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Dr Ellie Cannon: Will baby thrive on vegan diet or will it stunt her growth?

Dr Ellie Cannon: Will baby thrive on vegan diet or will it stunt her growth?

My sister recently gave birth and has decided to feed her baby daughter a vegan diet. I read a report from a doctor who said that this could stunt her growth. Should I be worried?

Many babies are fed a restricted diet either due to allergies, cultural reasons or personal choice. It can take more effort, but growth does not need to be compromised. If a mother is raising a child on a vegan diet, breastfeeding should be a priority to ensure a good quantity of energy-rich nutrients and essential fats.

Weaning a baby on to solid foods would take some careful thought. Babies need two portions of protein-rich food a day – this could be beans, chickpeas or houmous within baby purees.

Weaning a baby on to solid foods would take some careful thought. Babies need two portions of protein-rich food a day – this could be beans, chickpeas or houmous within baby purees

Babies need lots of energy and calories too, and often vegan food can be higher in fibre but lower in calories. 

Although wholegrains are healthy, they can fill a child up before they have taken in enough calories. Offering white bread or rice can be a good way to counteract this.

Important nutrients may not be easy to come by in a vegan diet. Iron is particularly important and is found in fortified cereals, dark green vegetables, beans and lentils.

Calcium – abundant in milk – is vital for growing bones. It is found in fortified foods as well as leafy green vegetables, broccoli and okra.

Vitamin B12, which is animal-derived, will need to be taken as a supplement or in fortified foods such as soya yogurt. The Department of Health recommends that children aged between six months and five years are given Vitamin A, C and D supplements and breastfed babies given Vitamin D drops from birth.

Caroline adds to the ‘happy pill’ stigma 

I wonder if stars talking about their mental health is always helpful. TV presenter Caroline Flack revealed last week how antidepressants made her feel ‘numb’.

Ditching mental health drugs is becoming a trend for celebrities, but there are millions of people for whom the pills are essential. 

Although there are side effects, most patients say they are outweighed by the positive effects.

Having fought to break down the stigma of mental illness, we must now take the same approach to mental health drugs.


I have been diagnosed with grade one oesophagitis, but I have not had a follow-up appointment yet. I am concerned about my diagnosis as I’ve never heard of the condition. Can you help?

Oesophagitis is an inflammation of the lining of the oesophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and the stomach. 

Most cases are caused by acid flowing back from the stomach. Grade one is the mildest form. 

During a gastroscopy, the procedure where a camera is used to access the stomach, the doctor would have seen an area of redness, fragility and possibly some bleeding.

Sometimes, lower grades of oesophagitis require no formal follow-up exam and medication would not be essential. Instead, changes in lifestyle may be recommended. 

Fewer Britons taking up the flu vaccine 

Fewer Britons are taking up the flu vaccine than they were last year, despite a new, more effective jab, according to reports. It’s an odd situation. Last year, everyone panicked that the vaccines didn’t work against the worst strains of flu – now they do work, nobody wants them. I’d certainly encourage pregnant women and those over 65 to have the jab – as they are more vulnerable to this nasty virus. 

For example, losing weight and eating smaller meals can take the pressure off the stomach and reduce acid reflux.

Smoking, alcohol and some medicines, including aspirin and anti-inflammatories, irritate the lining and these should be reduced.

Raising the head of the bed and avoiding eating three hours before bedtime prevents reflux when lying down.

Medical treatment would usually involve a two-month course of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) such as omeprazole or lansoprazole.


Email or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT. 

Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies. 

If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.  

Does using talcum powder cause ovarian cancer? According to guidance issued by Canada’s public health agency, it might.

After looking at a number of studies, experts there now warn against using talc in the genital area as it may be a risk factor for ovarian cancer. But don’t panic – the studies are not perfect. Many rely on women with and without cancer remembering their past use of talc, and this data tends to be flawed.

But until we know more about the subject, avoiding talc makes sense, especially as there are no health or hygiene benefits.