As a parent, you want your child to have the most nutritious diet possible. Because you take a multivitamin every day for your health, you wonder whether your young child needs vitamin supplements, too. In most cases, a child under age 2 who eats a well-balanced diet doesn't need supplements, but there are always exceptions. Talk to your pediatrician about your little one's specific nutrition needs.
Vitamins While Nursing
For at least the first six months of your child's life, breast milk alone is the ideal food, says University of Michigan Health System; however, some mothers might turn to an iron-fortified formula if breast-feeding isn't possible. Infants who are exclusively breast-fed or drink less than 32 ounces of fortified formula a day need 400 international units of vitamin D a day, according to HealthyChildren.org, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Vitamin D transfers only in small amounts in the breast milk, and a young child should always wear sunscreen when in the sun, so her body will not make enough on its own.
Moving On to Solid Foods
Although it's recommended to continue breast-feeding for one to two years, you might begin introducing solid foods around 6 months. If your child is a good eater, says BabyCenter, you might be surprised at the number of vitamins he's getting through these foods. If that's the case, don't feel the need to include a daily multivitamin, says CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta; it's not necessary for most. If your child doesn't drink cow's milk, continue with 200 IUs of vitamin D. If your family doesn't eat a lot of animal products, your child might benefit from a vitamin B-12 supplement, as it's critical for nervous system development and naturally found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Otherwise, focus on offering a range of nutritious foods, including a colorful variety of produce.
Special Diets and Picky Eaters
Once you've stopped breast-feeding and are solely serving regular food to your child, you need to pay closer attention to how much and what he's actually eating. A child with a poor appetite, erratic eating habits or a selective diet -- in other words, a very picky eater -- might need a daily supplement, says HealthyChildren.org, but only if your pediatrician recommends it. If your child has a problem swallowing pills, reduce the risk of choking by offering a chewable vitamin.
Although over-the-counter supplements are approved as safe, you should speak with your child's doctor before giving him any pills. Certain vitamins, including fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, can be toxic in high amounts, says HealthyChildren.org. Additionally, be careful of where you leave a pill bottle; it can look like candy to a small child.