In an ideal world, kids would be getting all the nutrition they need from healthy, well-balanced meals. But the reality is, all kids aren't great eaters, and with Mom and Dad having increasingly busy lifestyles, the picture-perfect image of the whole family gathered around the table each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn't realistic for a lot of families.
Your pediatrician may recommend children's vitamins for kids who:
- Tend to be finicky, picky eaters who aren't eating enough
- Tend to have chronic medical conditions (like asthma) or digestive problems
- Don’t eat on a well-balanced diet
- Eat a lot of processed, fast food made for convenience
- Follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as they may benefit in particular from an iron supplement
- Eat a dairy-free diet, either because of preference or a milk allergy, as they may need a calcium supplement
- Drink a lot of carbonated drinks, which can actually take vitamins and minerals away from their growing bodies, including magnesium
Many multivitamins, available over-the-counter at pharmacies or grocery stores, are in chewable or gummy form to make it easy for kids to eat and digest. They also feature fun flavors and shapes to encourage kids to want to take their vitamins when it's time. These types of multivitamins often contain necessary nutrients to support kids' bone health, energy levels, immune system, and overall wellness. Here are some key children's vitamins to look for when shopping around. Many multivitamins will contain some or all of these key vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin A: Promotes normal growth and development, including tissue and bone repair, a strong immune system, and healthy skin and eyes. Food sources of vitamin A include carrots, squash, other orange-yellow vegetables, and also milk, cheese and eggs.
- Vitamin B: The B-family vitamins, which include B2, B3, B6 and B12, help support metabolism, energy levels, and healthy nervous and circulatory systems. Meat, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, and beans contain high levels of B vitamins.
- Vitamin C: Naturally found in citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, and tomatoes, vitamin C helps support healthy tissues, skin, and muscle development.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin helps promote proper bone and tooth formation and also helps the body to absorb calcium, necessary for strong, healthy bones. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, so make sure your kids are spending plenty of time outside in the warmer months.
- Calcium: This mineral helps kids build strong bones as they grow.
- Iron: Assists in strong muscle development and is essential for healthy red blood cells. Adolescent girls are at particularly high risk for iron deficiency, especially as they begin to menstruate. Natural sources for iron include meats such as turkey and pork, red meats, spinach, and beans.
Sometimes baby vitamins are essential for your child's well-being. However, you should be attentive to using them and always consult a doctor.
Newborns can benefit from certain vitamin supplements. Vitamin D is a common vitamin given to newborns. Recall that sunshine is the best way for children to obtain vitamin D; however, because infants should be kept out of the sun as much as possible and wear sunscreen when exposed, their bodies can't naturally manufacture enough vitamin D from sun exposure. This is why newborns are often given vitamin D supplements, usually in the form of drops. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants should have a minimum intake of 400 IU of vitamin D per day beginning soon after birth.
For babies who are exclusively or partially breastfed, vitamin D supplements should continue through the first year, until babies are weaned to at least 1 quart of whole milk per day. Whole milk shouldn't be used until baby is at least 12 months.
For babies who are formula-fed, all formulas sold in the United States have at least 400 IUs per liter of vitamin D, so if baby is drinking at least 32 ounces of formula each day, they don't need a vitamin D supplement.
Iron supplements for newborns
Babies who are carried to full-term have enough iron in their bodies from their mothers to last them through the first four months of life. After this, infants who are exclusively breastfed are at risk of iron deficiency, which is why the AAP recommends giving 1mg/kg/day of a liquid iron supplement until solid foods containing iron are introduced into baby's diet.
For formula-fed babies, the AAP recommends using an iron-fortified formula from birth through the first year of life.
Liquid vitamins for babies, such as vitamin D or iron, are typically mixed into solid food for older babies who are eating solids or given directly to newborns using a dropper. Typically, the dropper is placed on the inside of your baby's cheek and released so they swallow it. Sometimes, you can mix the dose with a small amount of formula, usually just enough to fill a nipple, and feed it to your baby this way.
Multivitamins for babies may be recommended by your pediatrician if your baby was born prematurely, had a low birth weight, or drinks significantly less formula or breast milk than other babies close to their age. Always talk to your pediatrician before starting to give your baby multivitamins.
Every child and baby is different as to whether they truly need children's vitamins, and the one trusted health professional who can help you decide is your child's pediatrician. Consult with them first before deciding whether to give your kids vitamins.