Vitamins and Minerals
It is estimated that a daily multivitamin is given to 25-50% of children in the United States, although this is generally not necessary for most children with an average diet. Some children that have a poor or restricted diet, liver disease or other chronic medical problems, especially those that lead to fat malabsorption, such as cystic fibrosis, may need vitamin and mineral supplements to prevent deficiencies.
Pre- term infants and children who are exclusively breastfed may also need vitamin supplements. Also, children may need fluoride supplements if they do not drink fluoridated water.
Although you may give your child an age appropriate multivitamin if you or your Pediatrician feels that your child needs one, it is probably better to try and reach his daily requirements or recommended daily allowance by providing him with a well balanced diet. Consuming a diet with the minimum number of servings suggested by the Food Guide Pyramid will provide your child with the recommended daily allowance of most vitamins and minerals.
Milk and infant formulas are excellent sources of Vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin. A deficiency can occur in children with fat malabsorption or with a very poor diet. Too much Vitamin A can also be harmful.
Although many parents exceed the recommended daily requirements of Vitamin C to prevent colds and upper respiratory tract infections, there is little research that supports this practice. Too little Vitamin C can lead to scurvy, which is now uncommon, but can occur in infants under one year of age who are exclusively fed cow's milk. Fruits and vegetables are excellant sources of Vitamin C.
Iron is another mineral that is important for your child's growth. Having a diet with foods that are high in iron to meet daily requirements is necessary for the development of strong muscles and production of blood. It is generally good to choose foods high in iron. Younger children require about 10mg of iron each day, while older children and adolescents need about 12-15mg a day.
Calcium is a mineral that is mostly present in your child's bones. Having a diet with foods that are high in calcium to meet daily requirements is necessary for the development of strong bones. It is also an important way to prevent the development of osteoporosis in adults. Younger children require about 800mg of calcium each day, while older children and adolescents need about 1200-1500mg a day.
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin that is necessary for proper blood clotting. It can be deficient in some newborn babies, especially if they did not receive a Vitamin K shot after they were born and they are being breastfed.
Vitamin D is another fat soluble vitamin that can be deficient, causing Rickets, in some infants that are exclusively breastfed, especially if they have very dark skin or if they have limited exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is mostly found in fortified foods, such as milk and infant formulas.
There was once thought to be little need for supplements of Vitamin D in most children if they have sunlight exposure, although the AAP now recommends that all children receive Vitamin D supplements..Infants and children who drink 16-17 ounces of formula or Vitamin D fortified milk won't need a supplement, but exclusively breastfed infants need to take 200 IU of Vitamin D each day.
All children need supplemental fluoride after they are six months old to help prevent cavities. For most children, they can get this fluoride from the water they drink, if they are in an area where the city water supply has an adequate amount of fluoride in it (greater than 0.6 ppm), and they are drinking tap water. Sources of water that generally don't have enough fluoride include well water and filtered or bottled water, although some brands of bottled water (or nursery water) do have fluoride added to it. Also, commercially prepared pre-mixed infant formulas do not contain an adequate amount of fluoride, so consider using a powder or concentrated formula and mixing it with tap water, supplement your infant with extra tap water, or talk to your Pediatrician about giving fluoride supplements. It is in general better to have your child drink water that is supplemented with fluoride instead of giving extra fluoride drops or supplements. Too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is permanent white to brown discoloration of the enamel of the teeth. It is easier to get fluorosis if you are giving your child fluoride drops and he is still getting fluoride from his diet.
Zinc is an important mineral, especially for adolescents, as it helps with growth and sexual maturation. Infants require about 3-5mg of zinc each day, while adolescents need about 10-15mg. Foods high in zinc include meats, seafood, dairy products, whole grains, breads and fortified cereals, nuts and dried beans.