It is a well-known fact that breast milk is one of the healthiest things you can feed your baby – it’s packed with vitally important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are key players in a baby’s development and growth. It is the perfect food for nourishing a newborn.
While this is undisputed across the spectrum of mothers, doctors and health professionals alike, it does not always mean that breastfeeding is an option for every mother, nor does it mean that it is right for every mother.
So before we dive in, the most important thing to note is that however you decide to feed your baby is right. Fed is best. Period.
What does it mean to be vegan?
However, when discussing the topic of breast milk, another interesting question comes to mind – is breast milk considered vegan?
While some people – vegans and non-vegans alike – may never think twice about this, there is much confusion in the non-vegan community as to whether or not breast milk is a vegan food source, and whether a vegan woman can feed her child breast milk without breaking her vegan code of ethics. So let’s unpack this!
To begin, it is important to discuss the true definition of veganism. In order to do so, we’ll break it down into two different categories: dietary vegans and ethical vegans.
- Dietary Vegan (someone who consumes a plant-based diet): Dietary vegans do not consume anything that contains animal or animal products. Therefore, vegans do not eat anything that contains dairy, meat, eggs and even honey.
Please note this could be someone who chooses to consume a plant-based diet for health or environmental reasons or both!
- Ethical Vegan: Ethical vegans take it a step further and, in addition to practicing dietary veganism, they do not use any product that may exploit or harm animals. So for example, an ethical vegan is strict about which skincare and lifestyle products they use that may contain an ingredient that was derived from an animal product.
Additionally, ethical vegans avoid wearing fur and leather, as well as visiting zoos or animal parks where animals are exploited for entertainment. The welfare and compassion of animals is of utmost importance to them.
Can a vegan mother breastfeed her child and still consider herself vegan?
In both instances, whether a woman simply eats plant-based for health reasons or is an ethical vegan, breast milk is vegan!
The reality is that the mother is not being abused or taken advantage of for her milk. In fact, it is quite the opposite!
Since breast milk is so incredibly healthy for a growing baby, a woman who is able to breastfeed is actually doing the best thing she can do for her child and providing the most nutrient-dense food source available.
In the case of ethical vegans, it is safe to assume that the woman is consenting to breastfeeding her child, and therefore she is not being exploited.
To break it down even more, the mother is taking something that her body made specifically for her child and using it for the betterment of their health.
In other words, she is not taking the milk from another animal (i.e., taking advantage of another animal) and using it to feed her baby.
Additionally, breastfeeding is one of the highest acts of compassion between a mother and child – something ethical vegans care deeply about!
Is breast milk a dairy product?
So yes, breast milk may be a “dairy product” since it is produced from a mammal (humans are animals, too)!
But no, a practicing vegan will not be breaking their moral conscience by breastfeeding their newborn baby – they will actually be providing crucial nutrients to their baby through their breast milk.
What are the benefits of breast milk?
In fact, the vitamins, antibodies, fats and proteins in breast milk all play a big part in supporting the child’s nervous system development, protecting against viruses and infections, lowering the risk of allergies and asthma later on in life, and even aid in eye and ear health – just to name a few!
Breast milk benefits:
- boosts baby’s immune system
- lowers risk for type 1 + type II diabetes
- reduces risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- lowers asthma risk
- breast-fed babies tend to have lower hospitalization rate
Again, whether you choose to breastfeed your child (or if you are not able to) or not is a decision that is entirely up to you.
But if you are questioning whether or not breast milk is vegan and whether breastfeeding supports a vegan lifestyle, the answer is a resounding yes!