A vegan baby was taken from his parents after the 14-month-old turned up in an Italian hospital, severely malnourished and weighing just slightly more than a newborn should, the New Zealand Herald is reporting.
Authorities say the baby, whose name is not being released, was taken to a Milan hospital last week by his grandparents. Doctors were reportedly shocked at the baby’s condition: In addition to being severely underweight, he had calcium levels that were barely enough to keep him alive.
Making matters worse, according to the Washington Post, was the fact that the baby had a congenital heart defect but wasn’t getting the proper care. Luca Bernardo, the director of pediatrics at the hospital where the baby was taken, say the baby’s low calcium levels worsened his heart condition. He required emergency heart surgery.
The baby was removed from the custody of his parents, and police are investigating whether or not a crime has been committed.
Dr. Bernardo declined to comment on whether or not it’s appropriate to feed a baby a vegan diet, but he noted that, in this particular case at least, the baby should have at least been given nutritional supplements, considering his heart condition.
“It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition, and we certainly do not want to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision. But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron.”
In fact, feeding a baby a vegan diet is not necessarily a bad thing, provided the baby gets all of the vitamins and nutrients he needs. In particular, says Dr. Andrew Weil, vegan babies need vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids, just like carnivorous babies. Unfortunately, those nutrients are impossible to get — naturally, anyway — from non-animal sources.
“You can get B-12 from your diet only by eating meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to abnormal growth, mental retardation, and other health problems. For that reason, I recommend that vegan children take a B-12 supplement.”
Although vegans make up about 1 percent of the population (in the U.S., anyway), feeding babies a vegan diet is becoming something of a trend among some female celebrities, according to the Huffington Post. Alicia Silverstone, Olivia Wilde, and Jessica Simpson have all raised their babies vegan.
Still, raising a vegan baby requires diligence and great care to make sure that the tot gets all of the nutrients he needs, and several vegan parents have found themselves afoul of the law when their children’s strict diets fail to give them the right nutrition.
In 2007, according to MSNBC, two vegan parents in the Atlanta area were each sentenced to life in prison after their 6-week old baby died of starvation. Crown Shakur, who weighed only 3.5 pounds when he died, had been fed a strict diet of only soy milk and apple juice.
Similarly, in 2011, a vegan couple living in France were both charged with neglect after their 11-month-old baby died of a vitamin deficiency, according to the Telegraph. The baby’s mother only fed her breast milk, even though both traditional nutritional guidelines, and even vegan experts, recommend introducing solid foods at around six months.
Do you believe it’s okay to feed a baby a strictly vegan diet? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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