran Gunner Gaius!  Oran is 10 months old and has been vegan since his birth.

Oran lives with his Omma (mom) who was vegetarian for 2 years prior to turning vegan in 2010. He also shares his home with his Appa (dad) who is omni but loves to eat vegan food at home.

Oran’s favorite foods are smoothies and pancakes. His favorite activities include playing with his doggie buddies!

Oran and his family have just relocated to the West Coast from Montreal. We have yet to get involved with the local animal rights movement.

What tips would Oran have for other vegan kids? If he was old enough he would say, be kind to yourself and follow your heart. Only your heart can guide you to the truth and to find out what is right to you.

You can find Oran’s parents on:

IG: winter_cold_heart

tumblr: thalamuslyincorrect.tumblr.com
iamnotaneffigy.tumblr.com

Want to feature your veggie kid on The Hungry Taurus? Fill out our Story Form!

Help! My Kid is Vegan!

It seems that 2015 has been a transition year for a lot of people. I've had half a dozen friends ask for advice on including more meatless meals into their diet. I've also had friends ask me for information to help their kids who have decided to go vegan. I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to put together a list of my favorite go to recipe books, products and websites to help anyone else that may need it. Perhaps even you!

Recipe Books:

My favorite (and first) vegan cookbook is Sarah Kramer's How it all Vegan. It's packed with loads of good information on following a vegan life style as well as easy to follow recipes.

Vegan Yum Yum is also a great cookbook. It's full of fun recipes including my absolute favorite the Broccoli Mushroom Bake with the Hurry Up Alfredo Sauce. A friend of mine borrowed this one and loved it so much she got her own copy!

For breakfast meals you can't beat Vegan Brunch by the kick ass Isa Chandra. You'll see that making vegan pancakes is the easiest thing EVER. Also the cinnamon buns are to die for.

If you want a more "meaty" book that incorporates more faux meats and cheeze you can't go wrong with the cheeky Betty Goes Vegan cookbook. This book is all about processed foods though so don't think you are eating healthy by choosing these recipes. 

I recently purchased Dreena Burton's Plant Powered Families but I have yet to try many recipes from it. My toddler has decided he is going through a picky stage and the kid approved recipes in this book won't pass my picky kid's palate. I look forward to trying more of the recipes in the future.

Websites:

Oh She Glows is a beautiful website and the recipes are wholesome and nutritious. My one complaint is that it takes a lot of time to create these dishes and some of them have a lot of ingredients. Hard to make when you have a little one screaming at you to pick him up.

I see recipes posted on Facebook from The Minimalist Baker's website all the time. She has a lot of great ideas and not too complicated recipes to choose. Also she's coming out with a recipe book in the new year. Yay Dana!

Equipment:

A food processor is a must. I use mine daily. I don't even know what I did before I had a food processor. Whether you use it for nuts, veggies or making sauces it's definitely worth the investment. I suggest getting one with a 7 cup capacity.

Pantry Items:

Canned beans, nutritional yeast (affectionately called NOOCH), alternative milks like soy or almond milk, cashews, flax, olive oil are a few things you should keep in your pantry.

For faux meats try Gardein, Yves or Field Roast. Daiya Foods makes a good cheese substitute to add to pasta and pizza.