Vegan Parents Left Infant Daughter Severely Malnourished After Placing Her on Strict Diet

An Australian couple whose infant daughter was left with serious heath issues after they fed her a strict vegan diet have pleaded guilty to failing to provide for a child and causing serious injury.

The parents, aged 32 and 34, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were found to have fed the 19-month-old girl a diet of a cup of oats with rice milk and half a banana for breakfast, followed by a piece of toast with jam or peanut butter for lunch. The girl would then eat tofu, rice or potatoes for her evening meal, but because she was a "fussy eater" she would sometimes just have oats again, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The restrictive diet resulted in the girl developing rickets, a degenerative bone disease caused by malnourishment, mainly lack of Vitamin D. Sydney's Downing Centre District Court heard how doctors only became aware of the strict diet after she needed medical attention following a seizure. Doctors described how the girl's bones were so brittle that they feared they would break from "normal handling," the Mail Online reports. The girl was also found to have fractures throughout her body.

The court heard how doctors found the girl's Vitamin D levels were "undetectable," with one doctor describing her physical condition "floppy." Tests revealed the girl was severely deficient of other vital nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, iron and zinc. Authorities also and noted 19-month-old didn't crawl or talk during the month she was placed in care.

Police questioned the father in the hospital about why he wasn't concerned that his daughter weighed just over 10 pounds, barely double what she was when she was first born. "[He] thought she was a girl and different to boys—she was petite," court documents state. An investigation into the girl's medical history also revealed she had no immunisations; no follow-up checks booked and did not have a birth certificate.

The mother told hospital staff that the entire family, which also includes the girl's two older brothers aged four and six, were on a strict vegan diet. All three of the children were taken away from their parents and placed into foster care. Their health has improved in the recent months, with the girl now finally able to stand on her own after putting on more than 13 pounds in weight.

The couple are due to return to Downing Centre District Court for sentencing on January 16, 2019.

vegan food
Food on display at the launch of Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook hosted by Vegan/Plant-based Author Camilla Fayed, Elizabeth Saltzman, and Jamie Mizrahi on July 12, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. A couple who fed their infant daughter a restricted vegan diet have admitted causing her serious injury. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook

According to Britain's National Health Service, while it is safe to raise babies and children on vegetarian or vegan diets, it is important to make sure they receive all the correct nutrients at each stage of their development.

Parents should ensure that their children receive adequate amounts of iron, protein, calcium, A, B, C, and D vitamins, and Omega 3. It is also important to ensure children are receiving enough calories to fuel their growing bodies, according to NHS. For more detailed information, speak to a nutritionist or a physician.

This article was updated to include more information about a healthy vegetarian and vegan diet for raising children.