Newsflash: You can't just feed babies anything you want. They need certain nutrients. Nutrients they can't get from a wildly restrictive vegan diet. One Australian couple learned this the hard way in March of last year.
According to Insider, "two parents in Australia took their daughter to the hospital after she had a seizure." While they were there, doctors discovered that the 19-month-old child was severely malnourished and had rickets, "a condition in which children's bones are softer and weaker because they are deficient in vitamin D." This little girl simply wasn't getting the nutrients she needed.
The parents ended up pleading guilty to "causing danger or serious injury to their baby." They admitted that they fed her a completely vegan diet comprised of tofu, rice milk, vegetables, fruit, and oats. But those foods didn't give the little girl enough nutrients to develop properly.
In fact, the judge presiding over their case called the diet "completely inadequate" for her to thrive, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company. Because of those nutrient deficiencies, her bones couldn't grow and develop.
Insider wrote that "a foster-care provider who met the 19-month-old said she looked just three months old because of her condition and had no teeth." It makes me wonder whether other family members or friends noticed what was going on. You would think that even the baby's parents would see her in comparison to other children her age and realize that something was off. Did she not have regular doctor's check-ups?
The judge in their case seemed to have the same questions. "It is the responsibility of every parent to ensure the diet they choose to provide to their children ... is one that is balanced and contains sufficient essential nutrients for optimal growth," she said. "There must have been ample opportunity for her condition to be acted upon."
The parents were each sentenced to 18 months of an "intensive corrective order in the community and 300 hours of community service." Their daughter is now being watched by an aunt, along with her two older siblings. The parents are allowed to have supervised visits with her.
Hospital tests concluded that the baby's bones were thin and hadn't developed at all since birth. Because of the popularity of vegan and other restrictive diets, it's becoming more and more common to see little kids who aren't given the chance to grow properly.
While obviously not every case is this extreme, parents everywhere need to understand that the diet that works for them might not be helpful for a growing child. Dr. Tanya Altmann, pediatrician and executive board member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told Insider, "We do see kids who aren't growing properly when parents limit certain things in a child's diet."
She explains that it's common to see in vegan families, where they're not even purchasing and cooking animal products at all. When things like milk and eggs, which promote bone growth through calcium and vitamin D, aren't even in the house, kids don't get those essential nutrients.
"We sometimes need to intervene," she said. "If they work with a pediatrician or registered dietician, it should be fine." If parents are stringent in their vegan ways, they have to be extra sure that their child is getting the protein and vitamins they need from other sources, like nuts, seeds, and lentils. Although, of course, you have to be careful about when you feed your baby certain nuts.
So, parents! Listen up! Ideally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, growing kids should eat food from all five main food groups to give them the best chance to develop properly. That means meat! Dairy! Eggs! Vegetables! Fruit! Whole grains! All of it. No matter if it matches your diet or not.