Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Infants
You may have spotted vitamin and mineral supplements for infants in your local drugstore and wondered whether your baby needs them. Most babies who regularly breast-feed or take commercial infant formula get all the nutrients they need, including vitamins and minerals.
In certain cases, however, breast-fed or formula-fed babies do need vitamin and mineral supplements. If a health care professional recommends any supplements for your child, it is important to follow the directions carefully. Large doses of vitamins or minerals can be harmful. Keep vitamins, minerals and other medicines out of reach from children.
Specific supplements for infants include:
Iron is essential for normal growth and development, particularly for making red blood cells. Breast milk contains enough iron for the first 6 months of life. After that, iron-containing foods, such as iron-fortified cereals, dark green vegetables and meats, provide necessary additional iron. Infants who are not breast-fed or are only breast-fed some of the time should receive an iron-fortified formula (containing between 4 to12 milligrams per liter of iron) throughout the baby's first year of life. Any supplemental drops that contain iron should be given only if your baby's health care provider says they are necessary.
Vitamin K is critical for a baby's blood system to clot and stop bleeding. Newborns normally have low levels of vitamin K because it does not cross the placenta from the mother very well and the newborns do not yet have enough bacteria in their intestines to make their own vitamin K. Right after delivery, all babies receive an injection of vitamin K to prevent rare, but life-threatening cases of excessive bleeding from a vitamin K deficiency. After this shot of vitamin K, infants do not need extra doses of vitamin K unless recommended by a health care provider.
In the past few years, there has been an unexpected increase in the number of cases of rickets (a bone disease resulting from vitamin D deficiency) seen in infants, toddlers and very young children. Although the body can make its own vitamin D in the skin with exposure to sunlight, to decrease the risk of skin cancer we recommend keeping infants under 6 months of age out of direct sunlight and using sunscreen regularly on all children. Therefore, it is difficult to know whether an infant is getting the amount of sun exposure needed to make enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is also found in foods such as infant formula, vitamin D fortified milk, eggs, and fish. If your baby is formula-fed and taking at least 27-32 ounces of vitamin-D fortified formula or milk per day, he is getting enough vitamin D. Babies who are exclusively breast-fed, or not yet talking at least 27-32 ounces of vitamin-D fortified formula per day (most infants under 6 months of age) should be taking supplemental vitamin D drops. Discuss your baby's need for vitamin D with your health care provider. Don't give more than the recommended dosage of 400 international units per day, because too much vitamin D may be toxic.
This mineral helps prevent tooth decay in children and adults. However, too much fluoride can damage your baby's developing teeth. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry do not recommend fluoride supplements for breast-fed or formula-fed infants during the first 6 months of life. After 6 months, you may need to give extra fluoride drops to your baby, depending on whether your drinking water contains fluoride and/or whether the infant formula you are using already contains fluoride. Check with your child's health care professional to see if your baby needs supplemental fluoride.