A vegan couple who underfed their baby girl so badly she suffered brain damage have been spared jail time.
The parents raised their one-year-old on a homemade formula combining coconut water and powders after she stopped breastfeeding in 2017.
Nurses told the parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, that their concoction was not nutritious enough to sustain their little girl.
But they ignored medical appointments and instead turned to alternative medicine websites for advice.
In August 2018 the girl was rushed to an intensive care unit were doctors spotted bruising, rashes and discoloured skin all over her body, The Metro reports.
The tot was also bleeding internally and had several open wounds.
Doctors put the toddler on a life support machine in a desperate bid to save her.
The baby’s bad diet had caused her to develop cerebral palsy, a permanent disorder that causes muscle weakness and poor coordination.
Medical experts at Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital said she had suffered from a severe protein malnutrition – officially named Kwashiokor.
Kwashiokor is often experienced by newborns in famine stricken countries.
The parents, aged 32 and 34, pleaded guilty on Monday to negligently causing serious injury, News.com.Au reported.
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They were both ordered to serve a 12-month community corrections order and undertake mental health treatment, Judge Claire Quin ordered.
Victoria County Court heard how the girl’s father took her to Geelong Hospital for a check up before being transferred 75km away to Melbourne where she later spent a month in an ICU.
At the time she weighed just 6.6kg, four kilos below the average weight for a girl of her age.
Seven days before the dad, 34, rushed the infant to hospital he wrote an email to a US-based “herbal” health club for advice.
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“[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,” the father wrote in an email to the US-consultant.
Instead of advising the man to take his child to hospital, the consultant suggested a “stomach tea” for the baby.
The girl is now in the care of the mother, who shows a “commitment and devotion” to her daughter and engages with healthcare professionals.
“The exercise of mercy is warranted,” Judge Quin told the court as the mother wiped tears from her eyes.
But she told the parents their daughter had a long road ahead of her, but her condition had improved with the benefit of a balanced diet and proper healthcare.
“She faces a difficult and challenging life,” the judge said of the now three-year-old girl.
If either parent breaches the community corrections order or the conditions they would have to face court again for a re-sentence.
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