Earlier this month, a 14-month-old baby suffering from severe malnutrition and weighing what a 3-month-old infant should weigh was rushed to a Milan hospital by his grandparents. The child’s parents fed him a vegan diet without proper supplementation.

The 2-year-old child had a congenital heart defect, which was exacerbated by extremely low calcium and iron levels, and he was forced to undergo emergency surgery. His calcium and iron levels were so low, in fact, that they were barely above what is needed to survive.

Italian authorities have removed the parents’ custodial rights to the child. [1]

Luca Bernardo, director of pediatrics at the Milan hospital that took the boy in, said:

“It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition, and we certainly do not want to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision. But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron.

“This forces us to reflect on uncommon feeding regimes, even if in this case it was complicated by a cardiac malformation.” [2]

Nearly 3% of the population in Italy is vegan, and 4 other children have been hospitalized for malnutrition there in the past 18 months.

Babies Unnecessarily Dying from Malnutrition

Last June, a 2-year-old was hospitalized in Genoa and spent several days in intensive care after doctors discovered she was suffering from vitamin deficiencies and low levels of hemoglobin.

Also last June, an 11-month-old boy, whose parents are vegans, was treated for severe malnutrition in Florence.

Similar cases have occurred in other countries, as well.

In 2007, a vegan couple were given life sentences after their 6-week-old baby died of starvation in 2004. The baby had been fed a diet of primarily soy milk and apple juice. A jury found the parents guilty of murder, manslaughter, and cruelty to children.

Then, in 2011, a French couple were charged with child neglect after their 11-month-old baby died from vitamin deficiencies.

Not Condemning Veganism

But don’t read this article and think I’m condemning parents for trying to feed their children a healthy diet; quite the contrary. As several media outlets have already pointed out, veganism doesn’t kill children. No, neglectful parenting does that.

Can we all agree that feeding a 6-week-old baby nothing but soy milk and apple juice is questionable?

Experts say that when young children are fed a proper vegan diet, they can grow up consuming all the necessary vitamins and nutrients.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states in its Eat Right publication that “well-planned vegetarian and eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers.”

Breast-feeding mothers who don’t consume milk products and eggs should take supplements or eat fortified foods for vitamins B12, vitamin D, calcium, and iron, according to the academy, which also advises parents to consult a dietitian.

Read: Veganism and B12 Deficiency: One Danger of Avoiding Meat

The child rushed to the hospital in Milan, too, should have been given iron and calcium supplements. [3]

Sources:

[1] Newser

[2] Fox News

[3] The Washington Post


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.