Entertainment And News

Mom Touts Baby's Vegan Diet & 3AM 'Intuitive Sleeping' Bedtime, But Fans Think She's Hiding Evidence It's Harming Her Kids

Photo: @alicellani/Instagram; @alicellanispam/TikTok
TikToker Alice Bender and her children

Nowadays, it seems like practically every mom and dad are trying new things when it comes to parenting.

From "gentle parenting" to co-sleeping and everything in between, parents today seem intent on doing a better job than their parents did.

It's hard to argue with that motivation, but sometimes it seems like some parents are swinging the pendulum just a touch too far in the other direction.

And one so-called "crunchy" mom on TikTok has taken things so far that she's become downright infamous, and some have even accused her of abuse.

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TikToker Alice Bender, also known as Alice Llani, feeds her toddler Fern a vegan diet and practices 'intuitive sleeping.'

Bender has all sorts of controversial habits, from "freebirthing" her daughter Sage — an incredibly dangerous method of managing pregnancy and birth without medical attention — to the dumpster-diving lifestyle of "freeganism."

Bender has some pretty infamous, uh, placenta preservation practices as well. But her parenting practices around diet and sleep seem to have alarmed other parents the most. 



Alice Bender's toddler, Fern, eats mostly fruit, and some have spotted evidence he may be malnourished.

A TikTok Bender posted in 2022 showing "what my vegan baby ate for the evening" definitely set off alarm bells with many TikTokers.

The video shows Fern toddling around eating avocado toast, fruit jerky, seaweed snacks, and tons of fruit.

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The kid also gulped down a smoothie made from cherries, oranges and mangos, and a vegan chocolate ice cream bar for dessert.

And once the evening rolls around to bedtime, Bender's practices are even more unorthodox.

Alice told TikTok that her toddler Fern has a 3 AM bedtime even though she goes to bed at 9:00 PM.

In response to a commenter who asked about her baby's sleep schedule, Bender replied that they practice "intuitive sleep."

Also known as "polyphasic sleep," intuitive sleeping is exactly what it sounds like — sleeping whenever you feel like doing so, rather than on any set schedule.

In her video, Bender said "I sleep at 9pm-11pm" and that Fern and her husband, Caleb, "sleep at 12am-3am."



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Many people have called Bender out on TikTok and Reddit for her vegan toddler's seemingly poor health.

Bender's TikTok videos are carefully managed so that only positive comments appear beneath her videos, leading many to accuse her of deleting negative comments.

But TikTok creator @holley.stevenson is one of many who chronicles Bender's parenting choices, and she has discovered some disturbing trends from screenshots of Bender's content.



Stevenson says that Bender and Fern are actually practitioners of an extreme form of veganism, fruitarianism, meaning they eat mostly only fruits.

Fruitarianism is frequently criticized for poor health outcomes, and Stevenson believes Bender and her son are among those who are malnourished from the diet.

She has discovered that Bender seems to be editing both her own and Fern's seemingly rotten teeth out of social media posts, which she attributes to Bender's professed anti-toothpaste stance.

Stevenson also shared concerns from other users about Fern having rickets due to malnourishment after people spotted evidence of the ailment in the child's body and posture.

Users in multiple Reddit subthreads about Bender claim she routinely edits Fern's legs as well in order to hide the condition.

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Experts caution that vegan diets can be dangerous for babies and toddlers.

Meredith Deasley, a registered holistic nutritionist, told YourTango in 2020 that "the effects of nutrition on child development...are more impactful than you realize."

She highlighted, in particular, the importance of protein to babies and small children, writing that "a child needs a serving of protein every time they eat," and doctors agree.

Palo Alto, California-based Doctor Manisha Panchal cautions that “babies and toddlers need diets high in fat and protein and low in fiber, the exact opposite of many vegan diets."

As a case in point, Bender's video highlighting what Fern eats in an evening contained virtually no protein at all.

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Sleep is vital to child development too, and practices like 'intuitive sleeping' come with health risks for adults, let alone kids.

The Sleep Foundation recommends the usual protocols for babies and toddlers — a distinct and consistent routine followed seven days a week.

And as for "intuitive sleeping," the Foundation warns that it can cause disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation in adults, to say nothing of toddlers who need far more sleep than grown-ups.

Bender's kids appear to be thriving, judging from her most recent social media posts, and in the end parenting choices are an intensely personal and private matter.

Still, babies and small kids have highly specific needs.

It's probably best to leave the "crunchy" alternative health and wellness practices to the adults.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.