Calcium is a mineral crucial for the healthy development of teeth and bones, as well as muscle function, nerve transmission and hormone secretion. The dietary reference intake -- called the DRI -- for calcium depends on an individual's age. In general, most infant formula and breast milk provides babies with as much calcium as their growing bodies need during their first year of life.
Babies Under 4 to 6 Months
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents not to introduce solid foods to their baby until the child reaches 6 months of age, although other organizations argue this introduction can happen as early as 4 months old without complications. This means for the first 4 to 6 months of a child's life, breast milk or infant formula is his only source of nutrition. Thankfully, both these substances supply more than enough vitamins and minerals -- including calcium -- to meet the baby's needs. The only exception at this age is vitamin D, which plays a key role in calcium absorption in the body; breastfeeding babies and babies who drink less than 32 ounces of formula daily may require a vitamin D supplement in the form of vitamin drops. Check with your child's pediatrician before beginning a vitamin regimen with your baby.
After Introducing Solid Foods
Even after introducing solid foods to your child's diet around 6 months of age, calcium supplements are still not necessary for most babies. Although children should not be introduced to cow's milk -- a key source of calcium for many adults -- until after a year old, babies get the recommended daily amount of calcium from other sources, such as fortified cereals along with breast milk or formula, which should still be the single biggest source of nutrition in your child's diet up to a year old.
Dietary Reference Intake for Calcium
The Office of Dietary Supplements -- a branch of the National Institutes of Health -- has come up with a baseline amount of calcium required by babies under a year of age for healthy growth. While most vitamin and mineral needs for adults are measured in terms of recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, the suggested amount of calcium for infants is evaluated based on adequate intake, or AI; this measurement is used when there is insufficient evidence to establish a baseline for intake. The AI for calcium is 200 milligrams for boys and girls under 6 months of age; the AI increases -- up to 260 milligrams daily -- for babies between the ages of 7 months and a year old.
The Need for Supplementation
Mothers who follow certain dietary lifestyles may not be able to produce breast milk with enough calcium to support their baby's needs. In particular, women who follow a vegan diet may be deficient in calcium, vitamin B12, zinc and iron. Your baby may also be deficient if she is lactose intolerant. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend a multivitamin-mineral supplement for these babies. Instead, additional calcium should be given to the child through her diet. Green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale are excellent sources of calcium suitable for babies in their second 6 months of life, as are many nuts and seafood. If your breastfed baby is under 6 months and your pediatrician feels she needs more calcium, you'll be asked to increase the amount of calcium in your diet -- breastfeeding moms over the age of 19 require at least 1,000 milligrams daily -- either by supplementing with a multivitamin or through dietary changes.
- Kelly Mom; Calcium; Kelly Bonyata
- Baby Center; Does My Baby Need To Take Vitamins?; Bridget Swinney
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- American Academy of Pediatrics; Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk; Dr. Lawrence M. Gartner, et al
- American Academy of Pediatrics; Calcium Requirements of Infants, Children, and Adolescents; Dr. Susan S. Baker, et al