Hi! Micheala here. I thought I would write about something I get questioned on A LOT!
Why are you Vegan?! Do you not want a Parmo????? No cheese?! What?! You’re making your BABY vegan too?! What if he wants a steak?
The list goes on, and on, and on!
But do you know what? It doesn’t bother me too much. I sometimes get sick of the barrage of questioning. But I like to educate people on why me and Ciaran (Jonah’s AMAZING daddy) decided to make this lifestyle choice for our family. It wasn’t something that we just jumped into. We thought long and hard and did a lot of research before confidently deciding that we were going to raise Jonah vegan. Our aim was to make sure Jonah was brought up eating amazing food which was good for him and fulfilled all of his dietary needs. And as a result he would never have eaten any animal products.
The early days were tough
When Jonah was a newborn it was hard. Like… really fucking hard! Every time I fed him he was sick almost immediately. Then, because he had an empty tum, he was hungry again. Back on the boob. More sick. More screaming over and over again. I took him to the doctors, and because he was still a fat little blob, they were not concerned. Mint. We were given Gaviscon to try and help, which is all fair and well if you can put it in a bottle, but my baby was breastfed and I really wanted to keep it that way. We fought to give him the medication and nothing improved other than causing horrible constipation.
What if he was reacting to something in MY diet?
It dawned on me that maybe he was reacting to something. But as he was only having my breast milk it must have been what I was eating. I felt like it was all my fault. My milk was doing this to him! I felt like such a failure.
I was a total dairy addict. I pretty much lived on cheese. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cheese, cheese and more cheese. My Health Visitor wasn’t convinced this was the issue. But it wouldn’t hurt to try, right?
It was so difficult giving up dairy to begin with, I was having dreams about some cheese on toast cuddling up to me in bed! Obsessed.
But the change in Jonah was amazing. Within two weeks his sickness was improving. My baby was happy and sleeping better. He was having normal shits that didn’t burn his little tush.
Dairy is a bit of a fucker, it’s in EVERYTHING. It was tricky checking over all of the ingredients in all of the food I ate. But fast forward 6 weeks after my last big cheesy pizza, Jonah was a new baby. So happy and content. He could lay down, he was never sick and he would have cuddles and loves from anyone. For months he would only have comfort from me and no one else. It was probably because he was in so much pain and discomfort all he wanted was mama and boobies.
I also noticed a huge improvement in myself. My skin used to be so bad. I was covered head to toe in eczema and struggled to even shampoo my hair because my skin would sting and itch. I couldn’t go swimming and perfume would sting like a motherfucker. I was a mess. After two weeks I only had two small patches of eczema. Who knew that eating the equivalent of a block of cheese a day could cause all this? One of the biggest changes for me is that I have struggled with constipation my whole life. Sometimes only going to the toilet once a week. But not now! Check me out with my normal regular human poos!
Getting the whole family on board
It wasn’t too difficult getting Ciaran on board with the dairy free diet. He is a brilliant dad but can barely make beans on toast. So I cook EVERYTHING that goes into his mouth. He pretty much had no choice. Neither of us had really been huge meat eaters. I had been on and off vegetarian for years before my pregnancy. We’d maybe have a bit of chicken now and again, but that was it really. One morning I had been thinking about how amazing it would be to not use animal products at all. So I said to Ciaran “Why don’t we just be vegan?”. I thought he would laugh in my face, but he didn’t. He said he had been thinking the same thing but wanted to look into it first. So we did.
Getting the balance right
Jonah had a long way off before we started him on solids but we needed to make sure we were making the right choice. I needed a balanced diet to provide me and Jonah everything we needed. It wasn’t easy and there was a lot we needed to change. Vitamin B12 naturally occurs in animal products so we make sure we have fortified milk alternatives and I also take a vegan multivitamin. We also needed to concentrate on ensuring we had enough protein and iron in our diets.
I decided to meal plan for two weeks to see how we got on; carefully checking over each meal to ensure that it had everything we needed in it. We were trying new food and getting more variety. Even when I was vegetarian my diet was pretty much just Quorn and cheese. Becoming vegan got me out of my comfort zone and forced us to try new things.
The hardest thing I found was checking food labels. I have fucked up loads along the way by not checking things properly and buying things that weren’t vegan at all. I have a nightmare with crisps and stock cubes. But as the time goes on this is happening less and less. A really good resource to help with snacks and treats was Accidentally Vegan UK on Instagram.
It’s not just about food
After getting our diets right we have recently started ensuring the other things in our lives are free from animal products. Toiletries can be tricky. A lot of vegan make up and toiletries are SO expensive. Thankfully I have found that a majority of Superdrug own brand toiletries are vegan friendly. They do have occasional products which include honey or lanolin but there is a huge variety of things that I can use. For makeup I use Gosh or Urban Decay, but I’m lucky that I can keep my makeup minimal due to my skin improving so much!
We have been vegan for 11 months now and I don’t see any going back. I do still have some clothes (like leather shoes) that I bought prior to adopting a vegan lifestyle. I am reluctant to throw these away because I hate the thought of wasting animal products. So I will throw them away when they are old and broken, then replace them with an animal friendly alternative. I go crazy at Lauren because she always leaves her milk and cheese at my house. If she doesn’t collect them it goes to waste. Argh!
Having support makes it even more worthwhile
Most of Jonah’s family support our decision 100%. My mum is AMAZING. When she takes Jonah out for dinner she only orders vegan food for herself as well as Jonah. That way she can always share with him when he is old enough to ask for some of hers. My sister is always giving him naughty vegan treats too.
Some family don’t really understand; but I don’t care! I would love to have been able to say that I had never eaten animal products. And now my little cub can say that and I think that’s amazing. When he is old enough and said he wanted to eat animal products we won’t necessarily stop him. We will honestly and openly explain our reasons why we don’t eat meat (we won’t sugar coat it) and hope that he will understand the ethical, economical and health reasons as to why we have this lifestyle.
The other cubs mama’s are amazing about my little vegan family and they always think about me and Jonah when we get together. Elijah’s whole birthday cake was vegan even though they aren’t! Catherine made sure we had some delicious vegan cupcakes at Zach’s birthday tea party. Lauren has mastered the art of vegan baking so made some cupcakes for Isaac’s party that we could all enjoy. And Cara makes sure I am fed like a queen when we go to her house to get drunk!
I hope you enjoyed reading this and it has given some insight into how you can have a really healthy and varied vegan diet (for children too!) If you think your little one has a dairy allergy or intolerance like Jonah make sure you speak to your GP or health visitor. If you’re looking to adopt a vegan lifestyle DO IT! Do some research and enjoy the benefits.
Please comment below for any questions or to share your experience as a vegan mama!