Is Breast Milk Vegan? [Answered Once and for All]

Whether you’re non-vegan or vegan, you have likely wondered if breast milk is vegan. Since vegans avoid any animal products and milk comes from cows, it’s easy to assume that breast milk isn’t vegan. 

Like myself, those who follow a vegan lifestyle realize that the question posed is more complicated than a simple assumption. 

The good news for mothers-to-be and breastfeeding vegan moms is that breastfeeding is indeed vegan and will not break any of your ethics or values. Let me explain in detail:

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mom holding sleeping baby after pumping breast milk

What’s Veganism?

To understand why breastfeeding is vegan, you first must understand the definition of veganism. Veganism isn’t just a plant-based diet, but that’s part of it.

Typically, vegans don’t eat animals or their byproducts. Some vegans go a step further by not wearing animal products or utilizing them in personal care items, as well.

A strict vegan doesn’t eat meat, of course, but they refrain from many other things. They don’t use moisturizers that have been tested on animals, wear leather, or consume foods that exploit the animal, such as eggs or milk.

The main idea of veganism is to not do anything that exploits animals.

There are a few different types of vegans which I’ll explain below:

  • Dietary vegans tend to avoid any products that exploit animals for human consumption. The primary focus here is on drinks and food. They often choose such a diet to help with health conditions.
  • Ethical vegans typically follow the same food rules as dietary vegans, but they take it one step further. They don’t use products in their daily lives that could involve an animal for human needs or requirements. They don’t attend cat and dog shows, and the like. These vegans focus on reducing animal suffering to benefit humans.
  • Environmental vegans choose the vegan lifestyle to lower their carbon footprint and help the planet. And going vegan for this reason has a drastic impact. You can check out how drastic by using this free environmental impact calculator.

On all three vegan levels, breast milk is vegan.

Why Is Breastfeeding Okay for Dietary Vegans?

There are differences between cow’s milk and breast milk for human consumption. You might be considered an animal, but no one is exploiting you to get the milk.

In fact, you’re producing and offering it to your offspring for their health.

Mammals produce milk that is uniquely and perfectly suitable for their young. It has all the nutrition the baby needs.

A vegan doesn’t believe that the milk produced for a calf is suitable for a human baby for health reasons.

This overlaps with ethical reasons since the calves are removed prematurely from their mothers to boost the supply of commercially-produced milk for human consumption. 

Dietary vegans can rest easy knowing that their breast milk is healthy and best for their baby. Breast milk has various health advantages, such as:

If done with the guidance of your doctor and a nutritionist, vegan diets are generally healthy for any stage of life, which includes infancy and lactation. Some vegans don’t get enough nutrients, so they should supplement in a vegan-friendly way to ensure that their milk is healthy and safe for their babies.

Why Is It Okay for Ethical Vegans to Breastfeed?

I’ve already explained that breastfeeding is your choice and doesn’t exploit animals, which humans are considered part of, so there’s no issue there. In a sense, there isn’t a moral dilemma when you choose to breastfeed your human baby.

Ethical vegans have another part of the equation because they want to show compassion to every living thing.

If you take milk from the calf and give it to a human to consume, this isn’t compassionate. Primarily, the cow and its young can’t give you consent to do this.

Breastfeeding your baby is the ultimate act of compassion and you’ve given consent for it to happen.

Those who cannot breastfeed for various reasons can use donor milk and keep their morals and ideals. Donor milk comes from a woman who consented for it to be taken and used by human babies.

Why Is It Okay for Environmental Vegans to Breastfeed?

Environmental vegans focus on sustainability and how your food choices can affect the environment. You’re reducing the environmental impact by breastfeeding because it’s free as long as you consent.

Of course, you’re only producing breast milk as your baby needs it, so you’re not draining resources, making it environmentally sustainable.

Those who follow an environmentally vegan lifestyle aren’t going to increase their food consumption enough to impact the environment.

Most doctors recommend having another 500 calories each day to create enough breast milk. This is a small amount, so it’s not going to hurt the planet or any animals.

Is Breast Milk Considered Dairy?

Technically, yes, breast milk is a dairy item. The term ‘dairy’ refers to any products that are produced from a mammal’s milk, and you’re considered a mammal.

This fact doesn’t change the verdict of breast milk being vegan here. Veganism isn’t just about following rules.

Vegans don’t want to consume other mammal’s milk but your baby can drink yours because you’re of the same species.

Is There Lactose in Breast Milk?

Yes, there’s lactose in breast milk. But, even if you have lactose intolerance it doesn’t mean your baby will.

Infants usually produce enough lactase to digest breastmilk and it may be food sensitivities to something you ate instead that’s the issue.

Conclusion

Breast milk is vegan so you don’t need to feel guilty giving it to your infant. It doesn’t go against the idea of veganism since you consented to the milk that you’re giving your baby.

You’re not considered less vegan by breastfeeding, and your baby can start life out as a vegan, too. Whether or not they continue doing so is up to you, their doctor, and them.

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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