I actively try to avoid being one of those vegans who constantly complain about other people’s food choices and lifestyles, but a recent experience really rattled my cage and I felt like I needed to share it with you.A few weeks ago, we had a weaning visit from our Nursery Nurse, who is part of the Health Visiting Team. Isla has since started solids and is loving all the various options we have been presenting her with, although milk is still her favourite. While the weaning advice we received wasn’t incredibly imaginative and they didn’t really want to go into baby-led weaning at all (although they weren’t opposed to it), I was happy with how the conversation went and confident in our choice to raise Isla on a plant-based diet and let her self-feed. So far, so good.
When I looked at the materials they left us, however, I got pissed off. Apart from one NHS leaflet, they were all compiled by the dairy lobby. Every single suggested meal incorporated dairy, milk allergies were dismissed as “less common than people think” and absolutely zero alternative nutrient sources were offered. If I had absolutely no clue about nutrition, I would have been led to believe that my child needs roughly five servings of dairy a day and that she would be severely malnourished if she didn’t get them. But even ignoring the wildly inaccurate nutritional claims, I have a really serious issues with the fact that the NHS are distributing these leaflets.
The wonderful thing about the NHS, and any state-based health service, is that it should be independent of marketing ploys and industrial cronyism. It’s a fantastic source of consistent information and a widely trusted healthcare provider. If I’m worried about something health-related, I visit the NHS website, and unquestioningly accept the information as truth, because, like most people I haven’t a clue about medicine. If an industry is actively sponsoring the information on weaning, however, that negates the advantage of an unbiased, state-led service. While I’m particularly upset by the fact that the dairy industry is so prominent in this situation, the truth is that any industry involvement in our healthcare is a problem. I’m not naive, I know that it’s very common, and that the pharmaceutical industry invest unthinkable amounts of money into their marketing, since they’re not allowed to advertise in the conventional way. I also know that the concept of a completely industry-independent health service is a pipe dream. However, I can’t help but be upset that the healthcare professionals who decided to distribute this leaflet didn’t care about my baby’s health (or any other child’s health) enough to assign some budget to the production of a balanced and impartial information leaflet and sample meal plan.
What are your experiences with NHS services and vegan babies? Apart from this, ours have been positive, but I’d love to hear your stories! Feel free to share in the comment below!