Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Today in North America, the following standards regarding vitamin supplements are generally accepted for normal full-term babies:
- Exclusively breastfed babies may need to take a vitamin D supplement (depending on where they live) beginning in the first two to four weeks of life. They generally do not need additional vitamin supplements if their mothers are eating a varied and well-balanced diet.
- Formula-fed babies do not need any vitamin supplementation. Only medically-approved, commercial iron-fortified formulas are appropriate, as they contain all the vitamins (including Vitamin D) and nutrients necessary for healthy growth. Homemade formulas do not contain either sufficient vitamins nor nutrients for a baby's needs.
- Fluoride drops may be recommended for breast or formula-fed babies, depending on the child's age and the fluoride content of drinking water in the area. When given regularly at a young age, fluoride has been shown to significantly reduce dental cavities. Your municipality's water authority will be able to tell you the fluoride content of your local water. Consult your doctor or dentist to find out whether your child should have fluoride drops, at what age they should be administered, and in what quantity.
Generally, older children don't need vitamin supplements as long as they're eating a varied diet that includes enough food from each of the major food groups. A healthy, well-balanced diet will usually provide all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for normal growth and development.
A small percentage of children may have multiple food allergies, a metabolic disorder, or some other condition which requires a restricted diet. Children in these special circumstances may require supplements to make up for vitamins or minerals which are lacking in their diets. These supplements should be taken only in the recommended doses.
It's not a good idea to give your baby or youngster any additional vitamin or mineral supplements unless they're recommended by the child's doctor. Contrary to popular belief, excess vitamins or minerals in your child's system will not boost his or her health; in fact, they can be toxic. Herbal supplements or preparations are also strongly discouraged, as they aren't regulated, and - though they claim to be "natural" - often contain small amounts of drugs which can be harmful to your child. The best bet for ensuring your child's good nutrition is to offer an age-appropriate, well-balanced diet, and to consult your pediatrician before giving supplements of any kind.