Latest Florida vegan baby death highlights need for sound medical advice


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An 18-month-old boy was found dead by Cape Coral Police in September. On Wednesday, his parents were indicted on charges of first-degree murder and five other charges.

The couple say they are vegan and eat only raw fruits and vegetables. They are the latest Florida vegan couple to starve or nearly-starve their child.

Ryan Patrick O'Leary, 30, and Sheila O'Leary, 35, were indicted on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, child abuse and two counts of child neglect, in Lee County, Wednesday, reports News 6.

Officers say the baby was 17 pounds at the time of death, which is the normal weight of a 7-month-old. The two were also indictments also include child abuse charges and extreme neglect of three other children, ages 3, 5 and 11.

The mother, Sheila, called 911 because the 18-month-old was not breathing and felt cold. Reportedly, she attempted to resuscitate the baby, but the boy was dead when emergency services arrived.

A Titusville couple nearly starved a five-month-old baby that gained only one pound since birth. Before being charged with child neglect in February, the baby was put on pediatric care, but the parents ignored directives to feed the baby organic formula and instead fed the baby a vegan homemade potato-based mash. Neighbors alerted police to the neglect, telling officials that the baby had visible bones.
A woman in Pennsylvania was arrested in 2016, after her family said she was starving her 11-year-old child with an extreme form of veganism, feeding him only fruits and nuts. The boy recovered but was left developmentally delayed as a result of malnourishment.

In 2016, an Italian parliamentarian floated the idea of prosecuting parents who raise their children on a vegan diet, after a few high-profile cases of vegan toddlers needing emergency care.

Many dietitians say there’s a right way and a wrong way to raise a baby on vegan food, and that breast milk is encouraged as the main source of nutrition for the first six months. Some do their homework and safely raise their babies without feeding them animal-sourced meat and dairy, but getting it wrong can be fatal.

"In general, any diets for kids aren't recommended. You want kids to eat a variety of foods from all food groups," according to Karen Kuperberg, a registered dietician with the Failure to Thrive program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. "Once you start restricting food groups or large chunks of food groups, you start running into problems like vitamin and mineral deficiency."

The U.K.'s National Health Service says, "Babies and young children on a vegetarian or vegan diet can get the energy and most of the nutrients they need to grow and develop from a well-planned varied and balanced diet," adding, "But they might need specific supplements (such as vitamin B12) in addition to the usual vitamin supplements recommended for all babies."

"Talk to a health professional for advice."

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