An article for new and weaning parents, exploring whether babies and toddlers need vitamin and mineral supplements.
Many parents participating in our practical weaning course 'Cooking for baby' ask us about supplements for their babies. We asked Abby Ixer, RD for her advice on supplements for babies and toddlers.
Does my baby need vitamin supplements? If so, why?
Babies who are exclusively breastfed should be given a vitamin D supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D every day from birth up until one year of age. This is because there are very few dietary sources of vitamin D and maternal levels may be low. Vitamin D is vital to enhance absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth, so it is important to ensure adequate intake.
However, infants who are fed with at least 500ml formula every day do not need vitamin supplements. This is because formula is fortified with these vitamins so no additional supplementation is required.
What about when they start eating solid foods?
The Department of Health recommends that all children between the ages of six months to five years should be given daily vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D, unless they are receiving more than 500ml of infant formula a day. It is essential to ensure that babies receive enough of these nutrients to aid healthy development. These vitamins have important functions in the body.
- Vitamin A – needed for healthy growth, vision and skin.
- Vitamin C – important for development of the immune system and maintenance of healthy tissue. Also helps to absorb iron.
- Vitamin D – essential to help absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. This is particularly important as it is very difficult for young infants to consume enough vitamin D from dietary sources alone.
I have a toddler, should I give them supplements and if so for how long?
Although infants should be eating a varied diet by 12 months, it is important to continue to give vitamin supplements until they are five years old to ensure that they receive enough nutrients for growth and development. If a child does not eat much or is a fussy eater, they may struggle to get their recommended intakes of vitamins and minerals through food alone. Supplements should be used in addition to a balanced diet and are by no means a way of replacing the nutrients acquired through food.
Are some brands of supplement better than others? What should I be looking for?
Many supplements can be purchased over the counter, but it is always best to ask a pharmacist for advice on which is most suitable. Any vitamin supplements given to babies need to be labelled as 'suitable for children under one year of age'. Always follow the recommended dose and do not be tempted to give more than one supplement to your child. Some people are entitled to ‘Healthy Start vouchers and vitamins’, which provides free vitamin drops to children and is specifically designed to help low income families. Your health visitor can provide advice on vitamins and where to access them.
For more information about Healthy Start vitamins, please visit:
For more ideas on meeting you baby's changing nutritional needs, check out our recipe books with full nutritional breakdown or sign up for one of our courses
Healthy Start Vitamins
National Institute of Clinical Excellence – Maternal and Child Nutrition (2008)