Mother’s Day is this weekend which has me thinking about all the things moms have to worry about… one of the most common being the nutrition and health of our precious little ones. Almost every day at my clinic, I get some sort of question about vitamins – What’s safe? What’s necessary? Where do I get good ones? The answer, of course, varies by your particular health needs and should be discussed with your own medical provider. A few things are pretty generalizable though and I’ll delve into them here by age. This post is about kiddos – coming up next will be an adult version, so make sure you FOLLOW US to get that update!
Breastfed Babies, Birth through 12 months: 400 units Vitamin D
Vitamin D is needed for all babies who are breastfed half or more of their milk intake. I nearly always recommend Baby Ddrops for those who can afford the $10/month averaged cost. These are concentrated drops so, instead of getting your tiny baby to choke down a whole milliliter of vitamin D like the generic ones at the pharmacy, you only have to put 1 drop on your clean finger and put on baby’s tongue before a feeding. If your baby is formula fed, no vitamins needed, they’re already in there – see below for details.
Breastfed Babies, 4 months through 12 months: Add 6-11mg Iron
Iron is recommended for breast-fed babies after the first 3 months of life. Mom’s iron from the womb keeps them going up until that 4 month mark.
Sidenote…. One of the potential benefits of delayed cord clamping at birth is increasing baby’s iron stores for that first 3-4 month period (great review on this by Dr. Raju et al here.) . This is, of course, an important thing to discuss with your own pregnancy care provider, but worth considering for this and other benefits if there is no reason not to do it.
From ~4 months through the rest of the first year, baby will start eating more and more ‘real’ foods which can supply some iron, but usually not enough. The recommended amount by the American Academy of Pediatrics for babies 7-12 months is 11mg per day. For reference, you’d have to get your baby to eat 2 cups of cooked spinach to get that much – not gonna happen.
Option 1: at this age, stop Vitamin D supplement and change to multivitamin. Poly-vi-sol with iron is the go-to recommendation for most health care providers. However, my daughters both projectile vomited it, so we had to use alternatives. Other options are Zarbees Baby Multivitamin with Iron and Honest Company makes an easy-to-give vitamin powder: Link here.
Option 2: continue with Ddrops and give iron-only supplement like this one or give a serving of iron-enriched cereal daily. I personally, along with a growing number of pediatric care providers, recommend the former along with introducing iron-rich foods such as pureed meats, dark leafy vegetables, beets and beans before cereals as part of a healthier early diet. Baby cereals don’t otherwise have much in the way of nutrition or “taste education” for that little one. (References here in AAP News and here from NIH)
Formula-fed Babies up to 1 year
Breast-milk is best for moms and babies that can do it in all aspects except these 2 vitamins. Formula comes conveniently stocked with both Vitamin D and Iron so you don’t have to worry about the supplements. Certainly not a reason to choose it over breastmilk, but a nice side-benefit if it ends up being the right option for you. I usually recommend Baby’s Only Organic Formula or Plum Organics Grow Well Formula. They are well tolerated (review here), have the right amount of all important nutrients and both come out to roughly $1/ounce (compare to Similac Advance Non-GMO at $1.25/ounce). They are also organic and free of corn syrup solids and chemical additives – which, when you’re talking about the ENTIRE nutrition of your tiny rapidly growing baby is important. AND!! You can get them both on auto-ship from Amazon so no leaving the house – bonus!
After 1 year: Vitamin D 400-1000 Units Daily +/- others…
This now depends on how picky of an eater your kid has become. If you have that amazing, adventurous eater who loves a variety of meats, fruits, and vegetables and drinks 2+ cups of milk per day, multivitamins are unnecessary. If your child doesn’t get 400-1000 units Vitamin D from fortified milk and other foods, they will need a vitamin D supplement again. Why? What about kids before the advent of vitamins?? Well, kids were outside ALL DAY without sunscreen back then. We now know better and protect their skin – the downside of which is low vitamin D.
If you do have a picky eater – even if you’re not sure how picky is picky – a multivitamin can fill in the gaps. Again, the above mentioned Zarbee’s and Honest options are great as is Renzo’s Picky Eater Multi. If they’re getting extra of some of those vitamins, they will pee them out.
Hang on…. I hear a question coming out of the Ether….
“Dr. Annie, are the examples you listed above the only good options?? What about Flintstone’s vitamins or Olli Chewables?” Of course those aren’t the only vitamin brand options. If you want to check out others, just read the fine print on the label on the back and make sure they have the right amounts of the recommended vitamins.
Wait…. another one coming in…. “What about probiotics??” I’m so glad you asked! YES probiotics are so important from infancy through the rest of life – so important I’m going to write a separate post all about it ;^)
Dr. Annie is a family physician, wife and mom of 2 picky eaters In the Sacramento Area.