Do Babies Need Vitamin Supplements?
Your baby gets vitamins and minerals in the food they eat. Can your little one be deficient in these important nutrients?
Breast milk and baby formula are full of vitamins and minerals. Sometimes your baby gets enough, but there may be certain vitamins that require the need for a vitamin supplement.
In the 1970s, Dr. Archie Kalokinos claimed that a vitamin C deficiency caused Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. He was in an Aboriginal community that lacked sufficient vitamin C and dealt with scurvy. With prenatal vitamins and vitamin C drops for infants, he was able to reduce the infant mortality rate. While the theory was publicized, it was not well received in the medical community and the data was found insufficient.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin C in pregnant women is 70-80 mg per day. Expecting women typically take a prenatal vitamin that contains vitamin C and is encouraged to continue multivitamins while nursing. Breastfeeding mothers need about 90-100 mg of vitamin C per day.
Vitamin C is found in both breast milk and baby formula. The recommended daily amount for infants is 35 mg per day. Breast milk and formula has more than that, however vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. This means that it will pass in the urine if it does not get absorbed. There are dangers to too much vitamin C including kidney stones and an imbalance of vitamin and mineral absorption. Your pediatrician would recommend a supplement if your child is medically deficient in vitamin C.
Vitamin D is important for bone growth and development. This vitamin comes from foods rich in vitamin D such as milk and other dairy products. It also comes from exposure to direct sunlight. When someone is deficient in this vitamin, it can cause weak or soft bones. Over time these bones will deform or become distorted. The childhood disease called rickets is caused by a vitamin D deficiency and can be characterized by bow legs.
During about the first six months, many infants should be on a vitamin D supplement. This is because the amount of vitamin D in breast milk and infant formula does not meet the nutritional need of 400 IU per day. While baby formula has vitamin D in it, infants need to consume more than a liter a day to reach that level.
Babies who are exclusively breastfed need a vitamin supplement with vitamin D. If your baby consumes baby formula, you can talk to your pediatrician if your baby needs a vitamin supplement.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal-based foods such as meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs products. B12 is responsible for the development of DNA and red blood cells. When someone is deficient, it can be caused by a vegan dietary lifestyle, weight-loss surgery, or acid-reducing medication. You may feel tired because you may be anemic. Long term effects such as nerve damage can be permanent.
Babies need less vitamin B12 than adults, but it is still an important vitamin for their growth and development. The lack of the vitamin can cause developmental delays or the inability to thrive. A positive start to prevent a vitamin B12 deficiency is to take a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding and are vegan or know that you are deficient in vitamin B12, be sure to take a B12 supplement. Your doctor can also make sure that your baby is getting enough as well.