There is no doubt that parenthood changes everything – from what you eat to when you sleep to how you feel – and it all comes with a side order of a thousand new things to worry about.
Many new parents find they re-evaluate the way they live on this fragile earth and consider how the choices they make today will impact future generations. For many women there is an additional psychological upheaval, and it’s one that hits close to home: they start to understand for the first time exactly how the dairy industry works.
Here, three former Veganuary participants talk about their experiences as a new mother, and how breastfeeding led them to become vegan.
Laura Williams, Shropshire
Laura’s son was born in September 2017, and it quickly became apparent that he had a cows’ milk allergy. She was advised to cut out dairy and the problem quickly resolved. That could have been the end of the matter but, in a café, when asking about dairy-free hot chocolate, the owner mentioned to Laura that she was vegan.
“I didn’t know much about it” admits Laura, “so I went home and Googled ‘vegan’. By the next day, I had found Veganuary, and decided I would give it a try.”
But before January even came around, fate stepped in once again. Laura came across a film on Netflix called Cowspiracy. “I watched it with my mouth wide open,” she told us. ”Amongst other things, I found that cows only produce milk for their babies, not for us. It had honestly never entered my mind! As a breastfeeding mum, I was mortified. I vowed to go vegan there and then. And I did.”
Amy Collier, Vale of Glamorgan
Amy had been vegetarian since she was 11 years old but had struggled to make the transition to veganism, even though she says she knew it was the right thing to do. After having a baby, her resolve strengthened, and breastfeeding was the key. It made her connect instantly to the experience of cows used for milk, and from there to all other farmed animals.
“It was only when I was breastfeeding that I felt more strongly than ever that dairy milk is not ours to take, and nor are eggs or honey,” she says. “When Veganuary came around, I decided it was the right time to commit to it.”
And commit she did! Amy was in the Veganuary Class of 2017 and is now coming up to her 4th veganniversary. Her daughter, raised a happy, healthy vegan, is also convinced. She tells friends that “animals want to be with their mummies and daddies just like we do”.
Jasmine Harman, Surrey
For Jasmine, the days after giving birth to her daughter brought some practical challenges. “I was having a real struggle breastfeeding, and I really wanted to,” she says, “and I just thought how can it be so difficult? Why do cows just find it so easy to make milk for no reason? And I had this sudden dawning that cows don’t make milk for no reason.”
That moment changed everything.
“The thought of being a new mum, having your child snatched away from you soon after birth, and then having somebody else take your milk for their own consumption, and then probably eat your baby. Ah! That was it! I didn’t stop crying for about three days. And I’ve never touched dairy products ever again since then.”
This was no small change for Jasmine who loved cheese so much she’d had a cheese-themed wedding! Jasmine took part in the first ever Veganuary in 2014, and as that first month came to an end there, she says there was no question that she would stick with it.
Eight years on, Jasmine remains an intrepid vegan and a proud Veganuary Ambassador.