A couple who fed their daughter an extreme vegan diet have admitted causing her serious injury.
The mother and father, aged 32 and 34 respectively, who cannot be named for legal reasons fed the girl oats and rice milk.
The girl’s diet was so restricted that she developed rickets, a degenerative bone disease caused by malnourishment.
The couple’s 19-month-old daughter is now in foster care with her two older brothers, aged four and six.
The mother and father pleaded guilty to failing to provide for a child, causing serious injury.
After the girl was admitted to hospital in March this year, her mother told a hospital dietitian her entire family followed a vegan diet.
She said her daughter would generally have one cup of oats with rice milk and half a banana in the morning.
She said she would give her a piece of toast with jam or peanut butter for lunch, The Daily Telegraph reported.
For dinner, she said her daughter would be offered tofu, rice or potatoes. But she said the girl was a ‘fussy eater’ so she might just have oats again.
This diet resulted in severe deficiencies in nutrients across the board for the infant, including a lack of calcium, phosphate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, iron and zinc.
WHAT IS RICKETS?
- Rickets is a preventable bone disease that affects infants and young children and causes soft and weakened bones
- The disease is caused by a lack of Vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus
- Rickets can be caused by diet, nutritional deficiencies or inadequate sunlight exposure
Source: Better Health Victoria
Her levels of vitamin D – which can cause bone disease if found to be too low – were ‘undetectable’.
The infant had fractures scattered throughout her tiny body and her bones were so brittle doctors believed they could have been broken by ‘normal handling’.
The treatment of the girl was only brought to the attention of doctors in March this year, when doctors attended to the infant after she suffered a seizure.
One doctor described her as ‘floppy’ and noted how the diminutive one-and-a-half year old didn’t crawl or talk during the month in care.
Hospital staff initially respected the parents wishes to keep the infant on a vegan diet, but grew concerned when the mother outlawed soy, worried it was full of ‘hormones’.
Even after a week in hospital care, the parents exchanged text messages denying their daughter’s lack of growth was a result of malnutrition.
Soon after, police spoke to the father at the hospital, asking him why he wasn’t concerned that his daughter never grew.
Even at more than a year old, the child weighed only 4.9kg, barely double of what she weighed when she was a newborn.
‘(He) thought she was a girl and different to boys – she was petite,’ court documents say.
After an investigation into the girl’s medical history, doctors found an absence of immunisations, no follow-up check-ups after she was born and no birth certificate or Medicare number.
The child and her siblings have been put in foster care and are doing much better.
Within just six months, the girl has put on six kilograms and is crawling and standing on her own.
But doctors say it is still ‘imperative’ she continue therapy and is constantly monitored to help manage developmental delays.
The parents, meanwhile, have been in and out of court.
After pleading guilty to failing to provide for a child and causing serious injury, charges of reckless grievous bodily harm were withdrawn.
They will return to the Downing Centre District Court on January 16 for sentencing.