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Breastfeeding for vegetarian and vegan mothers

Breast milk provides your baby with many important nutrients. A proper diet is key to the quality of your milk. Here are some tips for vegetarian and vegan mothers.

A healthy, balanced diet is essential for any breastfeeding mother (see tip on diet during breastfeeding). Your baby gets nourishment from the vitamins and nutrients in your diet through your breast milk. But if you’re not getting enough of a specific nutrient it can be problematic for its development. Especially long-time vegetarians and vegans may be affected by a lack of nutrients.

Breastfeeding as a vegetarian
A vegetarian diet where you don’t eat meat but eat animal products such as milk and eggs can be very balanced, and in most cases vegetarians get sufficient nutrients. However, since more nutrients are required while breastfeeding, vegetarian mothers should make sure they’re getting enough dairy products and protein-rich foods such as tofu and pulses. They should also be sure of getting sufficient vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, if necessary in the form of supplements. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreparable damage to the central nervous system. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you’re at risk of a nutrients deficiency and what you should be paying particular attention to.

Breastfeeding as a vegan
Vegans don’t eat any animal products at all, which means they don’t get enough of certain vitamins and nutrients in their diet. This applies particularly if you’ve been a vegan for a longer time. In this case you may be lacking iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc. Since this can lead to serious problems in the development of your baby, a vegan diet is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers. Given that it can take several years for your body’s reserves to be completely depleted, you may well have enough nutrients during your first pregnancy or period of breastfeeding and only experience a deficiency the second or third time round. If despite this you opt to breastfeed on a vegan diet, it’s important to have your doctor check your diet and take supplements to make up for any deficiencies

Any more questions?
If you have questions related to breastfeeding and motherhood, as an insured member of SWICA you can call the doctors and healthcare professionals at sante24 for expert advice, free of charge, and around the clock. Tel. +41 (0)44 404 86 86.

Swica is also supporting the Breastfeeding Campaign 2017 which is running from May to July in German-speaking Switzerland. You’ll find more information at