We all know that vitamins and minerals play an important role in children’s health and development but it is often hard to gauge how many vitamins your child is taking in from their diet. In children with poor eating habits, those on special diets, or those with certain vitamin deficiencies, taking a vitamin supplement may be necessary.
So which vitamins might your child be lacking?
From November to March the spectrum of light, no matter how sunny, does not allow vitamin D to be metabolized. So in the late Spring and Summer months try and get outside every day with your children; 20 minutes on arms, legs and chest without an SPF on your skin will give a good dose. Vitamin D is not found in many foods but butter, fortified margarines and eggs do contain it and it is also present in cod liver oil (NOT to be taken in pregnancy). In winter months it is sensible to keep your child’s vitamin D levels ‘topped up’ when they’re not out in the sunshine.
Vitamin D promotes tooth and bone formation and regulates the absorption of minerals like calcium. The risk of vitamin D deficiency in young children includes the development of rickets, a softening and weakening of the bones, leading to skeletal deformities, typically of the leg bones.
Iron is another mineral commonly lacking in a child's diet and may require supplementation. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells and the building of muscles. Infants and children at the highest risk of iron deficiency include babies born prematurely, babies who drink cow's milk before age 1, breast-fed babies who aren't given complementary Iron-rich foods after age 6 months, babies who drink formula not fortified with iron and children with certain health conditions, such as chronic infections or restricted diets.
It is important to tailor supplementation to each individual child rather than giving them a general multivitamin. Please speak to your GP or nutritionist to get advice on what supplementation your child could benefit from.