Tuesday, November 17, 2015

To Supplement or Not to Supplement

By: Heather Dyson

Many parents come to me worried that their child is not getting all of the nutrients they need for proper growth and good health, especially if their child is a “picky” eater. There are a number of different vitamins and supplements available for kids in fun shapes and tasty flavors. But parents often wonder, “Is it worth it? Does my child really need it?”

Requirements for supplementation vary depending on the child’s age. Both breastfed and formula fed infants meet most of their nutritional needs. Once your child transitions to solid foods, it is important to offer a well-balanced diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which will go a long way to helping them meet their nutritional needs. Even “picky eaters” often get enough vitamins and minerals, but a children’s multivitamin might not be a bad idea if you are worried your child does not eat enough variety. Just be sure to choose one that is made specifically for children, such as L'il Critters or Flintstones brands.
It is recommended that exclusively breastfed infants be supplemented with 1 mg/kg iron at about 4-6 months when it is believed that baby’s iron stores become depleted. Breastmilk does not contain iron in amounts that are recommended for infants. However, many feel that since breastmilk is a complete food for infants, supplementation is not necessary, especially if baby is starting solid foods. There are many foods that will provide iron for babies, including meats, eggs, dry beans (such as pinto, garbanzo, kidney, etc.) and fortified whole grain cereals. Formula is fortified with iron so supplementing is not necessary for formula fed babies.

Another vitamin that is often recommended for infants and children is Vitamin D. We get most of our Vitamin D from the sun, however in the fall through spring months we cannot get enough sun to make the Vitamin D we need. Also, the sunscreen we use to protect our skin from harmful rays also blocks the rays we need to make the vitamin. Infants can be supplemented with 400 IU of vitamin D per day and children over the age of 2 with up to 800 IU per day. Be sure to buy a children’s version as Vitamin D supplements are sold in many different dosages. Enfamil’s Vitamin D drops are a good and safe choice.

Always speak to your pediatrician or a Registered Dietitian before supplementing your child or if you are concerned about your child meeting his or her nutritional needs.

About the Author: Heather Dyson is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian who currently focuses on counseling patients with a variety of health situations, and in ages ranging from infancy to elderly. Click here to learn more about Heather.

57 comments :

  1. I was actually curious about this. My son is two and won't eat certain veggies or meats. I was curious about vitamins. This post was very helpful!

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    1. Glad this post helped you out! What food does your child like to eat?

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  2. Thanks for the tips! Always good information :)

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  3. Love this post. I have to admit that I am a skeptic when it comes to supplements, I just always feel it's best to get nutrients from the source, meaning from actual foods. With that said, as my daughter gets a bit older, she is becoming pickier in what she wants to eat. So even though I can make a smoothie and sneak some spinach in, I still worry a bit whether she's getting enough of the proper nutrients that she needs. I also remember giving her Vitamin D drops for a while when I was breastfeeding her. Great post, very helpful for sure.

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    1. You know that we are typically always about natural as well but sometimes it is so hard to ensure children are eating all of their necessary vitamins. I don't think that it hurts at all to provide a daily vitamin. At least it would comfort me knowing exactly what he/she had!

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  4. Such great information! I love reading the work from Dietitians. So many great nuggets to grasp. Thanks!

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  5. Hey Heather,

    What an informative post. There is so much to think about when it comes to ensuring bubs is growing fit and strong. I think a multivitamin in this day and age is a good safety net for everyone, not just babies. Just in case - I say.

    I think of parents having to become very creative when they have a picky eater, trying to attempt to disguise foods that are good for them. It would require a lot of thought.

    Rachel

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    1. You make very valid points! And it is hard to find different ways to encourage those picket eaters to eat but hopefully it is just a phase and they become braver and try new things.

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  6. Very interesting information I remember as a child having low iron and taking iron pills on a daily basis. Not sure if that came about from not being breast feed or not. It's interesting to see how times of changes some 40 years later. :)

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    1. That is interesting. I believe even breastfed babies were recommended to take an iron supplement years ago but that has since changed to vitamin D. You turned out fine though:)

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  7. This is great information Heather. My 3 year-old grandson is a picky eater and my daughter worries he's not getting enough nutrients.

    Definitely sharing this with her.

    Thanks!
    Cori

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    1. Every parent's worry! It is our job to ensure they eat right on a daily basis but sometimes kids just make it very challenging!

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  8. Such great information. It is so hard to get my son to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, so the information on vitamins was really helpful.

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    1. Thanks! The key word you mentioned is variety. A lot of kids don't stray away from what they know and like. Just keep trying to offer new fruits and veggies and encourage him to just try one bite. You'll never know what will happen!

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  9. I got to say when I read labels of some children's supplements, it upsets me. The perservatives and artificial coloring they add have no business being in things meant for small children. I go to a small health store where there are no bad ingredients added.

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    1. Great point!!! This is super important when making a vitamin purchase. Good for you for taking the time to read the labels and find an alternative.

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  10. I always go back and forth when it comes to supplements.... I feel They have to be good for something, but then how can a tiny pill really do all that? I try to get my daughter to eat healthy. But it can be challenging sometimes

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    1. Isn't hard to think so much is put into something so small? But we know it works because think of how small pain relievers are and they work!

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  11. We tried giving our first son Caleb Vitamin D supplements while he was nursing and like clockwork, he threw up within five minutes of taking it. Didn't matter if we gave it to him right before, right after, an hour before, an hour after, he always got sick. Now our son Cohen take them just fine. What are the signs of low Vitamin D in a child just out of curiosity. This post was quite informative, thank you.

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    1. Our Choosy Mommy, Christine, went through the same thing with her now 6 month old spitting it back up. Check out this link, http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Vitamin_D_low/, as it says there aren't really any signs of low vitamin D in children.

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  12. This is really helpful! We started giving my preschooler a daily multi vitamin a few months ago because he's hit and miss with his eating.

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    1. Good job! It is really a common age for that as they are starting to figure out their likes/dislikes and don't always have time to eat, at least according to them :)

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  13. I give my kids Flintstones every day. Their pediatrician recommends it, so I do it :)

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    1. That's great! Do your kids enjoy it or is it a struggle to get them to take it?

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  14. I do not have little ones anymore, but if I did I would definately supplement and make foods that have the extra nutrients that growing kids need :)

    Great post!

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    1. Glad to hear your support. Even as adults we need to ensure we are getting the right vitamins.

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  15. I give my tween/teen boys Omega-3 supplements and Vitamin D occasionally.

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    1. Great choices. Omega-3 has a lot of benefits too!

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  16. I don't have kids but got a lot of information. Thanks for sharing this post!

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    1. You're welcome! As an adult, do you take a multivitamin?

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  17. This post came at the right time my last born is 2 and I was wondering should I be supplementing

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    1. Please also remember to consult your doctor too so that you can decide which supplement is best.

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  18. This is really helpful info. We did a combination of formula and breastfeeding. We started using chewables when they got old enough.

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    1. Sounds like you had a good plan! Thanks for sharing!

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  19. I would often ask our pedia during check-ups about this. It's important that they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need while growing up.

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  20. I had no idea about this, but I'm so thankful that I found this, it's helpful.

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    1. I'm glad you found it too! Remember to check out www.chooosykids.com for more great info!

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  21. It is important to supplement where we need it, that's for sure. I just started vitamins with my toddler who is in preschool, and we've yet to be sick, so that's a win!

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    1. Pre-school kids are walking germs!! Lol :) so glad that your child has yet to be sick. Fingers crossed for the rest of the school year!

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  22. Thanks for the wonderful tips and a great info. It was really important things to know about.

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    1. You're welcome. You can find more tips at www.choosykids.com

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  23. Always consult your doctor before deciding to supplement or not. Great info you have posted in here.

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    1. Yes, great point, as the doctor can help you make the right supplement choice.

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  24. This a very informative post. It's important to know about these things first before giving anything to your child. It's also best to ask the doc.

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  25. My sister will love this post for her kids, and her best friend's newborn. Vitamin C - good to know! Thanks!

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    1. Vitamin D is important for the newborn, especially if he/she is exclusively breastfed.

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  26. Excellent post. Have you heard of Melaleuca? They have by far the best supplements in the market in my opinion.

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    1. I have not but will look into it. Why do you like this brand so much? Just their product variety?

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  27. I think it is important to have all the nutrients you need. Especially kids!

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    1. Agreed! Kids are growing so fast and use everything their bodies provide for them.

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  28. I've been lucky in that I don't have picky eaters. I try to provide them with a variety of fruits and veggies as well as proteins to provide what they need.

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    1. You are lucky! They must have listened to some Choosy songs about loving their fruits and veggies! http://choosykids.com/store/index.php/mp3/i-m-the-boss.html

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  29. I give my kids multivitamins although I prefer them eating their vitamins through food. I still wonder if they're lacking anything.

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