I’ve written before about what supplements are recommended for babies and toddlers. I’ve also written a post comparing nutritional supplements for babies and toddlers.
In this blog, I wanted to focus specifically on one nutrient in particular – vitamin C for babies and toddlers.
Why does my child need vitamin C?
Vitamin C is needed for a variety of functions within the body, including:
- Protecting damage to cells
- Forming collagen (a protein that supports the normal function of bones, gums, teeth and skin)
- Supporting immune function
- Producing key hormones and neurotransmitters to support the healthy function of the nervous system
Vitamin C also helps our bodies absorb iron. Iron from plant-based foods such as beans and pulses, is absorbed less efficiently than iron from animal sources, such as meat and fish. Eating foods containing vitamin C alongside plant-based sources of iron helps to ensure more iron is absorbed. You can read more about iron for mum and baby in my blog.
How much vitamin C does my little one need?
The table below shows the daily recommended intake for vitamin C from birth to 10 years.
|Daily Recommended Vitamin C Intake (mg)
Our bodies don’t store vitamin C, which means that we need to get it from the foods we eat, or through supplements. Government recommendations are that all children from 6 months to 5 years should be given a daily supplement containing vitamin C.
If your baby is having more than 500ml of formula per day, then it’s not necessary to offer a supplement. This is because infant formula is already fortified with vitamin C.
What foods are high in vitamin C?
The graphics below show which foods contain vitamin C and how much they contain per 100g.
To put the numbers above into context, the table below shows how much vitamin C is in a typical portion of the foods above:
So that shows that in just one average portion of pepper, kale, orange or broccoli, your little one can meet their daily vitamin C requirements! Even if your little one is having smaller than average portions, by offering a variety of these foods throughout the day and week, they are more than likely to meet their vitamin C requirements with food!
Can my child have too much or too little vitamin C?
Vitamin C deficiency is quite rare in the UK, as it is readily available in many common foods. However, babies and children can be at higher risk of deficiency, if they have a limited diet without many foods rich in vitamin C.
Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, anaemia, muscle weakness and joint pain. Long-term vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, which is a rare condition – according to NHS data – in 2021 there were just 6 hospital admissions for scurvy. In children, vitamin C deficiency can cause problems with developing bones.
Having more vitamin C than the recommended intake is not considered harmful. However, taking too much vitamin C in the form of supplements – more than 1000mg daily, can cause some short-term symptoms including stomach pain, diarrhoea and gas.
Does my child need more vitamin C when they’re sick?
You may have heard that vitamin C can help fight off colds or help you to recover more quickly from the common cold. There’s no evidence that vitamin C can prevent the common cold, although there is some evidence that it can reduce the length and severity of symptoms.
Vitamin C plays an important role in supporting our immune system, and during infection, it can become depleted in the body. If you continue to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as their daily supplement containing vitamin C, it’s more than likely your child will have a sufficient intake of vitamin C.
Remember, it’s quite normal for appetites to be lower when your child is feeling unwell – here are my tips for feeding poorly babies and toddlers, from both my personal and professional experience!
Why is a vitamin C supplement recommended for babies and young children?
Even though it’s quite easy for little ones to reach the recommended intake for vitamin C through foods alone, current guidelines in the UK still recommend that babies from 6 months should be given a daily supplement containing vitamins A, C and D.
This is because certain groups of the population, including children MAY be more at risk of developing vitamin C deficiency due to a limited diet. Therefore, these recommendations are based on ensuring that the most at-risk groups avoid deficiency. These recommendations are currently under review at the moment, so it’s possible they may change in the future!
More blogs on individual nutrients