We all want what’s best for our kids. But two vegan parents from Victoria have discovered that sometimes, what’s best for them isn’t best for their baby, after starving her of nutrients in an extreme diet comprised of fruit and coconut water.

The 12-month-old baby weighed just 6.040kg – the average weight for a three to five-month-old, when she arrived at a hospital in Geelong with severe malnutrition back in August 2018. She required life support and was in intensive care for a month.

The vegan couple, who cannot be identified, recently appeared in the County Court of Victoria, and pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury to their little girl. They avoided jail time and instead have been ordered to serve a 12-month correction order and undertake mental health treatment.

Their daughter, now 3, was left with cerebral palsy caused by malnutrition because of the strict diet.

We urge parents to be mindful of how important it is to ensure you are feeding your baby the right nutrients, even if you are on a strict diet yourself. Babies don’t need diets. They need nutrients.

What exactly happened?

Here is what we know:

  • In 2017, the couple welcomed their little girl. She was breastfed but stopped at a later date in 2017.
  • The parents then started to feed the baby a mix of coconut water and powders instead of formula.
  • Despite concerns from their maternal care nurse about the baby’s growth the parents ignored medical advice and skipped appointments.

Then, one week before the parents took their baby to the hospital, the father wrote an email to a US-based “herbal” health club for advice.

Hi my 1-year-old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does it’s not staying down or she start to cough. What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink. She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap,” the father wrote.

The consultant then suggested a “stomach tea” for the baby.

Seven days later, the parents’ concerns grew as their baby’s condition continued to deteriorate. They decided to take her to Geelong Hospital.

One month stay in hospital

When she was admitted, she was floppy, had bruising, open wounds, rashes, and skin discolouration, the court heard.

She was also severely underweight, bleeding internally and had blood in her stool. The baby required life support and remained in intensive care for a month. 

They also found the baby had severe protein-calorie malnutrition known as “Kwashiorkor”, which is often seen in children from countries experiencing a famine.

The aftermath 

It’s been over two years since the little girl was admitted and, while she is out of the hospital, she also has cerebral palsy due to the malnutrition she suffered as a baby.

However, her condition has improved with the benefit of a balanced diet and proper healthcare.

“She faces a difficult and challenging life,” the judge said of the now three-year-old girl.

Her parents have since separated and she is now in the care of her mother who shows a “commitment and devotion” to her daughter and engages with healthcare professionals. 

What to read next

For more stories on the importance of adequate nutrition in infants, please read:

Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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