Do You Know What Vitamins & Supplements Your Little One Needs?

The average healthy American child probably does not need much of anything to supplement their diet and the emphasis should be placed on offering a healthy diet in moderation of all portions of that diet to include fats and carbohydrates (sugar). Most regular vitamins we all hear about are needed in very small doses that are easily supplied by a varied North American diet. Having said that, there are certain groups of children who definitely need supplementation; to mention just a few, certain chronically ill children, certain children from third world countries suffering from starvation or emotional deprivation, or severely abused children in this country who have been subjected to the worst possible environmental deprivations.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for other special groups:

  1. Since another recommendation is to limit sun exposure in children in order to prevent later skin cancers, and this restriction can lower amount of vitamin D normally produced in sunlight, and therefore, a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D is recommended based on sun exposure (or lack thereof). For exclusively breast fed babies, 400 IU of vitamin D daily is recommended early after delivery. For those babies drinking 32 ounces of formula a day no vitamin D supplement is recommended since all American formulas have the correct supplement of this vitamin.  Whole milk also has correct vitamin D supplement but whole milk not recommended for children over 12 months of age. Check with your baby’s Doctor about the need for this vitamin.  Similar recommendations are made for calcium and phosphorus intake.
  2. Babies who are full term and have no problems have probably received enough iron from their mothers during the last month of pregnancy to last the first 3- 4 months so an exclusively breastfed baby should begin Iron supplementation beginning at age four. Iron in breast milk is only partially absorbed. Preterm and developmentally disabled children are also at higher risk for Iron deficiency while formula fed infants will receive the proper amount of iron as long as they continue formula. Fortunately, it is common place for Pediatricians to check a blood count as an indication of iron status at age 9- 10 months and again at around 15 months and if anemia is found iron can be added to the diet. The bottom line again is to check with your Doctor for the need and amount of iron needed for your infant and child.
  3. Large amounts of certain vitamins such as A, C, D and K has never been shown to provide any beneficial effects in normal healthy North American children and can be toxic– this is not a case of “if a little is good a lot is better”- often times this is not the best policy for anything.
  4. As far as other vitamins (such as A & B) are concerned, I stick with my original paragraph that most healthy children eating a fairly well rounded diet over all, (not day to day) does not need any extra vitamin supplement at.

Homeopathic supplements for children are very popular now but there are no adequate recommendations for amount used and frequency for children and therefore should be used with caution; further knowledge and research is needed.

Other complementary medical treatments have no definite guidelines for use in children, but certain children may benefit from their use.

Always involve your child’s Doctor when considering going beyond the established guidelines in your children.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff currently holds positions as Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical Schools of Georgetown, George Washington and the University of Virginia and is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Board of Pediatrics and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and can be reached at Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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