Help A Reader Out! Introducing: Bonzai Community Crowdsourcing

March 16th, 2015 - filed under: Furthermore » Feedback

Vegan babies

This post is about vegan babies, so here’s your daily dose of cuteness. OMG VEGAN BABIESSSSS!

So as I’m sure it goes without saying, I get a lot of email. Like, a LOT a lot. And for the most part I can keep up with them . . . well okay, I could keep up with them, before grad school. These days it’s more like they pile up over the course of the quarter, as I try feebly to chip away during my free hours, but mostly just allowing them to increase indefinitely, until I finally get a chance to sit down and work through the whole bursting inbox over the between–quarters break.

At least, that’s how it’s gone so far, and that’s why I had an idea.

One of my very favorite things about this community that we’ve built here, is that it’s composed of the most incredible people. Smart and compassionate and worldly and wise – you guys are freaking amazing and you never fail to impress me. So “Hey!” I thought, “why not just put some of these questions to them??


You guys are the *perfect* crowdsourcing focus group. With all the combined wisdom of this readership, I’m sure you guys can help each other out!

So we’ll start today, with this heartfelt email from a very very very long-time Bonzai reader. Some background, she is Estonian and lives in Estonia, and recently gave a public interview about raising vegan children which has led to some backlash. She writes:

I have something I wanted to discuss with you … as I’m raising a vegan kid (3 months now, exclusively breastfed, not even getting any other foods yet) and the society in Estonia is very conservative when it comes to different views on traditional values or raising children, I’ve already had arguments and problems with how I want to raise my son. I’m not afraid to stand for what I know is right, and I’ve got the USDA nutrition database, ADA’s position on vegan diets and other Western countries’ national nutritional guidelines to use as proof (because our national nutritional information still claims that you can’t even get all essential amino acids from plants etc), but the public attention was very hard for my parents, especially my mom. But I’m the kind of person who just can’t sit still or be quiet about my views.

Of course, I also got much support from other vegan parents who are basically hiding and afraid to ever tell anyone they raise their children vegan. It’s very very hard to get vegan or even vegetarian food here in kindergartens or schools. Later I’ve had more arguments with my parents about veganism and my son. My child’s father and family isn’t vegan but they’re very supportive about it. But as we don’t live together, my son and I live with my parents, I have to be double strong and also probably extra influential in the future when I have to start explaining to my son why the rest of the people eat so differently and think that it’s morally ok to eat animals etc. Of course veganism can be socially quite difficult as it’s such a new ‘trend’, and I know that it’s definitely much much easier in the USA (and also in many other European countries with more open societies than ours) so it must be much easier for you, too, but I assume that it’s not always, or has been, the case?

Anyway, a long story short — I would love to hear either directly from you, or if you ever have the time to write an article about it to share on your blog, if you’ve ever had problems, arguments, anything like that when it comes to being vegan and raising your child vegan. With your family, relatives, the society? It’s been so hard lately that I already dread what the future brings, if my son will feel too different from the rest of the people, that I’ve considered raising him vegetarian/omnivorous or just moving away from Estonia. Of course, if every vegan moves away, who will change the society here? I’ve also started to have thoughts that maybe all vegans are just abnormally sensitive people and have a distorted view of reality? Like, maybe it IS ok to kill animals even if you have good alternatives? There is no absolute truth anyway. Ridiculous, but I’ve been having these thoughts lately.

Much love,
*name withheld*

So the truth, guys, is that I actually have *not* had to deal with any negativity surrounding raising Waits vegan. Not from friends or family or society or anything. I realize I am incredibly lucky/privileged! But yeah, I feel like I’m not the best person to address this question.

But I’m sure that a lot of you guys out there have gone through something like this (lord knows I’ve heard the horror stories!), so please, if you’ve ever dealt with anything similar, please share your story and your advice for how to deal with it. I have ideas, of course, but personal experience carries so much more weight.

And so I turn to you. Help a reader out!

Thank you so much.

♥ ♥ ♥

PS – Ohmigod you guys I wish you could see a picture of her baby HE IS SO CUTE. Vegan baby chubs for days. I die.

  • Lili

    I do not have children (yet?), but as I am considering it, I can relate to all this negativity from people about raising vegan kids. My omnivorous husband and I have agreed that if we have kids, they’ll be vegans, even though he is not entirely convinced. He feels it would be difficult to keep any kid on a vegan diet or maybe even traumatic for the kid to not be allowed to eat the same things as everybody else, since in this country veganism is not common at all and there are no good substitutes for items such as cheese or ice cream.

    I think of the possibility of peer pressure in school. How would a kid deal with being the only one who does not eat animals? Would I, as the sole vegan influence, be able to beat that pressure?

    I am not really worried about family pressure, they know better than to meddle with my decisions. I’m actually worried about my family not saying anything to my face, but instead going behind my back and feeding the kid meat because he or she “needs” it.

    Lastly, no I do not think it is an issue of being overly sensitive. I’ve recently taken a course on animal welfare, all very scientific and fact-based, and I am more convinced than ever that the suffering of animals is not justified in order for me to survive because with a little research and planning a well-balanced plant-based diet I’ve managed to do just fine.

  • Jo

    Wow. I am raising a vegan daughter in the UK, and can’t say I’ve had to deal with anything like this. I don’t know your name, but I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I think for some reason (ahem, sexism), it can be even harder in some cultures to raise a vegan boy than a girl. I don’t have an answer, but know that we’re thinking of you.

  • Katie

    Ah, my dear, welcome to motherhood. This is just the beginning of the challenges you will face. Practice now standing up for yourself and for your daughter. It is no longer about your parents, your friends, your extended family. They are failing you; that is a shame, and that is their colossal loss. But it’s about you now, and your baby. You want to raise a man who is sensitive and brave. Have the courage to lead the life that resonates with your soul. The particular issue is irrelevant- veganism, vaccinating, cosleeping, homeschooling, you name it. It doesn’t matter. You will get grief from people who are insecure and fearful. Remember when people give you grief they are talking about themselves- not about you. Courage, mama. The world could use a lot more “overly” sensitive people.

  • Minna T.

    Lili, can I ask where are you from?

  • Meredith

    I think a lot of the stigma surrounding vegans simply stems from ignorance. Not trying to downplay what you are going through, but a little education goes a long way. Maybe do some research and find legit medical trials and other scientific evidence supporting a vegan diet, then you’ll be armed with the tools to prove your point! Hang in there, motherhood is a roller coaster or learning and failing and triumphing and second-guessing. Learning to trust your gut is something that takes patience and diligence, but the end result is a mother who is unwavering in her beliefs!

  • Jennifer

    I don’t have kids yet, but luckily I have an awesome husband who talks about values ahead of time. My husband and I have a pretty much unspoken rule that we are vegan at home, and he occasionally will eat meat or dairy when eating out or at social gatherings. That being said, we both feel that forbidding kids to not eat certain things might lead to them craving it or sneaking it when they get older. LIke if we forbid them from eating turkey at a family Thanksgiving might create a “forbidden fruit” effect. So technically we plan on letting our kids eat whatever they want at friends or family.

    That being said, I don’t have advise on the emotional baggage, but I can say your kid will grow up liking whatever you feed them. I didn’t grow up in a vegan household, but I use to love carob soy milk. My Mom gave it to me, and I thought it was normal. My friend didn’t like soda since she her parents never gave it to her. So try and have confidence that feeding your child properly at a young age will prime them to make good decisions later on.

  • Audrey

    Hi, my son, who is 15 months old, has been vegan since conception. He’s a super healthy and peaceful child. Luckily, judgement from family members has not been an issue for me and my vegan partner,as they have always been respectful of our choice and have always accomodated us. They know exactly why were vegan, as we have talked about it a lot. My own mother recently went vegan after more than 10 years of me telling her about it! There’s hope people!!

    I think you have to follow your instinct when it comes to raising your children and for me raising my son as a vegan is the only ethical choice. I think he’s lucky that he will never have to eat a dead animal in his life, I wish I had that chance!! I also think that we lead by exemple, my father in law, who is an omnivore, is always saying how healthy (and chubby) my son looks and I know it makes him think abour his own choices, that maybe theres another option that’s healthier and better for the world. Hold on to your beliefs and your child will thank you one day for it! That said, I understand how hard it can feel sometimes when it seems like you’re alone in your boat…

  • Reannon

    You’re not alone, vegan mama! We chose to move to Wisconsin to be near my family, but we also chose to live in the most vegan-friendly part of Wisconsin, Madison, to increase the chances that our girls would know other vegan and vegetarian kids, would be able to get soy ice cream on State St., and would be able to eat a vegetarian restaurants. I’m not saying you must go somewhere else to raise your son vegan, of course, but you have to decide what level of struggle you want to deal with — both for you and for him. Being raised in a like-minded community is important for kids, especially at certain developmental stages when being “different” is the last thing a kid will want. So far, we haven’t had any major issues, but once they start school, I imagine that will change. We’re launching Generation Veggie ( next month to create an online community for vegan and vegetarian parents, and we’d love to have you join us. Good luck!

  • vegyogini

    Ack, vegan babies are SO CUTE! I’m happy I got to meet yours yesterday, although he’s definitely not a baby anymore. :) Not having kids of my own, I can only acknowledge your reader for her deep courage and commitment to the absolute best for her child. While she might not have a ton of support in Estonia, she has a world-wide vegan community behind her.

  • Rebecca Carnes

    It can be harsh out there!! Biggest piece of advice is to up your confidence level with being a vegan parent. Research recipes/info online and with books…..Pinterest is my savior for yummy healthy recipes for my son and I:) There are a lot of great vegan blogs out there too for recipes, lifestyle, nutritional information ( Like this one!!) If you’re leading by example then how can they question it? It’s hard but try to take it in stride – people question what they don’t know. Also, there are lots of fun kid’s books out there to help them not feel so alone. When he is old enough do activities like gardening, nature walks, animal sanctuaries, cooking together, even just going on a bug hunt and watching all the critters in your backyard:) My son (almost 3!) is the only vegan in his school and most of our friends are not vegan… I make a point to talk to him about animals and how/why we don’t eat them and on the flip side I tell him that everyone eats differently. Some people do eat chicken and drink dairy milk and that’s ok for them, but we are vegan and that is what’s good for us. Trying to show him that being different is normal and awesome:) If you have confidence he will feel it and gain that confidence from you. It takes constant work – but so worth it to raise a healthy and conscientious little human! Hopefully when the day comes that other kids question him about being vegan he will proudly stand his ground….and show them how yummy his vegan lunch is lolol

    P.S. if you want any info on the books or blogs I use let me know:)

  • Olgui

    Hi everybody,
    I’m a vegetarian mother (not vegan because I eat eggs… some day I will be vegan) and I know it’s more difficult to follow this lifestyle depending where you live.
    I live in Spain and the culture of eating meat is widely spread. It’s even a tradition and when it comes to traditions… wow!!! could be very hard! Fortunately Barcelona city is more open to these lifestyles :-D
    I just want to say: Follow your intuition! What your guts are telling to you. And in a kind way stand your ground.
    For me it works always to be kind and treat the other equal as me. I mean not pretending to be superior because I’m vegetarian. Everybody should follow their own way and if you see that this person is really miles away to understand you don’t waste your energy. Don’t argue with him.
    Just do what you want with love.
    Ps: welcome to mama’s world! ;-D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences Lili!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I felt the same way Jo. We are very lucky that we haven’t had to deal with this. And I’m so sorry that so many vegan mamas DO have to face such difficulty in order to do what they know is right. ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Wise words, thank you Katie!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much for weighing in, Meredith!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks for sharing your perspective Jennifer!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Aubrey!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Reannon! Love what you wrote here, and also really loved your comment on the Oh She Glows facebook today. ;-) Very well put – thank you for being such an articulate and compassionate voice for the animals and for the next generation of veg kids ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It was so great to see you!! Sorry it was so brief, but it was awesome to at least say hi. Yay! Hope you had an awesome concert and an awesome night!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    You’re the best. Thanks Becca!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank sos much for the insight, Olgui. I plan to travel to Spain in the next few years, so this was really interesting for me as well!

  • Reannon

    Thanks so much, Sayward! We’re getting pumped to launch next month! :)

  • Olgui

    You will be welcome to Spain.
    Big cities are more open-minded to veganism :-D
    But in general people here are friendly and sociable.
    Ah! You can use the help of some apps to find veg restaurants like: Happy cow or others

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