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.
This is why the Department of Health recommends that all children from six months to five years old are given supplements, in the form of vitamin drops, which contain vitamins A, C and D.
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 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 their 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 children still receive vitamin drops, even if they get out in the sun.
All babies and young children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops, to help them to meet the requirement set for this age group of 7-8.5 micrograms of vitamin D per day. However, babies who are fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D. If you are breastfeeding your baby and you didn’t take vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy, your health visitor may advise you to give your baby vitamin drops containing vitamin D from the age of one month.
Read more about vitamin D and sunlight.
Vitamin A is important for babies and young children, and they 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 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:
- kiwi fruit
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, go to: