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Parents Sentenced After Baby Dies From Alternative Milk Diet

Seven-month-old Lucas weighed just 4.3 kilos when he died.

15/06/2017 12:31 PM AEST | Updated 15/06/2017 12:33 PM AEST

The parents of a baby who died after being fed a diet of alternative milks have been given a six-month suspended jail sentence.

A Belgian court found them guilty of unintentionally causing seven-month-old Lucas' death.

Lucas' stomach was empty and he weighed just 4.3 kilograms when he died on June 6, 2014, local media report -- little more than the average weight of a newborn.

The parents owned a health food store in the Belgian town of Beveren. Their lawyer, Karine Van Meirvenne, told the court they resorted to milk alternatives because Lucas had eating problems.

Christian Wheatley
Lucas (not pictured) weighed just 4.3 kilograms when he died. His parents had self-diagnosed him with gluten intolerance and a lactose allergy.

They had been feeding him for four months with "milks" including quinoa, buckwheat, rice and oat milks, all of which they sold in their shop.

Meirvenne noted that the child's mother, known only as Sandrina V, had been getting up several times a night to feed Lucas as evidence she had been trying to look after him.

"Sometimes he gained a little weight, sometimes he lost a little. We never wished for the death of our son," Sandrina V told the court in tears.

The mother did not produce breast milk and the baby had refused infant formula, according to the BBC.

But public prosecutors told the court that the parents never consulted a doctor in the lead up to the infant's death.

"The parents determined their own diagnosis that their child was gluten intolerant and had a lactose allergy," public prosecutors told the court.

"Not a single doctor had a dossier about Lucas and child protection services did not know about them," public prosecutors told the court.

The prosecutors also blamed the parents for driving across the country to see a homeopath when their child was having problems breathing, instead of rushing him to hospital.

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Quinoa milk doesn't have the calcium and iron necessary for growing infants.

The homeopath sent them to the hospital, but Lucas died before on the way there.

An autopsy revealed he was severely dehydrated and his stomach was completely empty.

Babies should be fed with breast milk or cow's milk-based infant formulas for their first year, according to Australian Government official guidelines.

Other specialised infant formulas such as "extensively hydrolysed or soy milk-based formulas" should only be introduced under medical supervision if the child cannot tolerate cow's milk-based products.

There have been several cases in recent years of children becoming malnourished as a result of alternative diets.

In July last year, a malnourished 14-month-old baby in Italy weighing only slightly more than a three-month-old was removed from its parents after being fed a vegan diet without supplements.

A U.S. vegan couple were convicted of murder and handed life sentences in 2011 for starving their six-week-old baby to death. The court heard they fed him only soy milk and apple juice and he weighed just 1.6 kilograms when he died.

Babies should be fed with breast milk or cow's milk-based infant formulas for their first year, according to Australian Government official guidelines.

Other specialised infant formulas such as "extensively hydrolysed or soy milk-based formulas" should only be introduced if the child cannot tolerate cow's milk-based products -- and this should be under medical supervision. Supplements are also often required in order to provide vital calcium and iron.

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