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Do kids need vitamins?

As good parents we want to make sure our kids have the right amount of nutrients for proper growth and development. But should vitamins be added your child's daily intake? Below are some considerations to keep in mind.

Your newborn and infant will either drink breast milk or formula. Formula is made up of protein, sugars, iron and vitamins. Breast milk provides all of this, too. If you choose to breastfeed, it is recommended that you add 400iu of vitamin D supplementation daily to aid in healthy bone development. You can purchase concentrated drops of vitamin D that you place on your breast at the time of breastfeeding, or get liquid vitamin D (D-vi sol) and give a small amount (usually 1 ml) directly into the mouth of your child by dropper.

Your child's doctor will screen him or her for anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body's tissues) between the ages of nine and 12 months. Anemia could be from a hereditary cause or from a dietary cause (low iron). If your child is found to have low iron, then an iron supplement is recommended.  Whole milk is great for toddlers as it has vitamin D and calcium, although there is such a thing as too much milk. If you give too much milk it can block the absorption of iron and cause anemia. Recommended intake of milk for toddlers is two to three cups (16 to 21 ounces).

Parents usually start worrying about their child's nutrition when he or she is between the ages of two and four and becomes a "picky eater." Rest assured that your kids will still get their needed vitamins as cereal, bread, milk and orange juice are all fortified with vitamins like calcium, iron, and vitamins A, E, D and B.

It is recommended to wait until the age of four to start a multi-vitamin. If your child continues with the picky eating by age four, you can add an over-the-counter vitamin. Most of these vitamins are flavorful and it is usually easy to get your child to take them. It's important to note the flavor of these candy-like vitamins usually comes from a sugar-free sweetener. Keep this in mind if you don't like sugar-free substitutes.

There is such a thing as too much vitamins, too. Vitamins A, E, D and K are fat-soluble vitamins and take longer to be metabolized and excreted from the body. If you take too much of these vitamins they can be toxic and harmful. Iron overload is also a possibility. Because vitamins are now made to taste like candy, if your child gets a hold of them they may eat them like candy. This is dangerous. Please keep your vitamins out of reach from your kids.

If your child is eating a vegetarian or vegan diet they may be lacking B vitamins and iron. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal sources. B12 is important for red blood cell production and for nerve health. Meats and eggs are also a high source of iron. A multi-vitamin would assure they get their B vitamins and iron.

When your daughter starts her period she should be screened at her well-child check for anemia. If her hemoglobin is less than 12, an iron supplement should be started and foods high in iron should be encouraged.

And finally, to help make sure your child is getting the best nutrition possible, try to limit juice, soda and sugary drinks, offer meals that contain all five food groups and try to make eating fruits and veggies fun.


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