Supplementation for Toddlers and Young Children: What You Need To Know

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When it comes to supplementation for toddlers and young children, there are a few things you need to know before you make a decision. In this blog post, we'll discuss the benefits of supplementation and some essential factors to consider when choosing supplements for your kids. So whether you're already supplementing your child's diet or are just thinking about it, read on for information that will help you make the best choice for your child's health.

When can children start taking supplements?

Many parents wonder if their children are getting all the nutrients they need from their diet and whether supplements may be necessary.

While supplements can be beneficial, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before giving them to very young children.

In general, supplements are not recommended during infancy, as their bodies are still developing and they are more likely to get the nutrients they need from breast milk or formula. However, some supplements may be appropriate for infants in specific cases, such as iron supplements for those at risk for iron deficiency. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to give supplements to babies outside of the official guidelines should be made in consultation with a doctor or other healthcare provider.

Supplementation for toddlers and young children

As your child begins to eat a more varied diet and reduce their reliance on breast milk or formula, there are a few supplements you may wish to consider introducing to your child:

Vitamin D

One of the essential supplements for toddlers and young children is vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is vital for strong bones and teeth and promotes immune system health.

If your child is not getting enough vitamin D from their diet or supplementation, they may also be at risk for rickets, which results in softening and weakening of the bones.

While some foods are fortified with vitamin D, it can be difficult for kids to get enough from diet alone. Consequently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children over 1 year of age take a daily supplement of 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D.

Breastfed babies under 1 year of age should also take a vitamin D supplement, with a lower dosage of 400 IU per day, as they may not be getting enough vitamin D from breast milk. Infants under 1 year of age who drink formula fortified with vitamin D shouldn't take an additional supplement, as they are likely getting everything they need from the milk.

What about other supplements?

Many other supplements are marketed to children, but there is often little scientific evidence to support their use. In general, aside from Vitamin D, other supplements should only be considered if there is a nutritional need. In other words, a supplement may be appropriate if your child is not getting enough of a particular nutrient from their diet. Some examples include:

Supplements for children who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet

If your child follows a vegan or vegetarian diet, they may be at risk for specific nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies arise because some nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron, are found predominantly in animal-based foods.

Supplements that you may wish to consider for toddlers and young children following a vegan diet, according to the AAP, include:

  • Vitamin B12 - important for the development of the brain and nerve cells
  • Iron- essential for producing red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body
  • Vitamin A - supports vision, the immune system, and growth and development
  • Calcium - crucial for the development of strong bones
  • Zinc - promotes immune function, wound healing, and growth and development
  • Riboflavin - supports growth and development

If you're worried about your child's intake of these nutrients, speak with a healthcare professional about whether or not supplements may be appropriate. They can also offer guidance on which supplements to choose and how much to give since some of these nutrients (e.g., iron and vitamin A) can be harmful when consumed in excess.

Supplements for children who do not eat a varied diet

If your child has a restricted diet or is a picky eater, they may be at risk of some nutrient deficiencies since they may not get all the nutrients they need from their diet.

For example, if your toddler or young child does not eat many fruits or vegetables, you may wish to consider a vitamin C supplement. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for immune system health and is found predominantly in fruits and vegetables. It also helps absorb iron from the diet, which is especially important if your child is at risk of iron deficiency or anemia.

For some children, a multivitamin may be an excellent option to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients. However, it's essential to consider what your child already gets from their diet. Some vitamins and minerals can be harmful when consumed in high doses, and, especially for children, it's essential not to exceed the recommended daily intake. For this reason, it's always best to speak with a healthcare professional before starting your child on any supplement.

Supplementation for toddlers and young children: The bottom line

So, should you give your toddler or young child supplements? The answer is that it depends.

Supplementation can be an important part of a healthy diet for toddlers and young children. However, most supplements are not recommended for this age group, except for Vitamin D, which is recommended for all children over 1 year of age and breastfed babies from birth.

Some additional exceptions exist, which are dependent upon your child's diet. For example, if your child follows a vegan or vegetarian diet, they may benefit from supplements that replace missing nutrients most commonly found in animal products. You may also wish to consider supplements for fussy eaters. In this case, speak to your health professional about what would be most beneficial.

Our philosophy is that supplements should enhance what you're already getting from your diet — and this extends to children too. If you would like to learn more about any of our supplements and how they can support your child's health, please get in touch for more information. 

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