What's for Tea Teddy? Raising a Vegan Baby.

by Samantha Tesfamariam


Samantha has spent the last 12 years working in public relations on brands across the music, fashion, gaming and beverage industries.


She holds a Batchelor of Science in Sociology, Culture & New Media. She lives in London with her husband and son and is currently on maternity leave.  Follow her on Instagram @whatsforteateddy

“The Vegans are coming”!! It’s the phrase often jokingly used when my husband and I visit friends and family. We send non-vegans into a state of panic over what to feed us and with anyone new, we’re met with the usual raised eyebrows and expression – ‘oh you’re one of those couples’!!


“So why are you vegan? Don’t you miss meat? How long are you doing this for? What do you eat? And what about Teddy (our son), will he be vegan too?”

If you had asked me a couple of years ago, whether we would be following a plant-based diet, I would have laughed at the prospect – my husband’s mantra was ‘no meat, no meal’ and I had a serious love of cheese.


That was, until we stumbled across a documentary on Netflix called What the Health – a pretty hard-hitting film outlining the health implications of eating animal products. The film challenges the acceptance that we need animal products in our diet and goes as far to suggest that the leading diseases (cancer, heart disease and diabetes) could all be prevented by following a plant-based diet. With a family history of cancer and heart disease, this really struck a chord, so we went from meat eaters to plant-based in 24 hours and haven’t looked back since.


And it seems we’re not the only ones. According to the Vegan Society, it is these perceived health benefits (lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, lower body mass index, and reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer), that are considered the driving force behind the current trend. In Britain alone, the number of people identifying as vegan has risen by 360% in the last decade and is considered one of Britain’s fastest growing lifestyle movements.


Whilst veganism is on the rise, and in cities like London it’s definitely more common and catered for, I wouldn’t go as far to say its mainstream yet.


I was two months pregnant at the time we made the change and when I proudly announced I was eliminating all animal products from my diet, I was met with a lot of concerned looks from friends, family, and medical practitioners. It was as if I was embarking on a dangerous and irresponsible path that would surely lead to emaciation on both my part and that of my unborn son.  It’s the same look we get now when I say we’re raising Teddy, our 8-month old son, as vegan. I get it - animal product consumption is so engrained into our culture and way of life, it’s hard to think of a world or a dinner plate without it.


The biggest challenge we faced was precisely that, moving the goal posts on what is considered ‘normal’. Take cow’s milk, for example, we’re all taught from a young age that drinking cow’s milk is good for us and it is so common place in our day-to-day lives that any deviation from this, like oat milk is seen as inferior or being difficult.  But is it really? If someone suggested I used human milk on my cereal in the morning, I’d be horrified, but somehow drinking cow’s milk is totally fine…?!


It’s questioning these engrained norms that I found and continue to find the most challenging, especially when it comes to weaning Teddy.


We believe that raising Teddy on a vegan diet will provide him with the best start in life, both physically and also mentally, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t doubted whether we’re doing the right thing.  It’s hard to unpick everything you’ve grown up believing as normal, especially when you feel like you’re always justifying what you’re doing, but I know what we’re doing is right for us.


Weaning was pretty stressful at first – knowing what to cook, how to cook it, and just getting used to the fact that most of my lovingly cooked food would be immediately spat out, but now Teddy’s a bit older, food time is definitely more fun!  I make most of his meals myself as there are really limited vegan ready-made options and most vegetarian ones still include dairy. There are, however, a few British brands that do have some vegan pouches including Ella’s Kitchen and Piccolo – the Ella's Kitchen 'Full of Beans Veggie Feast' is a particular favourite!  I do think there’s a big gap in the market though for a vegan baby food range (which is an idea I’m working on) as so many parents, even if they aren’t vegan, are more conscious now about reducing their child’s meat and dairy consumption.


I set up @whatsforteateddy on Instagram with the aim of charting our weaning journey, to help provide recipe inspiration for others and to also to just include some of our favourite foods too. Each weekend I make a batch of food for the week and experiment with new flavours and textures, but we already have some firm favourites! A typical day’s food for Teddy includes:


BREAKFAST: Porridge with coconut milk, and mashed banana and peanut butter on a couple of strips of toast.


LUNCH: Pureed lentil & vegetables (onion, carrots, leeks, celery, sweet potato, red split lentils and baby vegetable stock), followed by pureed mango.


DINNER: Butternut squash, pasta and vegetables (boiled and pureed butternut squash, leeks, baby pasta, coconut milk, peas, spinach, basil leaves), followed by coconut yoghurt and pureed apple.


SNACKS: Sliced banana sticks, Ella’s Kitchen Apple & Cinnamon rice cakes, roasted sweet potato sticks.


People often ask if we’ll ever go back to eating meat – I can honestly say we don’t miss it and I can’t imagine we will.  I think I’ll always have a bit of a craving for cheese and on the odd occasion do allow myself a small amount but on the whole, we feel this is a lifestyle choice that we’ll stick to.


As for Teddy, we hope to show him how to eat healthily and to understand where meat and dairy come from, to question the ‘norm’ and give him the tools to make his own informed choices when he’s older.


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