Vitamins for babies: What supplements do babies need?

Vitamins for babies: What supplements do babies need?

Providing your child with the best quality nutrition is important to every parent. Whether you have a newborn and you’re breastfeeding, using formula, or you have a child that is starting to eat solids, here’s the info you need about vitamins for babies.

In this article

What supplements do babies need? | Other important supplements to ask your pediatrician about | Vitamin deficiencies in babies: symptoms and what to watch out for | What happens if baby gets too much vitamin D or other vitamins? | Vitamin needs for babies with special diets or medical conditions

What supplements do babies need?

In most cases, children get all of the vitamins and minerals they need from the variety of foods they consume in their diet. There are, however, a handful of babies and children who may need supplements in order to make up for any vitamin deficiencies for a variety of reasons. Before making any hasty decisions to purchase or supplement with any particular vitamin, it’s important to get an expert opinion and check in with your pediatrician.

Vitamin D: An essential baby vitamin

 , known as the sunshine vitamin, is needed to promote bone development and growth. What’s more, vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to higher instances of cancer later in life. While most adults don’t get appropriate amounts of vitamin D, babies specifically are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

While there are food sources of Vitamin D, it’s called the sunshine vitamin because it’s created by our bodies with exposure to sunlight (specifically, UVB rays). As most babies are protected by the sun with clothes and sunhats to prevent sunburn, they don’t get the exposure they need. Additionally, with proper use, sunscreen blocks the UVB light needed for our bodies to create vitamin D, so the skin that does get exposed usually can’t create adequate amounts. Beyond the use of sunscreen, if you live where there’s less sun due to winter, places with higher pollution, areas with periods of prolonged sun exposure or if your baby has darker skin, they may not get the vitamin D they need.

Do formula-fed babies need to take supplements?

Providing vitamin supplementation will depend on the kind of formula you’re using and its ingredients. If your baby eats less than 32 ounces a day of fortified formula, you may have to supplement. The most common way for babies to get vitamin D is with liquid vitamin D drops and they should be taken every day soon after birth.

Do breastfed babies need to take supplements?

While breastfeeding is one of the best ways to give your baby the nutrition they need, it does not carry the necessary amount of vitamin D to keep them in good health. After consulting with your pediatrician, supplement and give your baby 400 IU of liquid vitamin D each day.

If you supplement with formula, continue providing them with this dose of vitamin D until they are able to consume at least 32 ounces a day of vitamin D-fortified formula. After 12 months, whole cow’s milk is an excellent source of vitamin D and you can begin tapering down the vitamin D supplement.

Other important supplements to ask your pediatrician about

There are a variety of other vitamins and supplements that your baby may need to grow up strong and healthy. As you transition to solid foods, picky eaters may also need supplementation. Track your baby’s diet over a few weeks to bring to your doctor so they can appropriately assess and figure out what your little one needs.

Does my baby need to take calcium supplements?

On the topic of vitamin D and stronger bones, you’ve probably heard that

  helps build and maintain bones. What many people don’t realize is that calcium and vitamin D work together to protect your baby’s bones. While vitamin D helps build strong bones, it does so by helping your baby effectively absorb calcium. So even if your baby is taking in enough calcium, it could be going to waste if there’s a vitamin D deficiency. Babies younger than 6 months old need 200 mg of calcium a day. Babies that are aged 6 to 11 months need approximately 260 mg of calcium a day.

Do babies need iron supplements?

While babies are born with enough

  to last for roughly 4 to 6 months, doctors recommend full-term infants that are breastfed receive an iron supplement around 4 months. Premature or low birth weight babies may not have the necessary amount of iron they need, so your doctor may recommend supplementing for a longer period.

As your little one grows and begins eating solid foods, consult with your doctor about how long to keep up this supplementation. You can find iron in beans, lean meats, spinach, eggs and dried fruits. Cereals and some pastas are also fortified with iron, as are some snacks like granola bars or crackers. Check the nutrition label as those amounts vary per product. Consider incorporating these food choices into your child’s diet as they transition to solid foods.

Do babies need to take vitamin B12?

  can help prevent anemia and improves neurological function in little ones. If your child will have a predominantly vegan diet, you may need a B12 supplement as most B12 is found in meat, fish, dairy and eggs. As always, consult with your doctor regarding the best course of action if your child will have a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Does my baby need a vitamin C supplement?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is important for enhancing iron absorption and maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s also an antioxidant, meaning it helps prevent cell damage. Infants generally need less vitamin C than adults, and it’s found in both breast milk and formula. Generally, babies will get enough vitamin C from breastmilk and formula, and it’s often found in common infant snacks and beginner solid foods (like fruit, smoothies, veggie purees and juices.) Check with your pediatrician, but generally vitamin C supplements aren’t necessary.

Do babies need to take vitamin A supplements?

By the time your baby is about 5 months old, they will have doubled their birth weight.

  supports that rapid growth and helps combat infections. It also helps keep skin, hair, vision and the immune system stay healthy. Breast milk is also a good source of vitamin A, but there are cases where babies don’t absorb enough of it and need additional supplements.

Vitamin deficiencies in babies: Symptoms and what to watch out for

Of course, it’s always important to keep an eye out for any deficiencies, especially if your little one is a picky eater or has any feeding difficulties or digestion issues. If you’re concerned, track your baby’s diet and contact your pediatrician so the doc knows what to look out for and diagnose.

Here’s a rundown of common vitamin deficiency symptoms:

  • Frequent illness
  • Dry skin
  • Dry eyes
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Hair loss
  • Bleeding gums
  • Weak muscles
  • Vision problems

Vitamin D deficiency in babies and signs of rickets

In some cases, babies can develop diseases, such as rickets, if they don’t have enough vitamin D in their diets. While rickets can be inherited from a parent, a child can also develop nutritional rickets if they don’t receive enough vitamins like D and calcium to fortify their bones. Signs of rickets include soft skull, fussiness and hindered development such as bowed legs, among others.

What happens if baby gets too much vitamin D or other vitamins?

Finally, what happens if a baby gets too much vitamin D or any other vitamins? You may begin to notice a loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, constipation, muscle weakness and aches, stomach aches, fatigue, and more. With any vitamin, be sure to only use the recommended amount with the provided dropper, or as suggested by your pediatrician.

Vitamin needs for babies with special diets or medical conditions

Many babies either follow special diets, have food intolerances or allergies and as a result, they may not get the vitamins they need. Your pediatrician can give more information on your baby’s specific needs, as each diet will have different recommendations.

What vitamins does my vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free baby need?

If your child follows a vegan, vegetarian, or alternative diet, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider about what vitamins and minerals they may need in addition to the food they consume. While a plant-based or vegetarian diet can certainly provide your child with excellent nutrition, it can be tough for them to get the right amount of nutrients they need solely based on the food they consume. Consider supplemental vitamins in this case, especially vitamin B12 and iron—but keep in mind, to ensure appropriate iron absorption, vitamin C is needed.

Vitamin needs for children with medical conditions

If your little one suffers from an illness or condition that makes it difficult to absorb nutrients, consult with your doctor about how to add the right amounts of vitamins into their diet. They may advise that supplementing with vitamins is the best course of action.

While learning about all the different kinds of supplements your child may need can feel daunting at first, it’s good that you have started thinking about how to set your baby up for nutritional success. There are lots of baby vitamins and supplements to help your baby be the healthiest they can be. Also, there’s the world of gut health to explore, including information on

  and
 , which doctors are learning is also essential for adults and infants alike. You can also learn what to eat while breastfeeding to ensure vitamins are passed down to your little one.