, he is keen on helping consumers find the best medical supplies at an affordable price. When not stationed behind his well-worn keyboard, Frank loves spending time with his grandchildren and vows that someday he will tie the perfect fly.
The debate over taking vitamin supplements rages on. Many questions surrounding whether to give them to our children still go unanswered. Are they helpful or harmful? How do we tell if our child needs them?What are the risks?
On one side we are told that vitamin supplements are harmless and that we should be giving them to our children. On the other side are those that claim vitamin supplements may overload our children with excess vitamins that can potentially harm them.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) vacillates on the subject. They suggest that you should give your children supplements only under the direction of their doctor. However, they also concede that a supplement is okay as long as it doesn’t exceed the recommended daily allowance for a vitamin or mineral. So if the experts can’t agree on the subject what are parents to do?
The AAP’s main concern with pediatric supplements stems from providing too much of a vitamin or mineral to our children. As the old adage says, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. The question for parents, then, is knowing when your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals from their regular diet. To answer that question, we’ll look at the dietary needs of babies separately from those of young children eating solid food.
What babies require
Most infants and babies receive nearly everything they need from their mother’s breast milk or baby formula until they are about six months old. The only exception to this is vitamin D. Breast milk contains only a small quantity of this important vitamin. Therefore, if your baby is breastfed or drinks less than 32 ounces of baby formula a day, you should supplement your child’s daily diet with about 400 IU of liquid vitamin D. This is on the recommendation of the AAP.
Your baby requires vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus. A lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets, a condition where the bones are soft and weak. It is true that sunshine provides us with vitamin D, but it isn’t recommended to expose your child to the sun until they are six months of age.
When giving your child liquid vitamin D, make sure to keep to the daily recommended amount. As a safeguard, check with your doctor before giving them any vitamin and mineral supplements.
As a mother, your health and eating habits will also play a role in determining what supplements your baby may or may not require. For example, certain medications may inhibit the transfer of some nutrients to the baby. If you are vegan, you should let your child’s doctor know this, as your breast milk may be low in vitaminB12, iron, zinc, and calcium.
In most cases, even if the mother doesn’t eat a perfect diet, breast milk will likely contain the nutrients your baby requires, with the exception of vitamin D. As a baby grows and starts eating solid food, especially if it is fortified with vitamins and minerals, they will most likely get all the nutrients they need.
A toddler’s needs
As your child moves onto solid food they will become increasingly pickier about the food they eat. It is normal for a parent to express concern over their child’s eating habits, as in when your toddler decides to eat nothing but cheese and crackers for days on end or balks at the suggestion that they eat anything green.
In such a case you should consider giving your toddler a vitamin supplement containing vitamins A, C, and D. If your toddler is eating a variety of healthy foods, or if your toddler is drinking about a pint of formula milk a day in addition to their solid diet, then they probably don’t require a vitamin supplement.
That being said, it is the rare toddler that chooses to eat a healthy diet on a regular basis. Therefore giving them a daily muti-vitamin will help fill in the gaps in their diet. Make sure you choose one specially formulated for kids and follow the recommended dosage.
Multivitamins for children are often flavored and colored to resemble candy. As a precaution, keep the vitamins out of sight and out of reach of your child so they won’t help themselves to it when you are not around. Finally, don’t use vitamins as a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet. Our bodies absorb nutrients far more efficiently from foods than from supplements.