Is It Vegan To Breastfeed?

A friend of mine pointed me to an article on Cafe Mom that discusses moms who won’t breastfeed because they are Vegan. Now the definition of a Vegan means that they don’t consume any animal products or products derived from animals. Most people are vegan for humanitarian reasons as eating animals or products derived from animals would mean that harm is being done to the animals. However, when breastfeeding, you can argue that the mother is an “animal” and therefore her milk is not vegan, but you can also argue that no harm is being done to the mother during the process of breastfeeding (unless she is being forced to do it against her will, of course). The article also points out a case from 2007 where a vegan couple were sentenced to life in prison for feeding their baby a vegan diet, largely consisting of apple juice and soy milk, which resulted in the death of the child.

I did some research – because as a Vegan Mom what do you do? All formulas contain animal products and most are derived from cows milk – which are grossly mistreated from a humane perspective, especially if you are a vegan. There are no commercially available formulas that are 100% vegan. There are many for vegetarians and many that are organic, but none that are certified vegan.

Most vegans opt to breastfeed because even though the baby is getting food from an animal, it doesn’t violate the vegan principles for avoiding animal products and is the most healthy alternative for vegan babies. While many vegan mothers would not consider breastfeeding to be vegan, it is clearly a “humane process and a healthy way to feed a child.” Then I discovered this discussion about whether or not breastmilk is considered vegan. I have highlighted some excerpts from it below:

It’s consistent with vegan principles… while “eating no animal products” is the primary battle-cry of vegans, it is, in fact an oversimplification of their beliefs. Vegans usually argue that the only milk that’s natural for humans to consume is breast milk, and so children of vegans would generally be breast-fed.

It’s sort of cute to point out that Vegans should be naturally against breastfeeding, but it’s fairly clear that’s not what they actually believe (along those lines, vegans wouldn”t be allowed to French kiss, as it would be inevitably lead to consuming another animal’s products).

The question is – what about wet nurses?

No animals is the “rallying cry,” but giving a child human breast milk seems to me to only superficially resembles the practices vegans actually oppose. Philosophically, the animal rights pillar of my veganism comes down to this: humans can give consent that is meaningful to other humans, animals can’t. So I support breastfeeding (even from a wet nurse), blood transfusion, french kissing, etc., but oppose milk drinking, wool wearing,…etc.

What do you think? Are you vegan? Do you think that it is OK for a vegan mom to breastfeed? Personally, I agree with most of the comments that I posted above – it is perfectly natural for a vegan mom to breastfeed and still feel good about her principles. I think it would be very difficult to be a vegan mom who can not breastfeed – the alternatives are slim….

I would love to hear from moms who are vegan – what did you do and why? Please leave a comment below.

Another option

9 comments to Is It Vegan To Breastfeed?

  • Jaimie

    when this first showed up on FB – I posted a comment similar to this:

    If you feel breastfeeding is against your vegan beliefs/tenets I highly encourage you to see a professional counselor of some kind to help you really evaluate your reasons for being vegan in the first place, so you can understand why breastfeeding is *NOT* (or should not) be against those beliefs. I think the statement that the difference is, you can gain consent, and it isn’t harming/exploiting the animal in question says all that needs to be said.

    I”m personally not a big fan of Veganism, however how you choose to live your life is entirely your choice. However, biologically humans really aren’t meant to be vegan, and making that choice for your child I personally don’t think is really fair to their growth and biological make up. (this is also because unfortunately most Vegans have trouble doing it ‘right’ the way cultural vegans do with all of the additions to make it truly balanced/healthy like the way some Indian cultures do it) – And truth be told, that also falls under consent :) The baby can’t consent… they only know what they need which is milk! Mama’s milk…

  • Theresa

    Very Nice piece! I think it is important to recognize what is natural. The vegan principle emphasizes a more humane existence. What is more natural than a mother who nourishes an infant inside the womb, to continue to do so for as long as that child needs, outside the womb, using her body? Does the baby in utero not consume from the mother? When a baby is born, will it not slowly make its way to the bosom? Personally, I stopped being vegan during pregnancy and breastfeeding, consuming small amounts of milk products and eggs with occasional fish to ensure that my baby was getting enough of the good stuff. Though I personally embrace the vegan lifestyle, I could not chance not giving my baby the best milk I can even though I am a very conscientious eater; lots of legumes and whole grains and sprouts. At 10 months, I am easing back into the mostly vegan diet I prefer now that my baby does not rely entirely on me for nutrition. I think it probably could be done, but I don’t trust that I have the nutritional expertise.

  • I think the rallying cry for most breastfeeders would be the exact same as that of a vegan: after all, the only natural companion of “cow’s milk for baby cows” is “human milk for human babies!”

  • Lorien, that’s EXACTLY what I was going to say! :)

    How many times have we heard that “rallying cry” that “cow’s milk is only for baby cows”?

    Given that, I think it would be rather *mandatory* that vegan moms breastfeed! 😉

  • Milly

    I am not a vegan, I am seriously thinking about making the transition and becoming one. But to share my thoughts, I honestly think that a mother can feel no guilt in her principles of breastfeeding her baby. The reason is not because the replacements are slim but because there is no violence or harm in the act of breastfeeding. I do agree with some beliefs of veganism but not all. It is totally a must to breastfeed your baby.

  • Espy

    So I must admit that after searching and searching and pondering and thinking and pondering some more, I’ve decided to write for some help! I’ve never done anything like this before or am even sure of what I’m doing, but I guess I’m DESPERATE! What am I sooo desperate about? Well, it goes like this: Two years ago I gave birth to my little guy. So precious indeed. I wasn’t so worried about the food, because of course natural breastmilk was started. But, oh the difficult times I had with that, just three months after breasfeeding him, we moved, from Tampa to Orlando. I got a new job working 12 hour shifts as a nurse and so my breastfeeding days were over. So, as painful as can be, I switched my little guy to the dreaded formula (who knows really what “COMPANIES” have decided to put in there… But, I started him on the “organic” formula. So my “organic” days began. After being on this “organic” formula for some time, i realized that he was having some tummy issues. So after speaking to the representative of the brand, they suggested I leave the organic and try the regular. So without thought I did. His belly got better and onward with the show. Well, now it was time to begin feeding real foods. Boy has this been a mess. I’m not a chef, I add way WAY too much salt on everything (by mistake) or I don’t add at all. I can’t even follow recipes WITH videos. So needless to say, no green thumb in the yard and no thumb at all in the kitchen, lol. So….what am I going to do with feeding this little guy. People suggested to me, and little by little he hasn’t been so troublesome with eating. He eats pretty much everything! Except that now, I can’t find what to give him. I am so torn internally because of my desires to be a raw vegan and loving Moroccan cuisine (soooo not vegan). So I’m torn. I have lately cut out the milk consumption of our family, but my little guy hates almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk. He only like cow’s milk. I wish there were other moms out here in Orlando who are vegan and feed their children (toddlers) vegan. Any advice for this confusion I have going on? What a mess, its like without me trying….I choose all the difficult choices, except that I honestly and truly feel they are the right way (the right path). So swimming against the current….

  • Hi Epsy, thanks for your note. I wish I knew how to help, but I have no personal experience here. I have posted your questions on my facebook page and I know that many of the mamas there are vegan – I am hoping that they can help you out. Please visit to see what they have to say. ^Judy

  • I am vegan and a mom. Where did anyone get the idea that breastfeeding is not vegan? That is one of the strangest things I’ve heard in quite awhile, and its unfortunately not true! Im saying that in the nicest way possible.
    Consider vegans more as “naturalists” and what is more natural then breastfeeding your own baby? Perhaps some vegans have a personal choice not to breastfeed but that belief is not generally due to following a vegan lifestyle. If vegans believe “cows milk is for baby cows” as Tiffany implied (and generally this is true) than we primarily follow the same principles for humans.
    Vegans and people who follow plant based diets are not in a strict exclusive club. We all have very diverse viewpoints on nutrition, lifestyles, animal welfare issues etc. The one thing we all agree on is we do not consume anything that comes from an animal.

  • VeganBossLady

    Breastfeeding IS vegan. If the mother is willingly giving a baby her milk, then it is vegan. If the mother is forced to giving milk, then it is not vegan. Breastfeeding your baby IS natural, period. I have no idea where people get the idea that it is not.

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