The lowdown on children's vitamins (2024)

Should I give my child a vitamin supplement?

Experts disagree about whether a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement is necessary for all children. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), advises giving your child a supplement only if your child's doctor recommends one. The AAP claims most children don't need supplements because so many common foods are fortified.

On the other hand, the AAP acknowledges that taking a supplement won't do any harm as long as it doesn't exceed the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for any vitamin or mineral.

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Other experts believe that taking a daily supplement is a good way to compensate for any shortfalls in your child's diet.

Most experts do agree that:

  • Taking a daily supplement won't hurt as long as it doesn't exceed the RDA for any one vitamin or mineral.
  • Some children – like vegetarians or those with food sensitivities – might need a daily supplement to meet the RDA for certain vitamins or minerals.
  • Supplements are not a substitute for whole foods and should never be used to justify a poor diet. If your child isn't eating well, give him a multivitamin in addition to taking steps to improve his eating habits.

The bottom line: If you're concerned that your child isn't meeting the requirements of a balanced diet listed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendationsOpens a new window, a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement can't hurt.

Should I give my child a vitamin if she's a picky eater?

If you're concerned that your child's diet is lacking – because she won't put anything green in her mouth or because she goes on food jags for days – you might want to give her a supplement for your peace of mind.

It provides a little extra insurance that she's getting what he needs, says dietitian Debby Demory-Luce.

What kind of vitamin should I give my child?

Any generic children's multivitamin (chewable or liquid) will do unless your child has special needs. For example, if your child is a vegetarian, you'll want to make sure that the supplement contains vitamins B12 and D, as well as riboflavin and calcium, which may be lacking in his diet. And if your doctor has determined that your child is anemic, she may recommend a supplement with a specific amount of iron.

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Also, children younger than 4 aren't able to grind foods when they chew, so give them liquid vitamins to prevent a choking hazard.

Children often don't get enough Vitamin D, so the AAP recommends that most children – from babies to adolescents – take a supplement with 400 IU of vitamin D.

Note that supplements often don't contain 100 percent of every vitamin and mineral, so you'll still want to make sure your child gets the needed vitamin or mineral from food sources too.

If your child doesn't drink milk or eat enough dairy, for example, and only gets about 15 to 20 percent of the RDA for calcium from his supplement, then you'll need to find other food-based sources, such as calcium-fortified orange juice.

When choosing a vitamin supplement for your child, read the label carefully. One national survey found that when young children who had diets low in certain nutrients were given vitamin supplements, some of the kids wound up getting more than the recommended upper limit of vitamin A, folic acid, and zinc. So it's a good idea to make sure the supplement you're giving your child isn't high in these nutrients unless your child's doctor says otherwise.

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Also, keep in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't hold supplements to the same standards drugs must meet before they're manufactured, so quality and potency might vary between brands. (See our article on buying supplements for guidance.)

And don't substitute a vitamin drink for a vitamin supplement. Often vitamin drinks (including sports or energy drinks) contain caffeine and added sugar.

Should I give my child more than one vitamin a day if his diet is especially bad one week?

No. There's no reason to give your child more than the recommended daily dose (usually one pill a day). "Some people think that a little is good but more is better," says Demory-Luce, "but this is a dangerous way to approach vitamins."

Not only could it hurt your child, as with too much iron, but an overdose of certain vitamins could also prevent the absorption of others, creating a nutritional imbalance.

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What precautions should I take with vitamins?

Vitamins are formulated to appeal to children and often resemble candy, so kids may eat several at a time if given the opportunity. But getting too much of certain vitamins and minerals (iron, in particular) could be dangerous, or even fatal.

So treat vitamins as medicines. Make sure the caps are childproof, but don't depend on them – always keep vitamin bottles well out of the reach of your child.

Dietitian Demory-Luce, mother of two, learned this lesson the hard way: "My youngster got his hands on a bottle of vitamins, opened the safety top, and ate ten vitamins before I got to him," she says. "Luckily, the vitamins didn't have iron in them." Now she keeps vitamins locked away in a cabinet.

To be safe, call poison control if you suspect that your child has taken vitamins on his own, even if they don't contain iron.

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The lowdown on children's vitamins (1)


The lowdown on children's vitamins (2)


The lowdown on children's vitamins (2024)
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