Should I Be Giving My Baby Vitamin Supplements?
Vitamins infants need to support their development
Making sure that your little one gets the best possible start in life is one of the most pressing thoughts on any parent’s mind, even during your pregnancy.
Why are they crying? Have they eaten enough? Why are they crying? Is their poo the right colour? And WHY ARE THEY CRYING?
These are just some of the most common questions a new parent will have buzzing around their brain, and today we’re going to make sure you’ve got the answer to one of the questions our pharmacists are asked the most - does my child need vitamin supplements?
So hold onto your baby brain while we find out more about which vitamins babies need and how you can make sure they’re getting their nutrients.
Do babies need vitamin supplements?
Yes, the NHS recommends that most babies will need to take vitamin supplements from birth and all of them will need vitamin supplements from 6 months onwards.
The only exception to the rule is babies who are taking more than 500ml or more of first infant formula every day — they won’t need supplements as these formulas are already fortified with vitamin D and will meet your little one’s nutritional requirements.
There are a few vitamins your little one will need to support them through this crucial stage of their development, let’s take a closer look at what they are.
Vitamin D for babies
Vitamin D plays an essential role in the development of teeth and bones, helping the body to regulate its calcium and phosphate, so you can see why babies would need this supplement in particular.
We usually get vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin, which can be tricky for Britains at the best of times (gotta love that British weather!), but can be especially difficult for babies, as you should try to keep them in the shade and protect their delicate skin from the sun.
This is why the NHS recommends that all breastfed babies should take 8.5 - 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, and everyone over the age of 1 year should take a 10 microgram supplement every day — yes parents, you too!
Vitamin A for babies
Vitamin A, which is also known as retinol, does a lot more for your body than you may realise, supporting your immune system, keeping your skin and the linings of your nose and mouth healthy, and helping you to see in dim light.
Remember that old wives’ tale about carrots helping you see in the dark? This is where it comes from!
Carrots contain lots of beta-carotene, which your body can turn into retinol, so you can keep on using that story guilt-free when your kids don’t want to eat their veggies.
The NHS recommends that babies who are not drinking more than 500ml of formula a day should start taking a vitamin A supplement from 6 months onwards.
Vitamin C for babies
We all know that vitamin C is great for the immune system (I’ve definitely been guilty of chugging orange juice during cold and flu season!) but did you know that it also helps to support healthy bones, skin, blood vessels, and cartilage?
Vitamin C does all that while helping to protect your cells and heal your wounds, so it’s no stranger to hard work.
Like vitamin A, the NHS recommends that babies who are not drinking more than 500ml a day take a vitamin C supplement from 6 months old.
Do breastfed babies need vitamin supplements?
Yes, breastfed babies will need to take vitamin supplements, even if you take supplements yourself.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, breastfed babies will need to take a vitamin D supplement every day from birth.
Most vitamins designed for infants come as drops, which you can give to your baby on a spoon or syringe.
You may also be able to mix vitamin drops with your baby’s milk, depending on the product, but you should only do this if your child won’t take their vitamins from a spoon.
This is because mixing the drops with their feed can make it difficult for you to tell whether your baby has had the full dose of their vitamins or not, meaning that they won’t get as much as they need.
If you can, it’s always best to give your baby the drops directly from a spoon or syringe, even if they’re not thrilled with the taste!
What are NHS Healthy Start vitamins?
The Government’s Healthy Start scheme provides vouchers to parents of children under 4 who are on income-related benefits or are under 18 themselves.
These vouchers are used to buy milk, fruit and veggies, helping parents to be sure that their child is getting the nutrition they need.
Another aspect of this scheme is free Healthy Start vitamins, which are provided to all parents who qualify for this initiative and as a standard to all parents in some areas of the country.
If you choose to take advantage of this scheme, you’ll receive a bottle of Healthy Start vitamin drops, which contain vitamins A, C, and D in amounts that are suitable for young children.
If you think you may qualify for Healthy Start, you should ask your health visitor or local healthcare team for information or call Healthy Start directly on 0345 607 6823 to ask for an application form.
Do newborns need vitamin K?
When your baby is born, your healthcare team will offer to give them vitamin K, either as an injection or by mouth.
This is recommended by the Department of Health as it helps with blood clotting and helps prevent a rare condition called vitamin K deficiency bleeding, or VKDB.
After this, your baby usually won’t need a daily vitamin K supplement, as this initial dose will be enough to avoid VKDB, but if you’re unsure you should speak to your healthcare team.
If they think your baby needs any extra supplements they will let you know and will help you to get the right treatment for your little one.
That’s all you need to know about making sure your baby gets the vitamins they need during those crucial early months.
Remember, if you have any questions about your child’s health, your health visitor or local healthcare professionals are the ones to ask.
They’re the experts, and they’ll be able to help you make the best possible choices as you tackle the obstacle course that is parenthood.