By Josie Moody, Office Manager
Vegan pregnancy and parenting—it’s a hot topic for vegan and non-vegan parents alike. Once an inconceivable idea, it’s now becoming more widely recognized as a safe and healthy diet for children of all ages. And in today’s tech savvy world, that information can be made available within seconds.
Today we have the privilege of interviewing one of the many people who help make that information accessible. Not only does she make it accessible, but she also holds space for conversation, questions, and advice. Let’s meet Janet Kearney, a vegan parent herself and the administrator of the Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting Facebook page.
Josie Moody: How did the Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting Facebook page get started?
Janet Kearney: A few years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I tried to find some information on veganism and pregnancy. I found the Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting page, but it was full of spam and only had a few hundred members. I contacted the administrator of the page, and she eventually let me take over.
The group has over twenty-five thousand members now, and I still learn new information every day! Who knew baby poop was such a highly discussed topic?
Josie: What are some of the biggest issues vegan parents discuss on the page?
Janet: The topic of vegan baby formula comes up a lot because it’s just not available. I try to remind parents that as vegans we do our absolute best to avoid animal exploitation, but sometimes we have to make peace with the fact that there’s literally no other choice.* I try to encourage the parents by telling them that they’re doing the best they can.
Vegan parents also express frustration about others’ disapproval of their decision to raise their children vegan.
The best advice I’ve heard—and provided—is to just give it time. Vegan parents don’t need to light the bridges and never look back. Most of the time these comments come from well-intentioned family members or friends who genuinely care about the well-being of the children. I try to remind parents that the majority of us were not born vegan, so we need to try to be understanding of others’ fears.
*There are soy formulas available, but almost all brands are not strict 100% vegan formulas due to processing vitamin D3 with sheep’s wool.
Josie: What’s the biggest shift you’ve seen in vegan parenting since becoming a mother?
Janet: The biggest shift is just a growth in veganism in general. A few years ago, telling someone my husband and I planned to raise our children vegan would lead to an inbox full of emails—sent by concerned friends who’d pass along links to pages that discussed how raising children vegan was a bad idea. Now, we tell people our kids are vegan and they engage in a positive conversation. They’re usually quick to tell us about other vegan families they know.
Josie: I’ve heard a lot of parents express concern that if their kids are vegan they will “miss out” on “normal” life experiences, such as Halloween or friends’ birthday parties. Is this something that comes up on the Facebook page?
Janet: Yes, it does. Personally, my kids haven’t missed out on anything. Put simply, other people adapt. And if on the occasion my kids go to a party where I know there won’t be anything for them to eat, I just bring along a cupcake and snacks. If it’s a pizza party, I’ll ask the host if I can chip in a few dollars for some vegan slices or I’ll bring some of my own.
Josie: I heard you’re going to be starting a Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting website. When will that go live?
Janet: Hopefully we’ll launch the site in August. We’ll have a vegan doctor, midwife, doula, and nutritionist on board, along with recipe developers. We’ll also feature other people who just write their own amazing blogs and vlogs. It’s all coming together.
Josie: One last question—what are your and your kids’ favorite snacks?
Janet: My kids and I love crackers with hummus, strawberries, or any kind of fruit. Nice cream is a big hit in our house—so big that I’ve wondered if I could grow bananas in the snowy climate of New York. I make baked tots for them by mashing sweet potatoes up into little balls. I bake them in the oven until they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Apple slices dipped in peanut butter, covered in fine coconut dust always leaves an empty plate.
Josie: Thank you for taking the time to chat, Janet, and for the time and effort you put into making online resources available for vegan parents.