You may hear about vitamin supplements for children but are they really necessary? In this article, EYNP (Early Years Nutrition Partnership) Registered Nutrition Professional Catherine Lippe tells us everything we need to know about vitamin supplements for the under 5’s.

Does my child need a vitamin supplement?

In my opinion, yes. In the UK it is recommended by the NHS that all children aged 6 months to 5 years receive a vitamin supplement containing vitamins A, C, and D daily. Why? Children under the age of 5 years are growing rapidly yet their tummies remain small in comparison to their rapid growth….so trying to get sufficient nutrition into them in small amounts can be quite tricky. That’s why we would recommend full-fat milk to under 2’s as it is one way of getting more calories in, in a smaller volume. Obviously, the tummy volume will increase as they grow but it takes a while to catch up!

There are some vitamins they may not be able to get enough of through food especially if are going through a period of fussiness which is common in young children. In addition to this vitamin D is not found in many foods so taking a supplement is a good way to ensure your little one is getting enough.

Why are these vitamins so important for my child?

Vitamin A

Supports your child’s immune system and keeps skin healthy. It also supports eyesight in dim light. Vitamin A can be found in cow’s milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, carrots, swede, sweet potato mangoes, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and spinach. For children aged 6months–5 years it is recommended to offer a supplement containing around 200 micrograms of vitamin A daily to ensure they are getting enough.

Vitamin C

Supports your child’s overall health and immune system. It also helps the body to absorb iron. Iron is an important mineral for your child’s growth and development. Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables but a supplement of 20 milligrams (mg) is recommended daily for children aged 6months-5yrs as a safeguard.

Vitamin D

Helps the body to absorb calcium. Together these nutrients support your child’s bone, teeth, and musculoskeletal health. Vitamin D is found in small amounts in a few foods such as oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals, spread, and yoghurts. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight but, in the UK, we don’t get enough sunlight to make all the vitamin D we need so a supplement is especially important. From 6 months-5yrs children should receive a vitamin supplement of 10mcg every day, all year round.

What about babies?
Babies who are having more than 500ml infant formula each day do not any vitamin supplements. This is because the infant formula milks already have the vitamins added. If your baby is breastfed or has less than 500ml formula milk daily they should receive a vitamin D drop containing 8.5-10mcg vitamin D daily from birth. From 6 months onwards a supplement containing vitamins A, C, and D is recommended.

Find out more about The Early Years Nutrition Partnership.

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