Pregnancy and baby

Vitamins for children

Growing children, especially those who don't eat a varied diet, sometimes don't get enough vitamins A and C. It's also difficult to get enough vitamin D through food alone.

That's why the Department of Health recommends that all under-fives are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day. 

Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day shouldn't be given vitamin supplements because formula is fortified with certain nutrients and no other supplementation is required.

Where can you get baby vitamin drops?

Your health visitor can give you advice on vitamin drops and tell you where to get them. You're entitled to free vitamin drops if you qualify for Healthy Start.

Some supplements that can be bought over the counter in pharmacies contain other vitamins or ingredients. Talk to your pharmacist about which supplement would be most suitable for your child.

Having too much of some vitamins can be harmful. Keep to the recommended dose stated on the label, and be careful not to give your child two supplements at the same time. For example, don't give them cod liver oil and vitamin drops, as cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D. One supplement on its own is strong enough.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D only occurs naturally in a few foods, such as oily fish and eggs. It is also added to some foods, such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals. The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin.

However, it's sensible to keep your child's skin safe in the sun. Children shouldn't be out too long in the sun in hot weather. Remember to cover up or protect their skin before it turns red or burns.

It's important that young children still receive vitamin drops, even if they get out in the sun.

Read more about vitamin D and sunlight.

The Department of Health recommends that:

  • Babies from birth to one year of age who are being breastfed should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D to make sure they get enough
  • Babies fed infant formula should not be given a vitamin D supplement until they are having less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D
  • Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D

Exclusive breastfeeding until around six months will help you protect your baby from illness and infection. Babies who aren't breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and vomiting and respiratory infections.

For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer and it may also offer some protection against ovarian cancer.

Breast milk should continue to be given alongside an increasingly varied diet once your baby is introduced to solid foods.

Vitamin supplements containing vitamins A and C are recommended for infants aged six months to five years old, unless they are getting more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for babies and young children, and some may not be getting enough. It strengthens their immune system, can help their vision in dim light, and maintains healthy skin. 

Good sources of vitamin A include:

  • dairy products
  • fortified fat spreads
  • carrots, sweet potatoes, swede and mangoes
  • dark green vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is important for your child's general health and their immune system. It can also help their body absorb iron.

Good sources of vitamin C include:

  • oranges
  • kiwi fruit
  • strawberries
  • broccoli
  • tomatoes
  • peppers

A healthy diet for children

It’s important for children to eat healthily to make sure they are getting all the energy and nutrients they need to grow and develop properly. For information on helping your child eat a healthy, balanced diet, browse the following pages:

Page last reviewed: 25/04/2015

Next review due: 25/04/2017

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