Breastfeeding on a Vegan Diet

Mothers and parents often wonder if a vegan diet is sufficient to support their nutritional needs when nursing.

Human milk production requires about 500 calories per day. All lactating parents should ensure that their diet includes sources of protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and iron.

All nursing parents need at least 1000 mg of calcium per day. Vegans can get their calcium from dark leafy green vegetables and beans. Enriched orange juice, soymilk, enriched soy products and calcium supplements can also help vegan mothers boost the amount of calcium in their diets.

Vitamin B-12 is primarily available from animal products. Deficiency sometimes occurs in individuals following a vegan diet. Fermented soybean foods and yeast are an alternative source of vitamin B-12. Breastfeeding vegans should consult with a health professionals to determine whether their diet contains enough vitamin B-12 from non-animal sources. If necessary doctors can prescribe supplements.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin important for the formation of bone and the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Different people require different amounts of sunlight to produce sufficient vitamin D. However, in Canada during the winter our bodies do not produce enough vitamin d from sunlight. Because the sun can damage babies' sensitive skin it is recommended that babies be given 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
Parents can increase the amount of vitamin D in your breastmilk by taking higher doses of Vitamin D supplements and with safe exposure to the sun.

The recommended intake of protein for nursing parents is 65 grams per day for the first six months, and 62 grams per day between six and 12 months. A varied vegan diet that includes a range of protein sources such as soy products, beans, and grains should provide plenty of protein.

The iron found in breastmilk is usually sufficient for infants throughout the first 4 to 6 months. Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron.

If you have any questions about what to eat while breastfeeding, or any other breastfeeding topic, please contact a La Leche League Leader.