Vitamin And Mineral Supplements For
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 16 ounces of vitamin-D fortified formula or milk per day, he
is getting enough vitamin D. But babies who are exclusively breast-fed, 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
200 to 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.