I’m vegetarian and I breastfeed exclusively. Is there a risk for my baby?

Updated on: Aucune révision

If you are vegan: Yes.  If you are vegetarian: Maybe.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods such as fish, meat, milk and eggs.  B12 is important for brain development. This vitamin is found in breast milk in small or large quantities, depending on the mother’s diet.  Therefore, if the mother does not eat enough or any meat, fish, milk or eggs, her breast milk may be low in vitamin B12.
Several cases have been observed where infants exclusively breastfed by vegan mothers had cognitive development delays, lacked muscle tone and, in some cases, suffered brain atrophy.  Depending on the severity of the deficiency, the consequences may be irreversible.
Vegan mothers require 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12 during pregnancy, and 2.8 mcg during breastfeeding, which can be obtained from diet or supplement intake. Consuming 3 cups of enriched plant-based beverages per day can help meet B12 needs. For other sources of vitamin B12, click here.
However, vegan mothers are strongly encouraged to take a vitamin B12 supplement to meet their needs, if these needs are not met through diet alone. Otherwise, the long-term consequences of a diet deficient in B12 could be detrimental for the baby. Consult a health care practitioner regarding supplementation.


Black, M. M. (2008). Effects of Vitamin B(12) and Folate Deficiency on Brain Development in Children. Food and nutrition bulletin, 29(2 Suppl), S126-S131.

Messina, V., & Reed Mangels, A. N. N. (2001). Considerations in Planning Vegan Diets: Children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(6), 661-669. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00167-5

Nyaradi, A., Li, J., Hickling, S., Foster, J., & Oddy, W. H. (2013). The Role of Nutrition in Children's Neurocognitive Development, from Pregnancy through Childhood. Front Hum Neurosci, 7, 97. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00097


Diététistes du Canada. (2010). Lignes directrices en matière d’alimentation pour les végétaliens.

Diététistes du Canada. (2014). Les sources alimentaire de vitamine B12.

Extenso. (2012). À la recherche de la vitamin B12.


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