Vitamins for children can be a confusing topic. Who needs what, when do you start, how long do you carry on for? I’ll talk you through the guidance as there are different groups needing different support.
Vitamin D is found in limited amounts in oily fish and eggs, instead it is primarily manufactured in our bodies by exposure to sunlight. Therefore, as it is important to keep your baby or child safe out of the sun, most children will need a supplement. I like the Better you vitamin spray for infants suitable from birth to 3 years old.
All breastfeeding babies should be started on a supplement of Vitamin D from birth, regardless if mum is taking a supplement or not. The recommended dose is 8.5-10 micrograms (mcg) per day.
Babies who are having more than 500mls of formula per day, do not need any vitamin supplements, because the formula is fortified with supplementary vitamins including vitamin D.
Once your baby is over 12 months, they should take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (mcg) per day until they are 4 years old (unless your child still has more than 500mls of formula a day).
Vitamin A is important for night time vision, immune system and skin health. Foods rich in vitamin A are:
- dark green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli
- dairy products
- carrots, sweet potatoes, swede
- some oils
- fortified spreads
From 6 months to 5 years old, it is recommended that children take a supplement of vitamin A, unless then are taking more than 500mls of formula per day.
Vitamin C is important for immune system, and general health. The absorption of iron can be increased by combining foods rich in vitamin C at the same meal. Foods rich in vitamin C are:
- kiwi fruit
- bell peppers
From 6 months to 5 years old, it is recommended that children take a supplement of vitamin C, unless then are taking more than 500mls of formula per day.
The B vitamin complex consists of a number of different compounds. For children weaned onto a vegan diet, they need to supplement B12. Otherwise, there are no recommendations for children to take B vitamin supplements, as they should meet their requirements through their diet alone. However, the B vitamins are often included in multivitamins.
Omega 3 is a type of fat, that has to be consumed in our diet, and cannot be manufactured in our bodies. It is found it oily fish such as salmon, cod, mackerel, trout, haddock, plaice and pollack and also nuts, vegetable oils, seeds, and tofu.
Current recommendations are to include two portions of oily fish in your own and children’s diet every week.
The following is guide to approximate portion sizes of oily fish:
18m to 3 years = 1 -3 tablespoons or 1/4 – 3/4 small fillet
4 – 6 years = 2-4 tablespoons or 1/2 – 1 small fillet
7 – 11 years = 3 – 5 tablespoons or 1 -1 1/2 small fillets
12 years to adult = 140g fresh fish or 1 small can of oily fish
There are currently no recommendations for adults or children to take omega 3 supplements, but there has been evidence of some benefit in specific groups of adults.
If you decide to supplement your child’s diet with Omega 3 supplements you should consider the following:
- Choose an Omega-3 supplement rather than a fish liver oil.
- Choose an age appropriate supplement for your child
- Omega 3 supplements frequently contain vitamin A. The The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises that if you take supplements containing vitamin A such as fish liver oils, you should not have more than a total of 1.5mg (1500ug) a day from food and supplements combined.
- Seek advice if you are unsure.
Most toddlers do not need to take iron supplements, however there are some groups that are higher risk, and more likely to need to supplement their diet; these are babies with low (<2.5Kg) and very low birth weight. All children should be offered an iron-rich diet (meat and iron-fortified foods) from 6m and drink less than 500mls of cows milk per day. This is because if your toddler fills up on milk, they will eat less solid food, and miss out on foods containing iron. If you are concerned, then seek medical advice.
- If your child or baby has 500mls of formula per day, they do not need any vitamin supplements.
- Breast fed babies should take vitamin D supplements from birth to aged 4 years. At 6 months they should also be started on vitamin A and C supplements until aged 4 years. I like the Better You multivitamin sprays for infants, suitable from 1 to 3 years.
- Aim for up to 2 portions of oily fish per week to meet omega 3 needs.
- There is no need to supplement other vitamins, as their needs should be met by their diet.
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