Is Breastfeeding Vegan?

Parents-to-be hear constantly that “breast is best,” but do vegan parents have to skip breastfeeding to align with their beliefs? Is breast milk vegan?

The short answer to this question is YES. Want the long answer? Read on!

When I was pregnant people asked me frequently about breastfeeding. Is breast milk vegan? It comes from an animal, so obviously not, right? I can see where that logic comes from, but it’s not really that simple. Or, I guess, it’s simple but not in that way.

Related: Breast is Best, But Guilt is the Worst, Vegan Food: It’s Not About Deprivation

Breast milk is vegan, because you’re not exploiting an animal to get it. A new human mother offers her breast milk willingly to her human baby.

To understand why breast milk is vegan, I think we need to look at why cow’s milk is not vegan.

Unlike the human nursing her baby, a cow doesn’t get a choice about whether she wants to express her milk constantly and give it to humans to drink. Instead, female cows are inseminated, and their babies are taken away shortly after birth. Instead of giving her milk to her calf, we take that milk away and bottle it to pour over our cereal and use in our baking.

The difference is all about choice. When a human mother chooses to nurse, that milk is vegan.

What about banked milk?

The follow-up question that I get sometimes after “Is breast milk vegan?” is “Is banked milk vegan?”

If you’re not familiar with milk banks, they are a pretty awesome resource for mothers who aren’t able to breast feed but still want breast milk for their babies. In a milk bank, lactating mothers can donate their pumped breast milk for other mothers in need.

Banked milk is not cheap, which is why when I was unable to breastfeed I opted for baby formula. It was all about cost and had nothing to do with my veganism.

Banked milk is vegan for the same reason that nursing is vegan: a woman donating to a milk bank does so willingly.

Veganism isn’t about purity, it’s about compassion. If the milk comes from a willing donor, it’s vegan. If a cow could walk up to me on the street and offer me milk of her own accord, that would be vegan too.

Human breast milk would not be vegan if it were taken from the mother against her will. So, if you forcibly impregnated me, took my baby, then bottled my milk to sell at the grocery store, it would not be vegan.

One book that really helped me navigate subjects like this during my own pregnancy was Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal. The book gives you solid, common-sense answers to questions you’ll get when you’re vegan and pregnant like, “Is breast milk vegan?” She also offers plain ol’ pregnancy advice, and I found the whole guide a big comfort when I was expecting. Recommended!

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.

121 comments

Christine Jones
Christine Jones2 months ago

I'd never thought about this. I guess it's about intent, not technicalities. The vegan lifestyle is not so much about a specific diet, and more about showing compassion to other living beings. Interesting stuff.

Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI5 months ago

I cannnot undersatnd how people can have this type of doubt.

Anna-Maria S.
Anna-Maria S.about a year ago

To Timothy S. and to all people insulting vegans saying they are insane because they prefer give soy milk to their baby instead of breastfeeding them, PLEASE BOTHER READ THE ARTICLE FIRST!

It says that YES, breastfeeding milk is vegan, and WHY!

But the worst thing is that you clearly don't even care being right or wrong, all that you care about is bulling vegans as much as you can even if there is no reason why.

Anna-Maria S.
Anna-Maria S.about a year ago

Even though this looks unbelievable, as a vegan I personally faced some people with this kind of questions. These are people who want to do things the best they can, but who obviously missed something in the overall understanding of the cause, or who simply lack solid info from valable sources.
But I don't want to give water to the anti-vegan mill (they will say this is a proof that all vegan people are stupid), I will simply add I also faced many many more omnivore people who couldn't realize that all the meat in their plate was once a living animal.
All that to say, thank you for this brilliant article that explains perfectly this issue.

Mauvette Joesephine
Catherine Fisherabout a year ago

Cows need to be milked because they've been selectively bread to produce more milk than her calf would ever consume and she'd die of over milk production.

Dan N.
Dan N.about a year ago

No vegan mother would deny her child breast milk because it is officially food from an animal. This sort of question comes from omnivores trying to trip up vegans into admitting that they are not vegan, to give the omnivore an excuse to not bother trying to live a more compassionate life.

Biby C.
Biby C.about a year ago

To question if a mother's milk is considered vegan is going a step too far, don't you think?!!

Barb Hansen
Ba H.about a year ago

brilliant!

Carole R.
Carole R.about a year ago

Really---
Stupid post

Alicia N.
Alicia N.about a year ago

ok ........... ha ha ha ha ha ha! I didn't even read the article and all
because of the title, mmmmm really??!! hahahahahaha