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vegan toddler not thriving, anyone go through this before?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

So my DD's Pedi has given us 3 weeks to fatten up our vegan toddler by adding soy formula to her soy milk. They said if they are not happy with her weight gain with the formula when we go in again they are going to recommend we put her on whole cows milk. She weaned herself last month from the breast at 19 months despite my wish she would continue nursing it was obviously not going to happen. She is 33 inches tall and is 19.10lbs at 20 months. I guess she is not even on the charts anymore. I knew she was skinny and have been worried myself but the doctors concern really put our fears over the top when we went in late for her 18 month exam a few days ago. My husband and i have been vegan for 10 years and we take it pretty seriously. The idea of drinking cow's milk makes me want to gag a little. So, yeah, it is a no-brainer that we would feed our daughter a vegan diet too. While i am frustrated with them for suggesting it i told them that if it is a matter of my daughters health then i am willing to make an exception...i am terrified that if we do not comply we will get like DHS called on us or something horrible like that. Also, bottom line, i see those ribs poking out and i KNOW she is to skinny, i didn't need her doctor to tell me, it was just the icing on the cake. So we are pretty knowledgeable about vegan diet...She has lots of olive oil & vegan butter on her veggies, she eats coconut bars, soy and coconut yogurts, tofu, and nut butters...but it apparently it still isn't enough for her. *sigh* her picky eating probably isn't helping matters either. So i'm not sure exactly what i want except to know if there is anyone else out there that is vegan and has gone through something like this? What was the outcome? I always imagined the first time my daughter ate non-vegan food would be like her grandmother secretly sneaking her and ice cream cone. I never imagined i would be the person to feed my daughter un-vegan foods. greensad.gif

post #2 of 27

Let me say that I am not vegan, but I had 2 FTT toddlers and they ate lots of vegan things.

 

Consider nut butters. My ped. told me the benifit of the fat in them outweighed the chance of allergy (just spread thin so it's not thick and a choking hazard).

 

Avacado. My kids didn't go for it so much, but some love it.

 

Fried tofu, especially with dip! I just wet and cover in breadcrumbs. Fry until it's nice and brown. Really yummy. 

 

Really I would talk to them about nuts and seeds (unless you are doing that already). I think they are the best to add to her diet to add fat & calories.

post #3 of 27

OK just remembered also sour cream (they make it soy, right? If not sorry).

 

I made smoothies with sour cream & bananas thinning it with a bit of milk. Also potatoes with sour cream, and bananas & sour cream (YUM). You can also make lovely saucy pasta alfredo sauce.

 

Good luck!

post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the food tips but she already eats all kinds of nut butters (she has 3 TBSP for breakfast with raisins as it was all i could get her to eat) and will eat some tofu (the pre flavored kind, soy boy?) but wont try anything i make at home with it. She likes Avacado but will only take about 3 bites before she is bored with it. I haven't thought about sour cream, i could try it but i have a feeling she wouldn't even try it. She is so picky!

post #5 of 27

What about smoothies made with the cream from coconut milk and almond butter? I make mine out of fresh banana (so blender isn't overwhelmed,) frozen mangoes, frozen blueberries, frozen spinach, almond butter, coconut milk (for flavor,) rice milk, and honey. Honest to god it tastes like chocolate. You could add as much coconut cream as possible as long as it still tasted good. My 3 and 5 year olds drink them up. In the past I used to add a raw egg from one of our pet chickens.

 

I know you're vegan, but would free range eggs be better than milk? (For me it would)

 

I also make ice cream out of coconut cream. I skim the cream off a can of coconut milk then whip the cream with an electric mixer. After 3 or 4 minutes I add 2 tbsp of honey and a tbsp of vanilla. We don't have one of those little ice cream makers so I put it in a bowl in the freezer. Every 20 minutes I stir and scrape the sides. After a couple hours it's ice cream. It gets really hard if you freeze it longer, though you could put it in dixie cups and make popsicles. (Cover with aluminum foil, put a slit in center, and put in popsicle stick.)

 

I'd use coconut cream and coconut oil in as much as possible.

 

I wouldn't want to get a child that young hooked on sweets, but it may be a lessor evil thing. What about vegan pudding. Many recipes, but I blend an avocado, a banana, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/4 cup liquid (for you I'd use coconut cream,) and 1 to 4 tablespoons honey. Maybe you could try it without the cocoa. 

 

Talk with the doctor about using coconut milk in lieu of cow's milk. Take in a carton or can to show them the nutritional content. I'm not sure of the fat/calorie content of the coconut drinks, but since they are probably fortified, that might please the doctor if the fat/calories are same as whole cow's milk. Or ask about adding coconut oil to foods instead of cow's milk.

post #6 of 27

 

19 pounds and 33 inches! That is a beanpole... my 17 month old dd2 is almost there at 18 pounds and 31 inches. She has not gained weight in four months. And we feed her all kinds of meat and dairy. (DH is vegetarian, I am not now but used to be vegan.) She is a picky eater and doesn't take more than a few bites of anything at once. She is weaning from the breast, takes a bottle of cow's milk formula at night with dh before bed. We can't fatten her up, and she's actually lost ounces here and there.

 

Have you considered that she might just be a skinny minny? How's her energy? Mood? Sleep? Hearing about cow's milk from the ped is just so... god they just think it is the be-all end-all. There's no guarantee it will work for your kid, it aint workin' for mine. We have been running tests on her to find out if anything is "wrong" and it doesn't look like there is. She's fine with her activity and mood, her stools are fine etc.

 

The one thing we did on the advice of a ped GI specialist is to add compounded elemental zinc to her diet to hopefully spark her appetite. We think it has helped over about 3 weeks, and we'll know better when we weigh her in about ten days. Or maybe she just decided to eat more.

 

Good luck... it sucks to doubt your mommy/lifestyle instincts. You CAN put together a vegan diet that is perfectly healthy for your child, assuming she has no underlying issues. I raised dd1 vegan for about 3 years and she thrived on it. Sunday Crepes had a lot of good ideas.

 

 

post #7 of 27

Your child needs vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from real food, not cow's milk. My daughter's pediatrician tried to send us to a FTT clinic when she didn't gain weight for about a year (between 1 and 2 years old...). But my daughter was incredibly healthy, extremely energetic, and ate a varied complete vegan diet. Eventually she did gain weight.

 

I think you should look at your daughter's diet and whether or not she seems to be "failing to thrive". Is she happy, healthy, energetic, developing cognitively and physically? Then the 19 lbs doesn't mean much! 

 

You might want to look into whether or not she is filling up on liquids (ie soymilk) and if that is preventing her from eating real solid foods. At 20 months, children are "picky" by nature. My current 18 month old only wants to eat frozen blueberries all day one day and then will eat anything and everything a week later. Keep offering everything, veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados and so on. Smoothies are good and you can sneak a lot into them. Hummus and it's many variations pack a lot of calories. Soymilk may be fortified but it doesn't contain the nutrients and vitamins present in real food that kids need to grow and be healthy.

 

I would make sure she's getting enough B vitamins (esp b12) and vitamin D and perhaps a DHA supplement too.

 

Also, you don't need to do anything your doctor tells you to do! Find a new doctor, or just don't go back. If you think your daughter is healthy and thriving, then keep doing a good job feeding her and nurturing her. She will grow!

post #8 of 27

A pp mentioned zinc and I just wanted to pipe up and say that's something worth looking into. My little dude is on the skinny side and I recently began adding a vegan "bone builder" vitamin to his smoothies - which contains zinc. I really feel like his appetite has taken off. TOTALLY anecdotal of course, but it's worth looking into. Vegan diets *can* be low in zinc, and zinc deficiency *can* really suppress the appetite.

 

I think there's some other great advice in theis thread. Mama, you have my sympathies. I imagine it must be really difficult to be in that situation.

post #9 of 27

Is she really failing to thrive?  Or is she just thin and not carrying around extra weight?  For instance, does she have energy and strength to do age appropriate things?  Is her immune system good (i.e. is she weak or unwell often)?  If her only issue is weight, I wouldn't let it phase me at all.  My kids have been vegan since birth, my oldest is 11, my others are 7.5, 5, and 5mo.  All of my toddlers dropped off the chart, around 1.5-2 years of age, all the while advancing physically and mentally beyond expectations for their age.  I felt that if they were truly not thriving, they would be not thriving in all areas of their physical/emotional/mental growth, and not just "not fattening up".  There's a big difference.

 

My now-5yo was almost exactly your daughter's size at her age, definitely the most petite of my kids, and she's also strong and healthy and very bright for her age.  Her lack of excess body fat hasn't been a detriment at all.  However, she did nurse until she was 3+ and ate a very high raw diet, so I didn't have to worry about her not getting nutrients. 

 

If I were going to suggest anything, it would be adding as much raw food to your diet as possible.  Green smoothies were a favorite for my daughter at that age.  (We blended up raw greens, bananas, frozen fruit, nut butters.)  Also, Artisana coconut butter.  It's not just coconut oil, it's raw coconut blended and slightly dehydrated into a "nut butter".  I think it's a good way to get some healthier saturated fats into the diet, and it can be dressed up with things like agave, cocoa powder, goji berries, hemp seeds, etc.  I would add some sweetener (like agave or maple) and make little "drop cookies" with it and then chilling them in the fridge.  It was like those candy haystacks!  But most of the time the kids ate it plain by the spoonful.  That coconut butter was so incredible. :D

 

Also, it's probably been mentioned already but watch the amount of soymilk that your toddler is drinking, and really try to limit it.  I would never ever count on any kind of soy milk (or other vegan milk product) to be a substitute for actual food.  Breastmilk (or even raw animal milk) is an entirely different thing than cartons of soy/coconut/almond milk in that it actually IS food.  Soy milk and its ilk aren't nutritious like real milk, it's just meant to give us vegans something to dip our cookies in and pour on cereal; it's all about getting that familiar taste and texture.  It's not meant to substitute anything nutritious, it's more for fun.

 

I'm not sure what I would choose if I were in your situation where the baby was already weaned, because there really isn't an acceptable substitute for breastmilk, not even solid food; I truly believe human babies are meant to get breastmilk for a few years to make up for these toddler years where they don't eat enough or a wide enough variety.  So...actually I do know what I would do in that situation, I'd probably get raw goat milk from my neighbor.  Even though I've been vegan 11 years, if I truly felt like my child couldn't eat enough solid food to make up for not getting breastmilk at a very young age, then I'd find something for the interim. 

 

However, since you don't have any reason to think that your toddler is actually deficient in anything, you should just push nutrient dense foods like you've been doing, and find a new doctor if you suspect he will continue to give you a hard time. :)

 

 

 

 

post #10 of 27

I can only offer one potential tip, and maybe you are already doing this.  Let her graze throughout the day rather than sitting down for specific meals.  In Dr. Sear's Baby book, he suggests using a muffin tin to put various healthy goodies and just leaving it out.  Lots of toddlers don't want to sit long enough to eat a bunch.  Also, you mentioned your dd being very picky. . . is she overly sensitive to textures of foods, or is it the flavor?  My dd is very picky and is now 11.  She has issues with taste but the biggest barrier is texture.  We used to add all sorts of stuff to smoothies for her.  For the record she wasn't being raised vegan but has never been willing to dring cow's milk or eat eggs (along with 100 other things).  So, just because the Dr. says "feed her cow's milk" doesn't mean she will accept it anymore than anything else.

 

Amy

post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone, i REALLY really appreciate everyone's feedback and that everyone has been really nice to me even though this is rather controversial. I really liked Sunday Crepes coconut smoothies idea and might pick up some stuff today and see if i can get her to drink a smoothie. I am a bit worried about how now that she is drinking the formula (she REALLY likes is, i tried it and is is gross!) that she is drinking like 4 cups of soymilk a day now and almost seems to be eating LESS solids then she was before, i guess because the milk is really thick and is filling her up...i feel SO conflicted! Some of you give me hope that maybe we don't have to end her veganism but i don't think it would be wise for me to do a no-show at the drs as suggested simply because they may very well call someone on me if they think i am being neglectful. At this point i am thinking this is going to be my plan of action: try to fatten her up as much as i can with vegan foods in the next few weeks, pray to god it works and they don't push cows milk again. if this doesn't work and they say i should give her cows milk i am going to ask if they can refer me to a nutritionist so that they can help me come up with a meal plan. I feel like these doctors don't know much about veganism and have probably never even looked at the nutritional info on the back of some vegan foods like soymilk. At least then if i go to a nutritonalist and they still push cow's milk i will know i am at least talking to someone who knows their stuff and may be willing to work with me to come up with something i am more comfortable with even if it does end up including occasional dairy.

 

And i think several of you asked if she was really not thriving. You are right it is worded wrong. She is actually doing REALLY amazing mentally. She already counts to 10 and says over 200 words. She was realitivly early crawling at 6.5 months and walking before 11 months. She seems to have bouts of really active silly periods where she jumps around and is hyper but mostly she is a pretty mellow girl. Super shy and clingy sometimes though. I would say that there is a pretty good chance that she is just a tiny girl. Both my husband and i are small and i was really skinny as a tot too.

 

Anyway, i will give and update on how her appointment goes. Thanks again!

 

 

post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by KellyandBean View Post

Hi everyone, i REALLY really appreciate everyone's feedback and that everyone has been really nice to me even though this is rather controversial. I really liked Sunday Crepes coconut smoothies idea and might pick up some stuff today and see if i can get her to drink a smoothie. I am a bit worried about how now that she is drinking the formula (she REALLY likes is, i tried it and is is gross!) that she is drinking like 4 cups of soymilk a day now and almost seems to be eating LESS solids then she was before, i guess because the milk is really thick and is filling her up...i feel SO conflicted! Some of you give me hope that maybe we don't have to end her veganism but i don't think it would be wise for me to do a no-show at the drs as suggested simply because they may very well call someone on me if they think i am being neglectful. At this point i am thinking this is going to be my plan of action: try to fatten her up as much as i can with vegan foods in the next few weeks, pray to god it works and they don't push cows milk again. if this doesn't work and they say i should give her cows milk i am going to ask if they can refer me to a nutritionist so that they can help me come up with a meal plan. I feel like these doctors don't know much about veganism and have probably never even looked at the nutritional info on the back of some vegan foods like soymilk. At least then if i go to a nutritonalist and they still push cow's milk i will know i am at least talking to someone who knows their stuff and may be willing to work with me to come up with something i am more comfortable with even if it does end up including occasional dairy.

 

And i think several of you asked if she was really not thriving. You are right it is worded wrong. She is actually doing REALLY amazing mentally. She already counts to 10 and says over 200 words. She was realitivly early crawling at 6.5 months and walking before 11 months. She seems to have bouts of really active silly periods where she jumps around and is hyper but mostly she is a pretty mellow girl. Super shy and clingy sometimes though. I would say that there is a pretty good chance that she is just a tiny girl. Both my husband and i are small and i was really skinny as a tot too.

 

Anyway, i will give and update on how her appointment goes. Thanks again!

 

 


Definitely try smoothies in place of the soymilk (you can even add formula powder to it if you wanted the extra assurance of that) so that she can get more foody food in her.  A nutritionist is a good idea to appease your doctor and give you some confidence in raising your child vegan, assuming you find one who knows more about veganism than your doctor.

 

In my post above, I recommended finding a new doc, but I didn't mean to do a no-show at the doc.  We don't really "do" doctors but with my youngest we were on WIC when he was little, and they did home visits for new moms for the first 2 years.  It was my first baby and I thought it was just a fun and free educational thing.  I got to be friends with our nurse and everything was fine until he got around 18mo and the visiting nurse became alarmed because he wasn't putting on weight anymore and had to report us to her supervisor.  At that point I wanted to leave the program and I was advised by the home visit supervisor to see a pediatrician to make sure he was "thriving" so that the WIC program could put in his file that everything was okay regardless of his small size and we could be released from the program.  Otherwise they might have had to report me for neglect or something.  She wasn't clear what the consequences would be if we didn't, and she wasn't threatening (she herself was a vegetarian) but it was for our best interest to play along.  I did take him to a pediatrician; luckily we have a large Seventh Day Adventist community here and the doctor was used to seeing vegan kids; he didn't think anything about our diet or about DS being small (DH and I are both small and I was practically miniature when I was young; the doc took that into account).  We got the doctor's note, dropped out of the WIC program altogether, and that was that. 

 

The only other doctor we've seen over the years also has a lot of Adventist/vegan patients and always says how they are the healthiest kids.  We've only gone to see her a few times over the years (mostly for me, she's a family practitioner) and she's not an alarmist at all.  It's nice to know I can take my kids to her if I need to without her automatically blaming everything on veganism.

 

 

 

post #13 of 27
Quote:
Both my husband and i are small and i was really skinny as a tot too.
Did you tell your ped that? Did your parents keep any records from when you or your DH were little, like in a baby book or something? I would bring in any information like that to the pediatrician so they can see this is genetics, not diet. If the pediatrician has that info, chances are way lower that they'd be worried enough to call CPS. Definitely go to a dietician because you could get some extra info and advice and also let your ped know about that.

I've also got small kids and have consulted with dieticians about it. It sounds like you're addressing the healthy fats & oils, but I just wanted to tell you the other part of it is protein--upping her protein intake would help her with weight gain. One dietician suggested that I make little bean patties and fry them in a bunch of oil. That gives fats and protein all in one go. My little ones got really thin around that age, too and you could see their ribs. That is such an active age! I'd cut way back on the soy milk, that is a LOT of servings of soy to have in one day.
post #14 of 27

I am currently and omni and this sounds like bias on the part of the doctor. My 4 1/2 yr old foster-adoptive daughter is 29 lbs and had failure to thrive as an infant. At the WIC office they said she was underweight but at the ped office a couple weeks ago the Dr just called her "petite". I am sure if we were vegan they would have blamed it on that, but she is drinking cow's milk and is still skinny, so cow's milk isn't the answer.

post #15 of 27

My now six year old has been on the lowest end of the weight for stature and BMI charts her whole life (currently, she is 6 1/2 years old, 50 inches tall and 46 pounds. She's long and lanky, but I can still wear her in an Ergo!). To compound things, I'm overweight (metabolism and eating habits got all screwed up from taking prescription methamphetamines between the ages of 8 and 18), so the initial thought of most people looking at her is that she isn't just naturally thin. But her DAD is super-thin, and so was my father. It scares me sometimes, especially since she is a tricky eater - both picky about textures and flavors and unenthusiastic about food in general.

 

Something I make when she's on one of her "I subsist on sunshine and air" kicks is a smoothie popsicle - I load a smoothie up with coconut and nut butter, plus veggies and fruit and then sweeten it and pour it into popsicle molds. 

post #16 of 27

DS2 was diagnosed FTT as well because he was not on the growth charts. He still might not be, I am not sure. However, I know that he is exactly like my DH (and SILs) was as a child. DH is still very thin, but healthy. It is jsut his build. DS1 was not very big either, but stayed at the bottom of the growth charts til about age 5 then has stayed about average. DS3 seems like he may be heading in the same direction as well. I agree with previous posters about considerign her attitude, activity level, and over all health. Does she get sick alot. Are her eyes sunken in with dark circle? Also what were you and her fater like as kids? Were either of you on the small side? What about your parents or siblings? Good luck!

post #17 of 27

I have a son who has always been on the low end of the charts too (similar to catnip's child, but maybe a little smaller).  He's 7 now, and our doctor has never been worried about him at all.  Some people are naturally thin.  Vegan diets cause some people to be on the thin side, but just because someone is small or thin does not mean that they are unhealthy.  From what two different doctors have told me, it's more productive to look at energy levels, physical and mental developmental milestones, individual growth curves, etc. than to just look at body size when evaluating the health of an child.  That being said, I know it is easy to worry. 

 

My son has been gaining more weight ever since my parents moved in next door.  They buy all the expensive pre-made vegan desserts (like SoDelicious coconut ice-cream bars) and feed him lots of carbs and sugar.  They also cater to his extreme pickiness by making sure that he eats at each meal even if they have to make a different meal just for him.  They've been giving him more calories, and so he gains more weight.  I'm not always on board with their techniques or the amount of junkfood they feed, but they are his grandparents, so I give them some leeway.

 

If you do end up having to give your child cow's milk, it doesn't mean that she will always have to drink it.  It can just be a temporary situation and eventually she can go back to eating the same way as your family normally does. 

 

 

post #18 of 27

SPIRULLINA!!

 

Spirullina is one of the best things you could feed your child. It is high in protein, not to mention tons of vitamins and minerals. Dr. Gabriel cousens reccomends a tablespoon a day for infants who cannot breastfeed, because it is so similar in nutritional value to mothers milk. My daughter is still breastfeeding, but I give her 1 teaspoon a day in a mashed up banana.

post #19 of 27

Someone may have mentioned this (I didn't read thru all the comments) but anemia can sometimes cause appetite loss even if there aren't other symptoms. Did they check her iron levels or do you give her any vitamins with iron?

post #20 of 27

Yeah, watch the drinking of too many calories in place of food trap. Too much milk (whether dairy or not) or juice can lead to malnutrition. They get filled up on the liquids, don't eat adequately, so end up malnourished.

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