Way back in the 90s, when I wrote Milk Is Not for Every Body: Living with Lactose Intolerance, I included this warning.
Soy milk is NOT the nutritional equivalent of the specially fortified soy-based infant formulas. Prolonged exclusive use of soy milk by very young infants will lead to malnutrition and even death.
I wrote that because there had been a number of infant deaths from the use of soy milk, either because of ignorance or because soy formula was so much more expensive. In 1990, the FDA started a warning campaign against the practice, and ran a series of articles in its magazine, the FDA Consumer. That magazine is still around, BTW, and is usually a source of solid information about food.
I thought ever responsible vegan organization taught this information routinely. I've certainly seen numerous sites, articles, and books saying this.
However, this Associated Press article appeared on a number of sites recently, and I just ran across it.
A vegan couple were sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for the death of their malnourished 6-week-old baby boy, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.
Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.
Since the child weighed only 3 1/2 pounds when he died, the notion that the parents couldn't realize he was seriously malnourished is ludicrous. Other articles say that the couple did not take the baby to a doctor. A newsgroup message claimed that the couple relied on the FAQ from a raw foods website. I cannot confirm the last two claims.
I rail against ignorance on a regular basis in this blog. Ignorance kills. Sometimes people get lucky and are spared, but as a general principle ignorance kills.
There are numerous responsible vegan websites, organizations, and books. It is possible for an adult, with proper supplements, to live on a raw food vegan diet. It is not the lifestyle I am attacking in any way.
It is the notion that what's suitable for adults is also suitable for infants. It is the notion that random websites have good enough information to guide your infant's diet. It is the notion that the medical profession is to be so feared and shunned that you give birth a child at home and then refuse to take him to any medical facility when it is clear he is ill. It is the notion that beliefs based on ignorance are a basis for action.
Ignorance kills. These parents were irresponsible. If they indeed were told by a website that soy milk and juice are an adequate substitute for baby formula, then that website is irresponsible.
Good nutritional advice is widely available. I have a page in my Milk Free Bookstore titled Parenting, Kids and Special Diets. The books listed there include such titles as Raising Vegetarian Children: A Guide to Good Health and Family Harmony, by Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina; The Vegetarian Child: A Complete Guide for Parents, by Lucy Moll; Vegetarian Children: A Supportive Guide for Parents, by Sharon Yntema; and even Vegetarian Pregnancy: The Definitive Nutritional Guide to Having a Healthy Baby, by Sharon Yntema.
Proper information could have saved that baby's life. Ignorance kills.