I’ve previously written about vitamins and minerals for babies and toddlers but in this two-part blog I wanted to cover the supplements that are currently available on the market and do an in-depth comparison of them.
I’ve teamed up with The Nutrition Consultant, What_food_when and The Lifestyle Nutritionist to thoroughly research the main options currently available on the market in the UK aimed at children under the age of 5.
This first blog is a summary of the current advice. In my next blog, we’ll be looking into those currently on the market, what they contain, plus key things to look out for.
What are the current recommendations for supplements for babies and toddlers?
There are a few supplements which are recommended by the Department of Health as a general rule. This is because growing children, particularly those that don’t follow a varied diet often don’t consume enough vitamin A and C. In addition, vitamin D is particularly hard to get enough of through food alone.
For vitamins A and C, supplements do not necessarily have to meet the full required amount alone, as children will ideally be getting some of these vitamins from the foods they’re eating as well. A supplement is designed to do just that – “supplement” the diet! Vitamin D is the exception and this supplement should contain the exact recommended amount shown above.
Why is Vitamin D necessary for breastfed babies from birth but not formula fed?
The main source of vitamin D intake for everyone is via sunlight, as dietary sources do not typically provide sufficient amounts. As sunlight is limited during the autumn and winter months in the UK, the entire UK population is at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is especially prevalent for those who spend a lot of time indoors or who are regularly covered up throughout the year (such as babies).
A new-born baby’s Vitamin D level is directly linked to their mother’s vitamin D status during pregnancy. In the UK, it’s recommended for ALL pregnant women to take a daily supplement of 10µg/day throughout pregnancy and to continue whilst breastfeeding (check out my blog on recommendations for supplements in pregnancy). The amount of vitamin D in a mother’s breast milk will depend on her vitamin D intake as well as her stores before pregnancy and it’s therefore recommended that as a precaution, breastfed babies are given a vitamin D supplement as well as their mothers.
As infant formula is already supplemented with vitamin D, an additional supplement is not necessary if your child is having 500mls or more of formula milk per day.
It’s unclear how many women are likely to be low or deficient in vitamin D, but the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) suggests 29% of adults are at risk of deficiency. The only way to check your specific levels would be via a blood test, which can be discussed with your GP if necessary.
What about other supplements?
Aside from vitamins A, C & D, there are no nutrients which are recommended to be supplemented as a general rule for ALL children and it’s important to note that nutritional supplements should not be used to replace a balanced and varied diet. The best way to ensure that your little one is getting all of the nutrients they need, is to offer a variety of foods.
There are some supplements available for under 5’s which also contain additional nutrients that may be helpful for some children, for example those on a vegan or vegetarian diet or excluding fish or dairy. The table below shows which nutrients could potentially be lacking if your child is excluding any particular foods or is on particular diets, and therefore where a supplement may be beneficial.
It’s REALLY important however to talk to a healthcare professional if you’re thinking of offering supplements to your baby or child, other than the recommended vitamin A, C and D or an age-appropriate multivitamin, especially before offering multiple supplements.
Read more of my articles on specific nutrients:
Note: The above list is not an exhaustive list of all vitamins and minerals to look out for in your child’s diet – the NHS website has more details and for individual advice specific to your child, it’s best to speak to your GP or a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian.
In the next blog, we’re going to provide a really detailed comparison of the most popular options currently available in the UK to help show what to look out for when choosing your child’s supplement.
[Notes and Disclaimer: The information and advice provided in this blog are of a general nature and should never replace individual health or medical advice provided by your healthcare professional team. The blog is not endorsed or sponsored by any of the brands featured. It is not intended to be used to diagnose any medical condition or nutrient deficiency. For any individual concerns related to your family’s nutritional needs, please consult a qualified healthcare professional. The information included is based on the latest scientific research at the time (May 2021), which can change as research is updated.]