Are there any health concerns when it comes to raising babies and young children on a vegan diet? Are there any nutrients that their diet could be deficient in? Does breast feeding vs. formula make a difference?
This question is similar to this one, except that the referenced one is about vegetarianism and this one about veganism.
The answer provided there, also applies to this one, as the referenced source clearly includes vegan diet (my emphasis):
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
However, vegan life-style is not all unicorns and rainbows, especially in the early stages of life. This medical article deals with common pitfalls when adopting a vegetarian/vegan life-style, by explaining possible issues and solutions to them. E.g. protein, B12, Iron intake etc:
Well-planned vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and children. Research has highlighted nutritional advantages to vegetarian diets and has indicated that this style of eating can lead to lifelong healthy eating habits when adopted at a young age. Several vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients may be deficient within a vegetarian diet. Careful nutrition assessment and counseling will allow nurse practitioners to play a key role in encouraging families to adopt healthy eating habits to assist in disease prevention.
Protein related information
Vegetarians who have completely eliminated meat from their diet need to be educated about alternative sources of protein.
Other elements information
Vitamin B12 is necessary for cell division and blood formation. Vegetarians can meet their needs for this vitamin by eating fortified foods, eggs, dairy products, or taking a supplement
Iron is necessary for optimal oxygen transport in red blood cells. Meat (red meat, in particular) offers the most easily absorbed type of iron, called heme iron; however, the iron that occurs naturally in plant products (non-heme) can be consumed along with a vitamin C source to enhance absorption
Zinc absorption also is affected by the phytates that occur naturally in whole grains and legumes. Some vegetarians may require a higher intake of zinc than the dietary reference intake.
Dairy foods are a natural source of calcium for vegetarians and nonvegetarians. Vegans can consume fortified soy formulas, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and various other calcium-fortified foods.
Vitamin D is found naturally in milk and dairy products. The body also can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
Children on a vegan diet tend to turn out smaller and lighter than non-vegan children. They tend to not get enough calcium, engery, vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin B12.
Children need more energy dense foods to support growth. While a lower energy intake is healthy for most adults, it is not for children. It is not impossible to raise a healthy child on a vegan diet, but one needs more knowledge about nutrition to do so, than on a diet including animal products. Reference
There Is not only physical health. It is also important to take into account the mental health of childrens: vegans are the object of aggression and contempt with a ferocity that a non-vegan cannot understand. An adult can manage this stress (by ignoring these things, or even by isolating himself by not associating with harmful people, when possible): for a childrens it is not so simple, especially because of bullying.
For this reason I believe that children should eat what man of the street eats. Probably, they should be kindly encouraged to do so even if they themselves realize that eating meat it is wrong. They should postpone the choice to a more mature age. (all this until the world is hostile towards vegans, I do not exclude that sooner or later things will change)