A vegan couple’s decision to ignore health advice resulted in their baby developing cerebral palsy because it lacked sufficient nutrients, a court has heard.
The one-year-old girl was subjected to a strict plant-based diet which eventually landed her in the intensive care unit at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
The child was in such bad shape, doctor’s likened her condition to newborns in developing countries experiencing famine.
Her parents pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury to the child at Victoria’s County Court on Friday.
A vegan couple’s decision to ignore health advice resulted in their baby developing cerebral palsy because it lacked sufficient nutrients, a court has heard
The child suffered widespread bruising, discoloured skin, rashes covering her body and had multiple open wounds as a result of the parent’s vegan diet.
Upon closer inspection doctors discovered she had internal bleeding and bloody stools, reported the Age.
After the health check at Geelong Hospital she was taken the to Royal Children’s Hospital and spent a month in the intensive care unit.
It was later discovered the onset of the toddler’s disability was diet related, court documents revealed.
‘[The baby] has cerebral palsy as a result of brain injury secondary to malnutrition,’ the Clinical Director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Service, Dr Neil Wimalasundera wrote.
Her parents had been feeding her a diet without animal products, despite advice from medical professionals their nutritional plan was inadequate.
Her parents pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury to the child at Victoria’s County Court (pictured) on Friday
The one-year-old girl was subjected to a strict plant-based diet which eventually landed her in the intensive care unit at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (pictured)
They had ignored repeated advice from doctors before distancing themselves entirely from mainstream medicine.
Prosecutor Justin Lewis told the court one nurse became so worried for the child’s health after the parents disappeared she considered escalating the matter.
But they allegedly dismissed her concerns by threatening to lodge a complaint against her.
He also told the court the father had been making his own baby formula out of dates, fruits and vegetables because he couldn’t find a vegan alternative.
Meanwhile, the father has since ditched veganism entirely.
County Court judge Claire Quin condemned the parents’ behaviour, particularly their decision to ignore advice from medical professionals.
Another couple (pictured) had their child taken off them after their dietary choices left it malnourished in New South Wales last August
The extreme vegan diet left another 20-month-old severely malnourished in NSW
The toddler could not crawl or even roll over when first taken to hospital
‘These parents, they weren’t 19 or 20 years old, they were in their early 30s,’ Judge Quin said.
‘They’re told that what they’re contemplating isn’t going to work for their infant, but they continue to do it.’
The couple have since separated, after having a second child together.
They will be sentenced later this month.
The incident comes almost a year after another couple had their child taken off them after their dietary choices left it malnourished in New South Wales.
The pair avoided jail time after being found guilty of neglect after failing to adequately feed their 20-month-old baby girl.
The extreme vegan diet left the 20-month-old severely malnourished.
At the time she had no teeth, could not stand up, weighed less than 5kg (11lbs) and looked like a three-month-old.
The child, who was fed a diet relying on oats and rice milk, was ‘defenceless and unable to protect herself from her parents, and developed rickets.
ARE VEGAN DIETS SAFE FOR BABIES?
Around 3.5million people living in the UK are vegan – the equivalent of around seven per cent of the population, according to estimates.
And, as the diet has surged in popularity, more mothers are choosing to make their baby a vegan.
The NHS says babies and young children on a vegetarian or vegan diet can get the energy and most of the nutrients they need to grow and develop.
However, the plant-based diet is known to be low in key nutrients for babies, such as vitamin B12 – found milk and eggs, iron, calcium and zinc.
A vitamin B12 deficiency is a rare and treatable cause of failure to thrive and delayed development in infants, researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics.
It can also lead to malnutrition and ‘irreversible damage’ to their nervous systems, experts at University College London once concluded.
An iron deficiency can hinder a child from gaining weight, affect their appetite and energy and can lead to anaemia, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.
Consuming too little protein can lead to stunted growth, nutritionists have warned over the years. But beans, lentils and chickpeas are high in the nutrient.
And eating too much fibre can cause children to feel full quicker and stop them from getting enough food, paediatric dietitian Lucy Upton told the Mail in March.
Two senior lecturers in nutrition at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Shirley Hinde and Ruth Fairchild, said the diet was ‘less than ideal’ for babies.
However, writing in The Conversation they added it is ‘not out of the question’ that the diet could be healthy for a baby.
And they claimed there is ‘no reason’ why a baby couldn’t survive on a vegan diet that was varied in many nutrients, if their parents were sensible.