Vegan infant formula: nonexistent?

March 16, 2010

This week’s question was from the Council, to the Council:

“One of our Council members was wondering about baby formula: it appears that there aren’t any vegan versions out there, at least where she lives, since the vitamin D is derived from lanolin (wool) in all of the otherwise vegan varieties. Is anyone aware of a vegan brand that might have been missed, and if not, or in addition to it, what are some alternatives you’ve used or considered?”

OK, before we get to the Council’s advice, here’s the basics from our research on the internet: as of the time of this writing (March 2010,) there are no fully vegan infant formulas.

The only ones that comes up online at all are a brand called Farley’s and Heinz’s Nurture line’s Soya product, both of which were offered in the UK. Both appear to have been Vegan Society approved, but that’s because they’re the same product: Heinz bought Farley’s.

Before those of you outside the UK start calculating what are sure to be insane shipping fees, we’ve got some more bad news: unfortunately, it appears that as of February 2010, the line has been discontinued.

So what’s a vegan parent to do if breastfeeding isn’t an option?

Do your best

Julie had this to say on the matter: “I’m not aware of any vegan formulas, and I’m pretty sure the conclusion in Raising Vegetarian Children is that there aren’t any (or at least there weren’t at the time that the book was published.)

“We’ve been fortunate to never need formula, since both of our kids seem to be champion nursers, but if we found ourselves in a situation where we needed it, I think this would fall pretty easily in the ‘do the best we can’ category, meaning I’d be more than willing to overlook the non-vegan vitamin D if that’s what it took to be able to feed my kid. They can’t grow up to be world-influencingly awesome vegans themselves if they don’t get the nutrition they need as babies, so one way or another their survival and thriving is my top priority.”

Examine other breastfeeding options

I’m no expert on the subject, but as Linda writes, there are people who are. Consult with a local La Leche League group or the IBCLC to see if there are ways to overcome whatever’s preventing you from breastfeeding.

I’m already well outside my areas of knowledge (thank you Council!) and this takes things even further, but Linda also mentioned the possibility of human milk banks, which wouldn’t necessarily be from a vegan woman, but may be worth considering.

Plan for the future generations

As Elaine put it, “we should probably all be contacting baby formula makers and asking for a vegan version. If we do, it won’t be long before a truly vegan baby formula will be readily available in mainstream US stores. Sometimes, I think, being a good vegan parent isn’t just about what we do for and with our children, it’s about acting like a parent for future generations of children so that other parents won’t have to make the kinds of compromises we have to make now.”

With that in mind, here are the contact addresses for some of the major formula makers. If I missed any (and that’s very likely,) please contact us and I’ll update the post.

If you’re looking for your activism action of the week, getting in touch with these companies and politely asking them to market a vegan-friendly formula (INCLUDING vitamin D2 instead of D3) wouldn’t be a bad way to spend your time. Here are links to the various contact forms:

Thanks to Elaine, Steph, Julie, Pippi, and Linda for their help on this one!

Related stories:

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

PippiHoward March 18, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I was in Whole Foods yesterday, wearing baby in a pack carrier, and reading ingredients on a product when I was approached by an employee, a friendly looking woman approx 60 years old.
I noted aloud that the product in hand looked good except for the vitamin D3.
She went on to tell me that vitamin D does not get into my breastmilk and passed on to the baby. What?! She caught me totally off guard for one, and is wrong for another.
I explained the reason I didn't want the product is because Vitamin D3 comes from lanolin. She abruptly informs me that “The animal doesn't die, you know!”
After I picked my chin up off the floor, I tried to defuse the energy of that moment by gently saying “No thanks, but I appreciate your help!” She turned and walked away mumbling.
Anyway…. just thought I would share a moment in the life of a vegan.

busyhappyvegan March 25, 2010 at 1:21 am

Just wanted to post a quick note. I appreciate the advice about exploring breastfeeding options, but formula is an issue for vegan children until the age of about 2, when many children, for various reasons, are no longer breastfeeding. Because of soy milk's low fat content, it is not a good choice for children under the age of 2, so they are supposed to be given soy-based formula until then, to ensure optimal nutrition. My advice: do your best. Best of luck!!

Ryan April 12, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I don’t have a lot of information right now, but apparently there is a vegan-friendly way to produce D3—and a couple companies have picked up on it. New Chapter has a formula called “Bone Strength Take Care” where the note about the D3 says:
“Nutrients are cultured in organic media that may contain: organic milled soy, organic yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), organic maltodextrin, organic gum acacia, organic alfalfa powder, enzymes and Lactobacilli (L. acidophilus, L. bifidus, L. rhamnosus).”
Garden of Life also supposedly has culture-produced D3, but either their explanation is really confusing, or the process involves seeding cultures with animal-sourced D3—which seems to serve no purpose.
Anyway, as supplement manufacturing methods get more advanced, label-reading gets harder—but the likelihood of ingredients being vegan-friendly keeps going up.
That said, I wonder if it’s possible to make your own formula? Using powdered multi-vit mixes, some fermented soy protein (soy concentrate is best avoided for children under 3), and a good fat source (is Udo’s 3•6•9 plus DHA safe for babies?) it should be doable. I doubt it’s harder than making your own vegan pet food, and plenty of people do that.

Jason April 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I’d be more than a little hesitant to try to make my own formula – many people make pet food, but they don’t get into the papers quite as much as those whose children are found malnourished and/or dead from things like feeding them soy milk, like that couple a few years back that gave vegan parents everywhere a black eye… (And no, looking bad isn’t my primary concern here!)

Interesting about the D3 though, I’ll keep an eye on that – D’s been in the news a lot lately, it seems, which isn’t a bad thing!

steph May 11, 2010 at 6:01 am

in australia there are two soy infant formulas; one is vegan (karicare by nurtricia; d2), one is not (S26 soy; d3), and to add to confusion both are marketed as suitable for vegetarians. another point to be aware of is the inclusion of taurine (an organic acid) in infant formula (and energy drinks, for that matter); it can be derrived from animal sources as well as being synthesised so is worth checking with the producer (karicare taurine is synthesised).

personally, i don’t put too much weight in the ‘not a suitable food source for children under 2’ disclaimer on standard soy milk cartons. as long as the diet is balanced and ample good fats are provided, i don’t see there being an issue with fat content. avocado, flaxseed oil in cereal, lsa in smoothies….the options are such that there’s no reason to stress about it.

here, there is one soy milk and one soy yogurt fortified with vit d, but for some insane reason it’s d3, not 2. totally vegan-friendly….as a result my 4.5yr daughter takes a multi with d2, and i’ve just ordered a spray for my son so he had have a morning spray over the darker months, as australia is heading into winter. your article is perfectly timed for me!

Kelly August 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I was in Panacea today (100% vegan grocery store in Toronto) and happened to notice that they sell an infant formula! So apparently a vegan formula exists and is available in Toronto. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry so I did not notice the brand name or read the ingredients, although, I do trust that Panacea does their research. Jason, maybe next time you visit Panacea you could check out the brand and post it for people interested in formula?

Jason August 29, 2010 at 9:40 am

Kelly, I’ve heard (but haven’t confirmed) that the D in that formula isn’t vegan – there’s some kind of back story to it, but I’m not sure of the details so can’t comment further…

Jordi May 17, 2012 at 5:38 am

Hello! I just read the article and I have a couple of questions… I see that the last comment was on august 29th, 2010. So I would like to know if finally someone found a vegan infant formula. I’m looking for it but I can’t find it… I was wondering if there is any vegan infant formula with no soya (for example made of rice) because I’ve read that soya could be problematic for babies. I would like to find organic options to avoid the pesticides and company.
I know that the best option is the breastfeeding, the “mom’s milk”, but I would like to have another option, of course a vegan option, just in case.
I am from Spain, so I guess that will make it harder to find it…
Thanks! (sorry for my english…)

Marco Santos June 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm

i also like to know is someone found a real vegan formula, its unbelievable that there is non yet.. and can someone explain to me why is the soy milk problematic for babys?
tank you

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: