Mother and Baby Guide

Increasing nutrients pregnancy / Foods & Drink to Avoid / Importance of Breastfeeding / Mother Nature Knows Best / Formula Feeds / Four to Six Months / Six to Eight Months / Eight to Twelve Months / Survival Tips / Note on Nuts / What to eat each day for health - pre and post pregnancy/ Foods for Weaning/ Recipes for Toddler


A balanced vegetarian or vegan diet provides all the nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy. Healthy babies are being born to sixth and seventh generation vegetarians and vegans in the UK and, of course, around the world, whole cultures have been vegetarian for thousands of years! It is the most natural, healthful diet and perfect for nurturing your unborn child.

A healthy pregnancy should just be an extension of your normally healthy diet. If you eat well anyway, then eating right for your unborn child won't be such a radical change. If, however, your diet has always been based around junk food, meat and dairy produce, then it's time it wasn't! For both your sakes.

The secret of a healthy diet is to eat a variety of foods, but focusing on wholegrains, pulses (peas, beans and lentils of all types), unsalted mixed nuts and seeds and fresh fruit and vegetables. This table shows what you need to eat each day. Eggs, meat, milk and cheese are high in cholesterol, animal fats and hormones (cows' milk contains 35 hormones and 11 growth factors!) and are not needed (or even desirable) for a healthy diet, so they are not included.

There is plenty of scope for adventurous, creative cookery. With herbs, spices, stock cubes, flavourings such as soya sauce and creamed coconut, soya cheese and a host of other extras, you can create the most wonderfully exotic dishes, as well as all the traditional favourites.

Increasing your nutrients for pregnancy

During pregnancy, your daily nutrient requirements increase considerably. Iron, folic acid, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well as vitamins A, C and D, calcium and protein are all needed in greater amounts. It's not surprising - you're making a whole new person and you'll need more nutrients than you do normally! If your diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, you will probably be getting more than enough of vitamins A and C, folate and thiamin, but it doesn't hurt to give them all a bit of a boost.

The recommended amount of fruit and veg we should all eat is, of course, five a day - but this is the minimum, not the maximum! Aim for eight to 10 portions daily. If you find that challenging - buy a juicer. They range in price from about £40 to several hundred but are a great investment because fruit and vegetable juices are a wonderful source of many vitamins, minerals and trace elements, including iron, calcium, zinc and folic acid.

Make it part of your routine to juice any fruit you enjoy - try apples, pears, tangerines with any berries (fresh or frozen) for a huge vitamin and antioxidant boost! About five of these fruits makes a smallmedium glass of juice and tastes phenomenally good. Also try mixing fruit and veg together such as carrots with apples and a little ginger root for zest and even more goodness. For more inspiration see one of the many juicing books - the VVF stock some lovely ones at Here's more on how to boost your nutrient intake during pregnancy...

Protein is needed for growth, repair of tissue and protection against infection. Protein can be found in all pulses (all types of beans, peas and lentils), nuts, seeds, brown rice, wholegrains and wholegrain products such as breakfast cereals, brown bread and pasta. The humble soya bean - used in many soya products such as soya burgers, soya milk and tofu (soya bean curd) - is nutritionally equivalent to meat, containing as it does all the building blocks (amino acids) of protein.

The seed, quinoa is also high in protein, containing all essential amino acids and so, as with soya, is known as a complete protein. Use it like a grain - many people use it in place of rice or potatoes in stirfries, soups and so on. It's easy to cook, taking about 15 minutes to prepare. It's available in most supermarkets.

Preeclampsia, a syndrome of high blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the placenta and premature delivery, has been attributed to insufficient protein intake and so it is prudent to increase your intake in the final trimester. The good news - medical studies on 775 vegan mothers showed them to be less prone to preeclampsia.

Fats can either be saturated (found in high concentrations in most animal-derived foods such as butter, hard cheeses, red and white meats etc) or unsaturated. Whilst it's best not to eat the saturated kind at all, we do need the unsaturated type - the so-called essential fatty acids or polyunsaturated fats. There are two types of essential fatty acids - omega-3 and omega-6.

These fats are essential in the diet for repairing body tissue, to carry some vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and for manufacturing some hormones. Essential fatty acids are a main constituent of the brain and eyes and are vital for the healthy functioning of all cell membranes. Omega-3 is also particularly anti-inflammatory and important in combating many diseases such as heart disease and arthritis - plant omega-3s being the most powerful source (see the VVF guide, Fish-Free for Life: Why Plant Omega-3s are Better for You and the Environment for more information at

The developing foetus requires omega-3 fatty acids for cell membranes and physiological functions, as well as for the brain and retina. The foetus requires a constant supply of this from mum and so is dependent on the maternal supply.

The best plant source of omega-3 fats is flaxseed, also known as linseed. Try ground flaxseed (they must be ground, otherwise the seeds will go straight through your system without the fats being absorbed! - you can buy them from health shops and supermarkets). Try sprinkling them on your breakfast cereal. The other source is flaxseed oil. Don't cook with this oil as heat destroys the omega-3s; instead use it to make salad dressings and pour cold onto soups/casseroles/pasta dishes etc after you have cooked them. Add about 1tsp. Omega-3 fats are also found in hemp seeds and hemp oil (use as above), cold-pressed rape seed (canola) oil, dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, some nuts eg walnuts and walnut oil (use cold-pressed oils unheated in salad dressings), soya beans and soya oil and wheat germ.

Omega-6 fats are found in seeds and their oils (again use unheated) such as sunflower, sesame, corn, grapeseed, hemp and rape, some nuts (eg pecans, pistachios, walnuts), rice bran and soya beans.

Most Western diets tend to be high in the omega-6 fats (used in many processed and junk foods) but not so high in the omega-3 fats. We are supposed to eat four times as much omega- 6 as omega-3 oils - but many of us eat 15 to 30 times more omega-6 than 3. It's a good idea therefore to make sure you include a wide range of the omega-3 rich foods in your diet.

There are even some specially formulated oils that supply both the omega-3 and omega-6 fats in the right proportions available from most healthfood stores and the VVF's shop (see Hemp seed oil and rape seed oil naturally contain about the right proportions. Soya beans are pretty good too. Flax is much higher in omega-3 than 6 so is useful if you need to top up omega-3 levels. Probably the best oil to cook with is virgin olive oil. Although it does not contain omega-3 and is low in omega-6, it is high in another beneficial non-essential fatty acid (omega-9), has many health benefits and is relatively stable when heated.

A note on omega-3s from fish.
Basically, don't eat them! All pregnant women are strongly advised by government to limit their oily fish intake and to not take cod liver oil (see Foods & Drink to Avoid).

This vital element is needed for the healthy functioning of the nervous system, blood clotting and bone and tooth formation in both mother and baby. Seeds (especially sesame), nuts* (especially almonds*), dark green leafy vegetables and pulses such as beans of all types, lentils, chickpeas and tofu (made from soya beans) are particularly rich in calcium. Contrary to popular belief, drinking cows' milk is no guarantee of strong bones. The Harvard Nurses' Health Study took 77,761 women, aged 34 to 59, and followed them for 12 years. The research found that those who got more calcium from milk actually had slightly, but significantly, more fractures than those who drank little or no milk. Another study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, also showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture than those with the lowest consumption. (See Viva! & VVF Guides Nutrition in a Nutshell, Your Health in Your Hands and It's Easy to be Dairy-Free at

The need for iron increases during pregnancy because both mother and baby are busy creating new blood. The best sources are dried fruits such as figs, apricots, dates and prunes, nuts* and seeds (especially sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds) and black treacle. Lentils, kidney beans, baked beans and other pulses, tofu and soya milk, hummus, cocoa, fortified breakfast cereals, wholewheat and wheatgerm, green leafy vegetables and wholegrains (brown rice, oats etc) are also useful sources. Because vitamin C greatly increases the absorption of iron from the food in your body, it is essential to make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. The British Medical Association states that vegetarians are no more prone to iron-deficiency anaemia than meat eaters.

Vitamins A, C and E
Vegetarians and vegans get plenty of vitamin A from eating foods containing betacarotene.

We convert beta-carotene into vitamin A in our bodies. Beta-carotene is high in carrots, sweet potatoes, red/yellow peppers, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, watercress, mangoes, apricots, pumpkins, cantaloupe melons and romaine lettuce.

You'll find high amounts of vitamin C in kiwi fruit, berries and currants, fresh oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, peas, blackcurrants, strawberries, green peppers and other fruit and vegetables. It's not in meat. Beta-carotene, vitamins C and E (this latter vitamin is found in vegetable oils, wholegrains, tomatoes, nuts* (esp. almonds*), asparagus, spinach, apples, carrots, celery and avocado) are antioxidants and help protect you from several diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes type II and cancer.

The B Vitamins
These vital vitamins comprise B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), biotin, folic acid and B12 (cobalamin).

Many B vitamins are involved in releasing energy from food and help to aid growth and repair of the body.

They are widely available in wholegrains including wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta, yeast extracts (eg Marmite), pulses (peas, beans, lentils), nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, avocados and bananas. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with B vitamins.

Folic acid is required for protein synthesis, formation of blood, metabolism of DNA (our genetic blueprint) and helps prevent neural tube defects in the developing foetus.

It is therefore necessary before conception and during early pregnancy to help prevent this condition. Folic acid is found widely in most vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), nuts, pulses (peas, beans, lentils) and avocados.

"The human body has no nutritional requirements for animal flesh or cows' milk. It functions superbly without them, and this includes producing healthy offspring! All the protein required for human health, including during pregnancy and childraising, are abundantly available from plant sources."
Dr Michael Klaper, author Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is required for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system and normal blood formation. The liver has stores of B12 lasting up to three years and the body is also very efficient at reabsorbing it.

Many common foods are fortified with B12 such as fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extracts (eg Marmite), vegetable margarines and soya milk. Ensure a daily serving of these types of food.

Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are also necessary for helping to keep the arteries healthy.

Vitamin D
Just 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight on the face and arms is all that is required by the body to manufacture vitamin D. This vitamin aids the body's absorption of calcium and is needed for a healthy immune system. Because it is stored in the liver, a summer of moderate sun is normally enough to see us through the winter as well. Fortified breakfast cereals and vegetable margarines can be useful dietary sources if exposure to sunlight is not practicable.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid

If you are a vegetarian or vegan then (wisely) you won't be eating fish; if you are not then consider stopping! The government's Food Standards Agency (FSA) conservatively advises that pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit their consumption of oily fish to no more than two portions a week. They, along with children under 16, should avoid shark, marlin and swordfish entirely and limit the amount of tuna they eat due to contamination with potentially deadly pollutants.

There is overwhelming science highlighting the dangers of consuming deadly pollutants such as dioxins in herring, salmon, mackerel and, to a lesser degree, trout. What's more, most of the world's fish are contaminated with mercury - a neurotoxin which causes neurological damage, developmental delays and learning deficits.

The FSA also advises that pregnant women: "shouldn't take supplements containing cod liver oil, or other types of fish liver oil. This is because fish liver oil contains high levels of vitamin A, like liver and liver products such as liver pâtè. If you have too much vitamin A, levels could build up in your body and may harm an unborn baby."

Approximately 95% of food poisoning cases are due to meat and dairy products.

Remember, your baby will eat what you eat, so think carefully! Ripened soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert must be avoided as they may contain high levels of listeria which, in rare cases, can lead to listeriosis. This may result in miscarriage, still-birth or severe illness in the new-born baby. Listeria bacteria has also been found in a very small number of some cook-chill products. These must be reheated thoroughly until piping hot.

Eggs should be avoided as they carry risk of salmonella and contain significant amounts of cholesterol.

Vegetables and salads should be washed thoroughly to remove any contaminated soil and dirt. Buying organic fruit and veg will help to limit the chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, reaching your unborn baby.

Caffeine in coffee and cola has been suspected of leading to birth defects or miscarriages but studies have proved inconclusive. Although artificial sweeteners in food and drink are said to pose no threat, again there have been concerns regarding these. They cross the placenta and are eliminated very slowly from foetal tissues.

Smoking is clearly bad for you and your baby and is associated with low birth weight and cot death. It's never too late to give up. Any prescribed or over-the-counter medication may prove harmful to the baby, even aspirin, paracetemol and cold remedies. If you don't really need them, the advice is don't take them. If you do, consult your doctor.

Avoid eating peanuts and nuts while pregnant or breastfeeding if you, your partner or a child in the immediate family come from an atopic family - see the Note on Nuts.

Mother Nature Knows Best
Don't forget that, despite all the rules and advice, vegetarian and vegan women have been producing healthy, beautiful babies for thousands of years. Trust your body and mother nature to nurture your unborn baby. We are a great ape and essentially evolved to thrive on a vegan diet (see other Viva! Guides, Fruits Of The Past and Your Health in Your Hands).
Vegetarianism/veganism is the most natural diet in the world so have a little faith!

Also never give cows' milk (whether full fat, semi or skimmed) - it is meant for calves and therefore contains the wrong proportions of nutrients for the human baby. For example it is too high in calcium and protein and too low in essential fatty acids. This is why companies make millions of pounds turning cows' milk into cows' milk formulas - they alter the nutritional content in an attempt to mimic human breastmilk. Also do not give soya milk to a baby - it's too low in fat and too high in protein - give soya milk formula until your child is about two years old (see Formula Feeds section).

The Importance of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is certainly the most natural form of nutrition during the infant's first year of life. Breastmilk is truly miraculous - the perfect food for baby which not only contains every nutrient needed but antibodies that bolster the baby's immune system. It is impossible to replicate the exact formula of breastmilk. Neither can a bottle replicate the closeness and skin contact which a baby gets when feeding from her mother.

Besides, breastfeeding is so much easier and more practical than bottlefeeding. There's no sterilising equipment, no buying of milk powder, no heating of milk during the wee small hours and no chance of forgetting the baby's milk if you go out for the day.

Also, if you're patient it's a natural means of losing any extra pounds you've put on during pregnancy.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends that most women should exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months. They conclude that, in general, this is the healthiest start to life for a baby.

There are many benefits for the baby too. Asthma, eczema and other allergies can all be triggered by dairy produce. Digestive problems, ear infections, respiratory problems and intestinal bleeding have also been linked to the consumption of dairy products by infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition has recommended since 1992 that cows' (and goats') milk should never be given during the first year of a baby's life. (See Foods & Drink to Avoid)

If you are concerned about calcium - remember that cows' milk has evolved for calves, not humans! It contains four times too much calcium for a human baby.

Nature never meant us to drink it as infants or at any other time in our life! Three-quarters of the world's population do not consume dairy products as they are lactose intolerant.

There are many studies showing that nations consuming very little dairy (such as Thailand) have considerably lower incidences of osteoporosis than nations which consume high amounts (such as the USA).

What's more, a review of the evidence on the effect of cows' milk on bone health (published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005) concluded that children and adolescents do not require cows' milk but instead must exercise regularly and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoid smoking, fizzy drinks and caffeine for strong bones and teeth.

(For more information see the VVF's report on the effects of cows' milk on human health, White Lies and the great pocket-sized shopping and health guide, It's Easy to be Dairy-Free at All good reasons why babies should be breastfed wherever possible.

Although breastfeeding is natural, there is a knack to it and it is a good idea to prepare yourself before the birth by reading some of the very good books which are now available.

The Practicalities of Breastfeeding
Wash your breasts as usual when you bathe or shower but don't use soap as this can wash away the natural secretions which protect against soreness when the baby starts to suck.

Get used to handling your breasts so that you don't feel awkward or embarrassed about this when the time comes to start breastfeeding.

The baby's suckling reflex is at its strongest in the first few hours after birth, so when your baby is handed to you it is a good idea to put her straight to your breast. If however, for some reason, you feel you can't do this, don't worry. Just try again quietly and gently a little later - perseverance and good support usually lead to success.

Don't wash your breasts before you feed. It's important to have your baby in the right position with the head slightly tipped back so that the chin is close to your breast and the lips are close to your nipple - 'chest to chest, chin to breast.' Brush her lips with your nipple until she opens her mouth really wide, almost as if she's going to yawn.

This may take several minutes so be patient. When it does happen, bring the baby's head quickly towards your breast so that she takes not just your nipple but a good mouthful of breast too.

If she is latched on properly you will see the jaw bone move as she sucks. If not, slide your little finger into the corner of her mouth to break the sucking action and try again.

It is very important that your baby should have opened her mouth wide enough and be close enough to you to enable her to take a large mouthful of breast. This means that your nipple is protected from friction and will not get sore.

Watch that your breast is not covering your baby's nose, making breathing difficult. Gently hold back your breast with your fingers if necessary. After your baby has finished feeding, dry your breasts carefully.

If you have problems with leaking, cover them with breast pads. Some people advise putting cream on or using a spray but this is not recommended as it interferes with the delicate balance of natural secretions. Wash your nipples once a day without soap and keep them dry.

Giving short feeds as often as your baby will co-operate in the early days will give you both practice.

During these early feeds, your baby is getting not the milk but the colostrum which protects her from disease and helps her to excrete the meconium from the bowel.

Meconium is a sticky, black waste product which builds up during the time the baby is in the womb. The actual milk comes in a few days after birth - this might be the second, third or fourth day. The milk normally comes in quicker for second and subsequent babies, but this depends on how much sucking the baby has been able to do.

The more you have been able to feed the baby, the more your breasts will have been stimulated and the quicker the milk will come in, although until it does, the colostrum will supply all your baby's needs.

When the milk does come, you may find that you are really 'bursting' and the process is rather messy! Giving frequent brief feeds from the beginning will help to minimise this engorgement.

Just keep on feeding your baby completely on demand and your supply will quickly adjust to your baby's needs.

If you find you have so much milk that it gushes out too quickly, making your baby splutter, you can hold back the milk a little by holding your breast in your fingers just above the areola and pushing your breast gently upwards.

In the early days you might find that milk leaks from your breasts between feeds: even hearing the cry of a baby can trigger the 'let down reflex' which can cause this to happen.

A breast pad inside your bra helps, as does wearing darkish tops which do not show up any wet patches too obviously.

These inconveniences pass rapidly as you and your baby get used to breastfeeding.

Your breasts will shrink back to normal size (even though they are producing large quantities of milk), they will not leak and the whole process will become smooth, easy and quite delightful - very different from those early days of adjustment.

After your baby has finished feeding, hold her up against your shoulder and gently rub or pat her back until she 'burps'.

Make sure that she is straight, otherwise the wind will not come up. Some babies do not swallow much air so won't need to burp. Don't worry if nothing happens! And don't worry if your baby brings up some milk after feeds. This is quite normal and just means that she has had more than enough.

However, if there is projectile vomiting (where it shoots across the room), you should consult a doctor as this may indicate a fault in the baby's stomach muscles which can be cured by a small operation.

Have confidence in your ability to breastfeed and don't give in without a really good try. There are so many wonderful benefits for both of you and don't forget. practice makes perfect!

Mother's Diet for Perfect Breastfeeding

During breastfeeding, your need for extra vitamins and minerals continues as in pregnancy but you will also need more niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

Yeast extract, wholemeal bread, wholegrains, some pulses, avocado, seeds, nuts*, mushrooms, brown rice, bananas, tofu and beansprouts are all good foods to boost your intake of these vitamins and minerals.

Just include one or two additional snacks each day made from fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, pulses, black treacle, dried fruits, fortified soya products and yeast extract for high-powered, nutrient-rich feeding. If you are vegan always ensure a daily supply of vitamin B12 in fortified foods (or take a B12 supplement).

Your diet as a vegetarian breastfeeding mum will provide all the nutrients your baby needs. And there is one less risk to worry about. An American study reported that of seven chemical contaminants, six were found at markedly lower levels in the breastmilk of vegetarian women compared to a nonvegetarian group.

Formula Feeds

Don't be in too much of a hurry to give supplementary bottles, something many mothers do because they doubt their own ability to produce enough milk.

Your body responds to the baby's demands so if you start to give bottles, the baby takes less milk from you which means you produce less and have to give more bottles. And so it goes on.

Breastfeeding is best for babies and we recommend persevering with breastfeeding if you can. However we understand that for various good reasons you may need to bottlefeed your baby and choosing the right feed will naturally be important.

Currently there is only one completely animalfree soya infant formula on the market suitable for babies - Farley's Soya Formula from Heinz. (Contact Viva! for further information).

Soya infant formulas are nutritionally complete and comply with strict UK and EC legislation which specifies the nutritional composition of these formula feeds. (NEVER give babies normal cows' milk or soya milk - see Foods & Drink to Avoid).

There has been some concern over soyabased infant formulas in the media. The main concern has been the fact that soya beans contain compounds called isoflavones, or phytoestrogens, which behave like oestrogen, the female hormone. Although isoflavones are very weak (between 1,000 and 10,000 times weaker than oestrogen), the soya bean contains high concentrations and so people eating a lot of soya tend to have high concentrations in their blood. But does this have an effect on babies?

In adults, isoflavones do not increase oestrogen levels but actually normalise them. Most women who eat a Westernised high-fat diet have very high oestrogen levels which may increase the risk of breast cancer. For more information see the VVF report One in Nine.

The isoflavones stop the oestrogen from promoting cell division and may protect against breast cancer. There have been many scientific papers detailing the anti-cancer effects of eating soya foods.

The other slight concern with infant soya formula has been the glucose syrup content and the worry that this may harm teeth. All infant formulas must comply with standards laid down by UK regulations which specify minimum and maximum amounts of carbohydrate (the body's main form of energy).

The carbohydrate used can't be lactose (the sugar in cows' milk) so an alternative carbohydrate is used - glucose syrup. Glucose syrup is often confused with sugars but in fact comes from corn starch and is not the same as glucose or syrup.

It is mainly made up of beneficial complex carbohydrates (starches) not simple carbohydrates (sugars) which are known to be harmful to teeth.

Tooth decay can be the result of many factors, not only the presence of sugars in a food or drink. Research has shown that soya infant formulas are no more likely to cause tooth decay than normal infant milks.

The most important factor appears to be how they are consumed. Any food or drink containing sugars shouldn't have frequent or prolonged contact with teeth and trainer cups should be used as soon as your baby is able to drink this way. Thus, if normal weaning practices are adopted, soya infant formulas should not cause harm to teeth.

Soya infant formulas have been used for decades - indeed a review on this subject in Nutrition Review (1998) states that "for more than 60 years, soya-based infant formulas have been fed to millions of infants worldwide and studied in controlled clinical research. Consequently, soya-based infant formulas continue to be a safe, nutritionally complete feeding option for most infants".

Of course, soya is not a natural food for babies but then again, nor is cows' milk which is loaded with oestrogens - and not the mild ones derived from plants but potent oestrogens from another mammal. And we have already seen the host of illnesses and conditions that may be linked to infants consuming dairy products.

Our opinions are that we would choose soya formula milk to feed our babies (and did!) and consider soya milk to be a healthy food for both children and adults and far superior to cows' milk.

Making the Formula
Making up the formula depends on the brand so make sure you read the label properly.

Generally, the method is as follows: wash your hands first and boil enough water for the number of bottles you intend to make.

When boiling the water, empty the kettle and put in fresh water - water that has been boiled before may have levels of minerals that are too high.

Let the water cool and then put the correct amount in each bottle, using the measure on the side. Measure the formula using the scoop provided. Don't pack it down as too much powder can be harmful. Level it off with a knife. Add the powder to the bottle, screw on the cap and shake to dissolve.

Store the bottle in the fridge but throw any away that is not used after 24 hours.

Some babies like their formula straight from the fridge, others prefer a bottle warmed in a bottle warmer, microwave oven or jug of hot water.

To give a bottle, cradle the baby in the crook of your arm so that she is cosy and close to you. When practical, open your shirt so that she can feel the warmth of your skin.

Gently touch the baby's cheek nearest to you and as she turns towards you pop the teat in her mouth.

Make sure you tilt the bottle well so that the milk fills the teat-end of the bottle and no air can get in which would give her colic.

Pull on the bottle a little as your baby sucks, to keep up the suction.

After your baby has finished her feed, 'burp' her as described at the end of the breastfeeding section.

Four to Six Months Old

  • Click here for a list of foods for weaning and how to prepare them

    At this age you can give your baby a little fresh, unsweetened fruit juice, diluted halfand- half with boiled, cooled water. Suitable juices are orange (freshly squeezed, frozen, or pasteurised, unsweetened from a carton) or apple juice (carton and fortified with vitamin C, but without other additives).

    Apple juice is the best choice if you have any history in your family of allergies to citrus fruits. Give this fruit juice initially from a teaspoon, in the middle of the morning or afternoon. As soon as your baby gets used to taking it in this way, try giving it from a normal cup and not a mug with a feeder lid - it is an excellent way of introducing your baby to a cup.

    Continue with breast or bottle feeding in the normal way.

    Breastmilk supplies all your baby's needs, including vitamin C, for the first six months of her life. So if your baby is happy and thriving, there is no need to think about introducing solids until she is six months old.

    However, if after four months your baby doesn't seem fully satisfied with milk, you might try giving a first taste of food - but don't start before four months old as introducing solids too early to an immature digestive system could possibly cause an allergic reaction.

    The first spoonfuls are really just to get your baby used to the taste and feel of solid food.

    Do not think of them as a real source of nourishment at this stage. The baby still needs milk feeds for that and the emotional satisfaction of sucking.

    The first taste should be half a teaspoonful of a fruit or vegetable purée (see Foods for Weaning and how to prepare them). Traditionally, cereals were always the first solid food given to babies, but these are now advised against due to the possibility of an allergic reaction when given so early.

    Allergic reactions are really quite rare and where they do occur, are usually inherited so you will know in advance if they are likely.

    Delaying the first solid food to four or six months makes the risk of an allergic reaction less likely because the digestive system is more able to cope.

    The most common foods to cause allergies are milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts, some fruits and foods containing gluten (such as wheat).

    Signs of an allergic reaction are rashes and swelling of the eyes, lips and face; sickness; diarrhoea; eczema; hayfever and asthma. Babies often grow out of allergies, usually by the time they are two years old, although some allergies, particularly to dairy products and nuts, can last a lifetime.

    Give this first taste of solids at one of the main milk feeds corresponding to breakfast, lunch or dinner, whichever is the most convenient.

    If you are planning to go back to work but want to continue breastfeeding, start giving the solids at lunchtime as this will eventually become the first meal at which the baby gives up breastfeeding and has only solids.

    Whether you give the solid food before or after the milk feed is entirely up to you, or perhaps more to the point, up to your baby!

    It's generally better to give solids before the milk feed so you can gradually increase the quantity until your baby is satisfied and eventually forgets about the milk feed.

    However, there is no point in trying to give solid foods if your baby is hungry, wanting comfort and crying for a feed. Better to feed first and give solids afterwards.

    Use a flat, shallow spoon and be prepared for the fact that your baby may well spit out your lovingly prepared offerings.

    Don't take it personally and don't worry because your baby is not depending on it for nourishment at this stage.

    Try again another day, persisting gently. There is no hurry.

    It's a good idea to try your baby on the same food for several days before introducing another so you can make sure there is no allergic reaction.

    Certainly if you have any history of allergies, asthma, eczema or hayfever in the family, it is advisable to continue with just one food for at least four days before trying another, and watching carefully for any reaction.

    You can gradually increase the quantity so that your baby is having, perhaps, two tablespoonfuls at a time. This allows the baby's digestive system to slowly adapt.

    Six to Eight Months Old

    As your baby takes more solid food, the demand for milk will decrease.

    Your baby will suck from you for a shorter time and at around eight months may eventually give up the milk feed entirely at the meal time.

    Your milk supply will decline correspondingly, the reverse of the process that enabled you to produce enough milk in the early days.

    You will probably find it takes two or three days for your body to catch up with the baby's decrease in demand and your breasts may feel rather full, but this transition period only lasts for a couple of days or so.

    You can now begin to enrich the simple fruit and vegetable purées with vegetarian protein ingredients.

    Any of the following can be added: Orange lentils made into a thick soup makes a wonderfully nutritious meal for a baby. Serve it as it is or with a little crustless bread mashed into it or make the soup extra thick and add to a vegetable purée.

    Mashed beans such as soya, red kidney, cannellini or butter beans can be cooked thoroughly and mashed into a purée. Use home-cooked or canned ones but if using the latter, ensure they are rinsed properly to remove the salted water. Don't give canned beans to a baby younger than eight months.

    Beans in tomato sauce makes a nutritious meal from eight months onwards. Choose a variety without preservatives or colourings and although they will probably still contain a little sugar and salt, they remain a nutritious food. Mash or purée them. Can be mixed with crumbled bread and a little boiled water to moisten.

    Tofu can be drained and mashed thoroughly, then mixed with vegetable or fruit purées. Yeast extract can be added 1/4 teaspoon at a time to vegetable purée. Use a lowsodium extract.

    Brewers yeast (a debittered one) can be sprinkled sparingly, say 1/4 teaspoonful over baby's vegetable purée or breakfast muesli mix. It can also be added to mashed banana-and- yoghurt mix.

    Finely milled nuts and seeds (milled in a food processor or clean electric coffee grinder, or bought ready ground) can be stirred into fruit or vegetable purées, starting with 1/2 teaspoonful. If you're grinding your own, use a variety of nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

    Wheatgerm can be sprinkled over fruit or vegetable purées, added to cereal mixes and yoghurt for splendid nourishment.

    Yoghurt - an active, plain soya yoghurt without preservatives - can be added to fruit purées or given with a sprinkling of wheatgerm or powdered nuts. It can be mashed with banana, wheatgerm, a little tahini and some powdered nuts to make a quick baby meal.

    Once your baby is taking these solids happily, you can give an enriched vegetable purée as a main course, followed by a fruit purée, yoghurt or cereal-based mixture as a 'pudding'.

    You can also begin introducing solids before the other main feeds of the day, so that eventually the feeds that correspond to breakfast, lunch and dinner are composed entirely of solids.

    You will also find that, as your baby gets used to the texture of solid food, there is no need to be so particular about puréeing the food. In fact, it is good to get used to a bit of texture in food at this stage.

    We soon found we only needed to mash food for our babies, although we have heard of babies who were more fussy.

    You will gradually be able to drop one milk feed and then another so that by the time the baby is around nine months, the bedtime feed may well be the only one left.

    Do not be in a hurry to wean your baby from the bliss of this; it is important for the closeness to you and the emotional satisfaction that sucking gives.

    Many babies have spontaneously given up on the bedtime feed by the time they are one year old, but many have not.

    There are those who believe you shouldn't encourage feeding during the night after, say, six months, when your baby probably doesn't need it for nourishment. Your baby may just be acquiring an enjoyable habit that may eventually drive you to distraction.

    Other child care experts disagree with this and our view is that if a child cries for food and the loving comfort of his or her mother's closeness, then it is better to meet that need, even though it can be demanding.

    But it does pass and, we believe, contributes very much to the child's emotional security, both at the time and in later life.

    Some people believe that when you start to give solid food, that is the time to wean a baby from the breast to the bottle.

    We don't see any point in this unless you want to stop breastfeeding. If the baby is happy and all is going well, it seems better to continue breastfeeding for the few remaining months.

    However, once baby has given up all the daytime feeds, you might like to give a bottle for the final feed so that you can be free to go out in the evenings.

    At this stage, particularly if baby is teething, you can introduce some finger foods.

    Your baby may find it comforting to chew on something hard: a piece of apple, raw carrot, bread or rusk, but never leave a baby alone with this type of food because of the danger of choking.

    If anything does get stuck in your baby's throat, be ready to hook it out quickly with your finger or turn baby upside down and smack gently in the small of the back.

    Eight to Twelve Months Old

    If your baby takes well to solids, you will quite soon find that she will easily and naturally eat a little of what you, as a family, are having. The main thing to watch (apart from avoiding sugar, salt, caffeine, deep fried foods, additives and eggs to under twos) is that your baby's portion is not too highly seasoned. Sometimes it's possible to take out a small quantity for your baby before adding spices and seasonings.

    If your baby gets used to trying new flavours, it will make it possible for you to eat out with friends or in a restaurant. Simply select a suitably unspiced or lightly seasoned dish from the menu and mash your baby's portion with a fork.

    "The vegan diet is the healthiest way to eat. It provides amply for all bodies be they adult, teenage or - the subject of this unique guide - baby, infant or pregnant ones! Following the advice in this booklet will help to ensure a healthy pregnancy and robust offspring. I endorse it wholeheartedly!"
    Dr David Ryde,
    Fellow of the Royal College of General Practice

    At this stage you may need to consider the amount of fibre your baby is getting. Since a vegetarian or vegan diet is naturally high in fibre, which facilitates the passage of food through the intestines, it's important for the baby to have some concentrated sources of nourishment each day as well, such as powdered nuts, yeast and yeast extract (unsalted), tahini, peanut butter and yoghurt. If the diet becomes too laxative, it can cause a very sore bottom and reduce the amount of nutrients being absorbed. As already stated, it may be advisable to give a bread that is lower in fibre than wholegrain. Try wheatgerm bread or, if this is still too fibrous, buy a 50:50 or an enriched white one. Try a higher fibre bread again when your baby is a little older.

    Survival Tips

    Don't worry if your child really does not like some food; you can usually find another source of the same nutrients. It's better to stick to foods that you know will go down well and avoid a battle of wills.

    All children will go through the stage when they learn the power of the word no. If this veto is used over food you may be able to nip it in the bud by offering a choice of two equally nutritious items instead of one that they can veto.

    Encourage your toddler to feed herself from an early age.

    Yes, it's horribly messy but a sensible bib - the plastic ones with pockets which catch spilled foods - are good and some kind of easily washed covering on the floor under your baby's chair will cope with most disasters.

    Don't worry if your toddler eats the foods in the 'wrong' order or mixes things up (after all, that's part of the fun, spoilsport!) and don't set too high a standard. Your toddler will enjoy being independent and competence will grow with practice. You'll bless it in the end!

    If there's a problem over food, the secret is not to get emotional about it. It simply isn't worth making an issue over food or allowing difficult situations to develop. In fact, as in all things concerning your child, it's your relationship with him or her that's most important.

    This is what you're building up and what will endure long after you've forgotten the horrors of broken nights, food fads and puddles on the carpet!

    Always put your relationship first, before a spotless house, before rigid timetables, before battles over food and you will be rewarded by the deepening bond of understanding and companionship that will develop between you.

     [printer friendly menu]




    Rose Elliot MBE is Britain's foremost vegetarian cookery writer and her books have won her popular acclaim all over the world. Her invaluable Mother, Baby and Toddler Book, explains the nutritional value of all the basic foods and gives a comprehensive range of recipes for mother and baby up to the age of two. The book arose from her personal experience as a mother of three daughters, all vegetarian from birth.

    Rose has written many other best sellers including Simply Delicious, Supreme Vegetarian Cookery, Not just a Load of Old Lentils, The Bean Book, Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, Vegetarian Slimming, Sumptuous Suppers, Vegetarian Supercook,Vegan Feasts and Vegetarian Express.

    Rose has been in the vanguard of the revolution of our eating habits for many years. She is a frequent contributor to national magazines, radio and TV as well as giving cookery demonstrations at national exhibitions such as Viva!'s Incredible Veggie Show and BBC's Good Food Show. Rose is Patron of Viva! and VVF.

    Juliet Gellatley has a degree in zoology and is a qualified nutritional therapist. She founded and directs Viva! and the Viva! Health and is an authority on vegetarian and vegan health and nutrition. She has given hundreds of public and school talks on these issues, as well as many media interviews. She is author of several books and reports.

    Juliet is the proud mum of vegan twin sons, Jazz and Finn.

    "Vegetarian and vegan diets are not only healthy for babies and children, but preferable to modern meat and dairy-based diets, which are a major cause of chronic ill-health and premature death."
    Dr Anne Griffiths MB ChB,
    Diploma from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
    Has an MSc in Community Paediatrics

    "Finn and Jazz have been vegan since birth because I wanted to give them the best start and encourage compassion. They are vivacious, healthy boys with a love of life - all life (except spiders - I'm working on that!)."

    "I breastfed them until they were four months and then gradually introduced soya formula and started weaning them little by little at six months. Their fave foods were mashed avocado with banana and baby rice with puréed fruits. They now have a diet packed with nutrients - berries and sliced banana with cinnamon on their brekkie; juiced fresh fruits to drink and lots of green veg.We use a fair amount of pulses and lots of wholegrains and they drink soya milk fortified with B12. Because they are used to good food, Jazz and Finn tend to reject a lot of junk. Not all of it of course - I don't deny them 'treats', just moderate them!"

    "I've always been upfront with Jazz and Finn about why we're vegan. Otherwise how can a child understand why we choose one food over another? When they were four and five they could not understand why the world isn't vegan - how could people eat animals? How can people be cruel? They are proud of their fast developing and surprisingly sophisticated views of the world. They told me the other day that if you harm one thing, then you harm another and that it would be best if everyone just stopped the killing. Wise words from ones so young. They're just so gorgeous!"

    Juliet Gellatley, founder & director of Viva! & VVF
    Twins Jazz and Finn, 6 years

    "I had textbook, healthy vegan pregnancies with both of my sons. I didn't encounter any negativity from people about my diet - quite the opposite. I read up on which foods I'd need in pregnancy to ensure my diet was nutritious and found it extremely easy. My sons are now 6 and 4 and have a varied healthy diet - everyone is always impressed with the wide variety Spencer and Rowan eat, they have an excellent diet (they really do eat their greens!) without missing out on treats. I've always been honest about why they don't have animal products and they will now ask if certain foods are vegan - they are proud that they don't eat animals."
    Julie Cook
    Rowan, 4 years and Spencer, 6 years

    "After breastfeeding Jack, and then Freddie, for a few months each they went on to soya formula and thrived on it! I must say I could not bear the thought of putting dead flesh into my babies' mouths. Jack and Freddie have a colourful and varied diet combining vegetarian foods with my dairy-free alternatives to margarine, ice-cream, yoghurt, cream cheese etc. I have heard many times of the parents who are reluctant to tell their kids where burgers and bacon sandwiches come from.When Jack and Freddie were old enough to understand I had no hesitation in telling them the truth: the only way surely that anyone can then be expected to make an informed decision. My pet hate is the way we are brainwashed from a young age to love some animals and eat others!"
    TV Presenter Wendy Turner-Webster
    Jack, 9 years and Freddie, 5 years (and dad Gary Webster in photo)

    "Scientific studies show balanced vegetarian and vegan diets to be not only perfectly safe during pregnancy and childhood but may confer significant health advantages over the longer term. Vegan diets will no doubt come to be regarded as the very best health insurance policy a parent can give their children."
    Dr Justine Butler, senior health campaigner, VVF

    "Apart from a few weeks of morning sickness, I had a perfectly wonderful, healthy pregnancy. I felt great and was fit enough to work right up to my due date!"
    "I thought that my midwife would give me a hard time for being vegan so when I went to see her I was armed with facts from this Mother and Baby Guide. Instead she was supportive and pleased that I knew about nutrition. She was also relieved that she didn't have to give me the talk on danger foods to avoid in pregnancy - all animal-based, and therefore irrelevant to a vegan!"
    "Aidan weighed 7lb 2oz at birth. He was totally healthy and gained weight rapidly. Up until four months his sole food had been breastmilk, though when we weaned him, he had a varied healthy diet and took to it like a duck to water."
    "I'm convinced that a vegan diet is the most natural and healthy - for me and my precious baby - and I wouldn't consider giving Aidan anything less. I wholeheartedly recommend a vegan diet to anyone.What better natural start could you give your child?"
    Lesley Jeavons
    Aidan, pictured at six months

    "As a healthy vegetarian I enjoyed a perfectly normal pregnancy and had no concerns about bringing up my son on a meat-free diet. Indeed Nathaniel is reaping the benefits that come from being a veggie. He developed normally, is robustly healthy and without doubt was a bigger and bouncier baby than his peers! And all this without any animal flesh. This is no surprise to me as I consider a vegetarian diet to be not only perfectly safe but more healthy for you and your baby. I would have no hesitation in recommending a vegetarian diet to everyone!"
    Fiona Phillips, TV Presenter

    "What you eat both before and during pregnancy has a dramatic effect on your baby's health, not only during the early years but right through into adulthood. Choosing a good vegetarian or vegan diet is not only safe but ensures that vitamins - such as folic acid, vital for early development of the foetus - are provided. A well balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is a fabulous way of feeding babies and young children too, giving them the healthiest start in life."
    Amanda Woodvine, VVF Senior Nutritionist

    "When my husband and I discussed having a baby, the last thing we worried about was my diet! I have always been 100 per cent convinced that a vegetarian diet would pose no problem for conception and pregnancy and I was right! My son was born a healthy 8lb 13oz and has been thriving ever since. I have no hesitation in bringing Finley up on a vegetarian diet; in fact, I would be more worried about his health if his diet included meat. A veggie diet supplies every nutritional need perfectly well and I would recommend it to everyone."
    Fiona Smithers-Green Finley, pictured at one day old

    "Both our children are happy, healthy and active. They are keen mountain bikers and skiers, and walk a lot further than most of their contemporaries! We love and explore food. "I think all parents have a duty to learn about nutrition, and most vegan parents certainly do this.We have aimed to cover everything, including the very small number of things to pay extra attention to, including ground flaxseed on cereal every day for omega-3 and ensuring enough B12. "Kids easily understand why vegan when given basic facts about animal farming in a non-gory way. By three years old they really get their heads around it, taking a bit longer to understand that not everyone follows this logic!"
    Sophie Fenwick-Paul
    Zuki, 8 years and Tatum, 5 years

    "My sons have been veggie since birth - they are very healthy and thrive on sport! They are great fun and enjoy life to the max. I find it easy to give them a balanced, healthy and delicious diet and we wouldn't have it any other way."
    Lucas, 6 years and Jed, 4 years

    "I was mightily relieved to find that the rumours about vegan labours being easier and shorter were true in my case. Phew! My four vegan babies were all born with beautiful skin, calm natures and with above average birth weights. Starting solids at around six months old, their early favourite foods included avocado, nut butters, banana and toast. Two of my children can be picky about what they eat, but with the amount of fruit, baked beans, hummus, marmite, soya yoghurt and wholemeal bread that disappears on a daily basis in my house, I have no worries about their nutritional needs. "Active and busy children, their sporting efforts include representing their schools in athletics, swimming and netball. Other physical interests include ballet, climbing, badminton, rugby and hockey. "Ella, Asher, Neve and Te Koha are living examples of the benefits of plant-based nutrition.We never had a doubt that a vegan diet was the best possible choice for our family."
    Yolanda Soryl
    On the wall from left to right: Te Koha, 3 years, Neve, 7, Asher, 9 and Ella, 12