Pregnancy comes with SO MUCH advice, especially for a first time mom. Most advice is well meaning, but the sheer volume of advice itself can be overwhelming. It’s such a time of introspection, and intuitiveness expands as well. That aspect of the growing skill of listening to my body was a great guide for my vegan pregnancy.
For starters, when I became pregnant, I had been vegan for over three years; therefore, it would have been a big adjustment for me to change my diet and eat any other way. By this point, vegan was all I knew anymore, so I didn’t have big reservations about continuing my dietary lifestyle through my pregnancy. There’s also the fact that I have two nutrition degrees, so I knew what my body needed through this stage and how to ensure I was getting all of the nutrients I needed.
With that being said, I didn’t change much about my diet while pregnant. My doctor was supportive and had no concerns since the pregnancy was smooth. I ate plenty of nuts and beans for protein as usual, and took a whole food based prenatal supplement (Rainbow Life brand, they’re very gross but very effective, and only once a day unlike many prenatals on the market), and continued as usual. My biggest dietary concern wasn’t being vegan, it was being balanced and making sure that I was eating enough whole foods and not just vegan sweets and treats.
My appetite went through normal pregnancy appetite drama, ranging from non existent, to very specific, to “inhale as many vegan snacks as possible as quickly as possible”. But I made it through with only one vomiting episode, minimal nausea, and zero diet related issues.
As far as cravings, I did not crave meat (not much at least, I’ll get to that in one second). Actually, I tuned in to my cravings carefully because I didn’t want to deprive myself if I really wanted something during this time. So there was this one sausage biscuit episode where I was reeaally craving a good ole sausage biscuit, but the problem was, I stopped eating red meat way before I went vegan so it had been years since I had sausage. The taste sounded great but not the whole “what the heck is in sausage anyway” aspect. So, Lightlife Gimme Lean sausage came to the rescue and I actually ended up making a fantastic vegan sausage biscuit thanks to that episode. Other than that, my only other cravings were sweets, which I couldn’t eat much of because for some reason sugar sent me on an emotional roller coaster during pregnancy. A large lemonade would lead to a huge cry/whine/yell fest every time so yeah, hubby discouraged the sugar.
Besides my awesome vegan sausage biscuit I discovered, I also leaned on Ripple pea-protein milk pretty heavily. It was high protein for the days when my appetite was low, the chocolate flavor helped to wash down the metallic taste of the prenatal vitamin, and it was fortified with calcium to help meet my growing need. It was a win all around.
At the end of my vegan pregnancy journey, I gained a total of 28 pounds and delivered an amazingly healthy eight pound baby. Thanks to prayer, walking, and my plant based diet, I didn’t need stitches, I lost all of the weight in a week (ok, breastfeeding is partly to thank for that one), and my postpartum healing was amazing. I truly felt great in just a few days post delivery.
If pregnancy is “eating for two”, then breastfeeding must be “eating for two hundred”. Throughout both, I kind of struggled getting as much calories as recommended, and decided to eat according to my body’s requests. There were times during pregnancy that I’d make myself eat a little more, but during breastfeeding my appetite has picked up significantly. I’ve continued to take my prenatal vitamin and have been more lax than usual with my intake of sweets (lots vegan ice cream, yummm) since breastfeeding burns 300-500 calories per day.
I’m currently still breastfeeding, and although I don’t know how my supply would be on a non plant based diet, I haven’t had any major supply issues and my baby is growing perfectly, very healthy, and incredibly strong.
If you’re a mom or you know a mom who’s been vegan for awhile and has some fears about vegan pregnancy/vegan breastfeeding, I’d say: don’t be afraid. Be educated, be open to listening to your body, and be assured that both you and your baby will get all you need if you do those things.
My new journey is raising a vegan baby, and I feel confident that she’ll be well nourished as well until she makes the choice about whether or not to continue this lifestyle for herself.
Have you had a vegan pregnancy / breastfeeding experience? Are you raising a vegan baby? Share your story with me!
Wishing You Much Love and Veggieness,