Do infants need supplements?
“Breast milk is the perfect food,” says Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician and founder of DrGreene.com. As long as babies are drinking breast milk, they are filling their complex nutritional needs–except when it comes to vitamin D, which is linked to building strong bones and can also help prevent breast cancer, colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease later in life. Since we get this vitamin from the sun, and not our food supply, babies should receive 200 IU of vitamin D daily. Most infants spend a great deal of time indoors, and the depleted ozone makes it necessary for us to cover them up when they are outside. Formula is already supplemented with all the vitamins your baby needs, including vitamin D, so there is no need to give him anything else.
After age one
When your baby turns one, he’ll be eating mostly solids and milk to fill his caloric needs. In a perfect world, he should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals he needs from eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, protein and dairy. “But we live in a world where diets often fall short of perfection,” says Dr. Greene. It’s estimated that only two percent of children eat the recommended daily number of servings from each food group.
“There are 13 major micronutrients–I call them the Greene 13–that concern me the most when it comes to children and nutrition,” says Dr. Greene. These include: calcium, fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA), phosphorous (except for children who drink carbonated beverages–they get too much phosphorus), potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and zinc. Most kids don’t get enough of one or more of these important nutrients. For example, seven out of 10 boys and nine out of 10 girls don’t get sufficient calcium during key times of growth. The solution? A daily multivitamin is a great way to fill in the nutritional holes.
Dr. Greene recommends starting to supplement after your child’s first birthday (unless he is on a toddler formula that already has the extras added). “The body and brain are growing especially fast up to age three, when many kids are notoriously picky eaters,” says Dr. Greene. A multi-vitamin now can pay off later. A June 2001 study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews found a boost in non-verbal intelligence in children who ate a daily multivitamin.
What should you look for in a multivitamin?
Avoid gummy or candy vitamins. Daily candy is not a lesson kids need to learn, and it can be a hard habit to break. It’s essential that you read labels. Many popular brands contain additives such as: hydrogenated vegetable oil, chemical dyes FD&C Blue #2 Lake, FD&C Red #40 Aluminum Lake, FD&C Yellow #6 Aluminum Lake, artificial flavors, aspartame, sugar, butylated hydroxytoluene (this preservative is a suspected carcinogen banned in all foods in Japan and Australia, and in baby foods in the U.S.), carrageenan, gelatin, and pregelatinized starch.
Start at your local health food store and ask for help selecting the best multi-vitamin, plus minerals, for your child. “Make sure the vitamin contains 50 to 100 percent of the daily-recommended value of each of the Greene 13,” says Dr. Greene. If you can’t find everything in one package, you make have to buy an addition supplement for a few of these nutrients or make sure they are in your child’s diet.
Nancy Ripton is a professional journalist the co-founder of justthefactsbaby.com, a go-to guide for new moms and moms-to-be. Justthefactsbaby.com offers a unique combination of 30-second quick facts (for moms on-the-go) and in-depth, professionally written articles. Justthefactsbaby.com also boasts a baby route map system to help you find the most child-friendly spots in your hood. (http://www.justthefactsbaby.com/maps)