After a baby is born, for the first few months he needs only mother’s milk. WHO recommends exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of life. This is because breast milk is a complete meal and it contains all the necessary nutrients for the baby except one that is Vitamin D so it needs to be supplemented. In addition, it also has antibodies which provide the baby with protection from various diseases in these initial months. As your little one grows up, your doctor will advise you to begin giving him vitamin and other supplement drops. You can also research some of the top baby formula brands. Here we shall discuss the various baby vitamin and other nutrition supplements that are to be given and their importance.
- Vitamin D Supplements: This is the only one supplement that the child needs in addition to breast milk. This is because the amounts passed on from the mother in the milk are very scanty. The other source of Vitamin D is exposure to the sun. So it is advisable to let the baby take a sun bath for at least 15 minutes a day. This is not possible at all times and places and the exposure to very harsh sun rays can damage the baby’s delicate skin. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be given 400 IU of vitamin D supplement per day. This dose is essential in those babies who take less than 32 ounces of breast milk or formula in one day. Dosage: The baby should be given 400 IU (international units) of Vitamin D drops within the first few hours after birth. The supplement should be continued till at least one year of age till the child begins to drink one liter of regular cow’s milk or 32 ounces of baby formula. There are many brands available in the market which sell vitamin d drops for infants.
- Iron Supplements: All pregnant mothers take iron supplements and so the baby gets iron from the mothers blood. If the baby is exclusively breast fed then the amount of iron received in human milk is scanty. So around four months of age, babies are at a risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. Dosage: AAP recommends giving 1 mg/kg/per day of liquid iron supplement to babies till around six months. The iron supplement should be continued till the baby begins taking outside food that is rich in iron. When solids are introduced and the baby is still on mother’s milk, then the dose of the iron supplement will be adjusted by your pediatrician. The same dose is recommended for babies who are partially breast fed.If the little one is on baby formula, then most of these preparations are iron fortified and they contain around 4-12 mg of iron. So in case of babies who have been on formula from their birth, the dose of the iron supplement will be different. If you are wondering what’s the best formula for infants, it is the one that is fortified with iron and DHA both.In case of premature babies, the requirement will be slightly higher as they will have fewer iron stores in their body.
- Vitamin Supplements: Baby vitamin supplements for breastfed babies is very important. Multivitamin supplements are generally given to most of the babies for the first six months as breast milk at times may not provide all the nutrients, especially if the mother is not careful about her diet or is unwell. Vitamin B12 is very essential for development of the nervous system. After 6 months, when outside baby food is started the need for supplements tends to go down.The best source of B complex is fish, eggs, milk, meat and poultry so if the mother is vegetarian then the baby will benefit by taking a B complex supplement. If the baby is taking infant formula, then he will get adequate vitamins as the formula is fortified. Vitamins for kids between the age of 1 to 2 years is advised occasionally if the child is not eating well.
- DHA: Omega 3 fatty acid is a very essential component for optimum development of the brain and eye. If the mother has a diet rich in DHA or is taking supplements for the same, then DHA will be found in the breast milk. So vegetarian mothers should take a daily dose of a DHA supplement along with other prenatal vitamins. Babies who take best milk formula, generally get enough omega 3 as the formula is fortified. So DHA supplements are recommended mainly for breast feeding mothers rather than for babies.Thus baby vitamin supplements are essential for babies and there are certain situations where they become almost mandatory. They are:
- Premature babies
- Small for date babies
- Low birth weight babies, vitamin supplement for breastfed babies
- Babies who have trouble latching to the breast and so do not take enough breast milk
- Babies who take less than normal formula feeds
- Babies born with some illness or chronically unwell.
Always remember to give any baby vitamin, supplement or formula under the guidance of your pediatrician only. These medications have doses that need to be adjusted according to the baby’s needs and body statistics. So you should follow what has been planned for your baby by his doctor.