Does your child need vitamin supplements?



Posted on July 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 10 at 3:22 PM

More parents than ever are scooping up vitamins and supplements for their infants and children. Are those really needed for a healthy start?   Find out what experts advise for parents.

Mealtimes for babies can be a food fight. One-year-old Eivissa just loves some things. 

"I can give her chicken nuggets or quesadillas and fruit," said Natasha Solis-Ramos, Eivissa’s mother.

But she leaves many foods on her plate.

“She doesn't like vegetables too much. She doesn't really eat any type of red meat,” said Natasha.

To make sure she has the nutrients she needs, Natasha gives her daughter a multivitamin. She was considering cod liver oil too, to add omega 3's.  And she's not alone - more parents than ever bought supplements in 2009.

"Sales of children's vitamins and mineral products grew twenty five percent at grocery stores, drug stores and other mass market stores, and grew ten percent in natural health food stores and vitamin specialty stores," said Carlotta Mast, Nutrition Business Journal.

It's not just multivitamins. Parents are buying separate supplements like omega 3's and vitamin D.
Dr. Michael Cabana of the American Academy of Pediatrics studies the effects of dietary supplements on infant growth. He says most aren't needed.

"Vitamins by definition are only needed in small amounts. So even the pickiest of eaters probably have enough of all the vitamins that they need," said Dr. Cabana.

The exception he says is vitamin D. Most children, including breast fed babies, will need a supplement to reach the recommended 400 international units a day.
“But what about omega 3 supplements for infants and picky eaters? Some pediatrician's are recommending them, after studies showed modest improvements in both eye development and brain functioning.

Seattle Children's pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson puts in perspective.

"They're only modest improvements. So the jury's still really out on how important are these supplements for babies and toddlers," said Dr. Swanson.

She says steer clear of sweetened toddler supplements, even though they advertise nutritional benefits, they're a mistake for toddlers.

"As children transition at the age of one from having breast milk or formula as the majority of their intake, you want to really teach them that they want to really crave and be hungry for solid foods that give them a whole variety of minerals and vitamins," said Dr. Swanson.

Experts say no matter what you decide on kid's vitamins, keep your pediatrician in the know.
Experts say consider vitamins and supplements in the same category as medicines, because there can be interactions with medications.