A vegan couple who underfed their baby so badly she suffered permanent brain damage have avoided prison.
The parents raised their one-year-old girl on a homemade formula made from coconut water and powders after she stopped breastfeeding in 2017.
Nurses told the couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, that the mixture they made was not nutritious enough.
But they kept skipping medical appointments and turned to alternative medicine websites for guidance instead.
In August 2018 the girl was rushed to an intensive care unit where doctors found bruising, rashes and discoloured skin all over her body.
The infant was also bleeding internally, had several open wounds and had to be kept on a life support machine.
The baby’s restrictive diet eventually caused the baby to develop cerebral palsy, a permanent neurological disorder that causes poor coordination, muscle weakness and tremors.
Doctors at Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital said she suffered from Kwashiorkor – a severe protein-calorie malnutrition often experienced by newborns in famine stricken countries.
Yesterday, the parents – aged 32 and 34 – were spared jail after pleading guilty to negligently causing serious, news.com.au reported.
Victoria County Court heard how the child’s father took her to Geelong Hospital for a health check before being transferred 75km away to Melbourne where she spent a month in intensive care.
At the time she weighed just 6.6kg – four kilos below average for a girl of her age.
One week earlier the dad sent an email to a herbal health club in the US asking for advice. He said: ‘[SIC] hi my 1 year old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does its not staying down or she start to cough.
‘What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink. She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.’
Instead of advising the father to take his girl to hospital, the consultant suggested he give her a ‘stomach tea’ to drink.
Condemning the couple’s neglect at a previous hearing, particularly their decision to ignore professional medical advice, judge Claire Quin said: ‘These parents, they weren’t 19 or 20 years old, they were in their early 30s.
‘They’re told that what they’re contemplating isn’t going to work for their infant, but they continue to do it.’
The judge ordered the couple to serve a 12-month community corrections order and undergo mental health treatment.
As she spared them jail, she said the ‘exercise of mercy is warranted’ but warned the parents their child now faces a ‘difficult and challenging life’.
The couple have since broken up after having a second child together, and the father has renounced his vegan diet.
The girl, now three, is in the care of her mother, who now shows ‘commitment and devotion’ to her child and engages with medial professionals, the court heard.
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