Pregnancy and baby

Vitamins for children

Do I need to give my toddler vitamins? (6 to 30 months)

Media last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015

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

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

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

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, go to:

Page last reviewed: 25/04/2013

Next review due: 25/04/2015

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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Regster said on 06 December 2013

I recommend reading The Vitamin D Solution written by Dr M F Holick, somebody who has been at the forefront of research into this subject over the past three decades. The higher the latitude the less Vitamin D we get, and the UK - with our Atlantic island cloud cover and therefore often relatively sun-devoid summers (in places) - has a population particularly at risk from Vitamin D deficiency.

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Detti Online said on 12 October 2013

I'm very confused about this article as it contradicts advice I received from other sources. Who do I trust? Background: 6 months old healthy baby, fully breastfed up to now, started on solids about 10 days ago but still breastfeeding.

1. My mum says I should have given my baby vitamin D from birth to help develop strong bones in my baby (and to avoid risk of ricketts)
2. The Health Visitors weren't sure and advised me to ask in a pharmacy
3. The pharmacy sold me a multivitamin containing 14 vitamins (I tried to give this to her once and she developed an allergic reaction to it immediately!)
4. The GP says my baby doesn't need vitamin supplements at all and if she gets too much vitamin D it could lead to kidney problems.

What should I do?

p.s. The Healthy Start vitamins don't seem to be available to buy anywhere - and to be fair by now I'm not even sure I want to buy them...

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User810769 said on 12 October 2013

The advice on this is not very clear. My baby is coming up to 6 months and has been exclusively breastfed and I plan to carry on until she is a year old. I live in Wales so I was given the nhs birth to five book of advice for parents which states only formula fed babies need vitamin drops which is completely the opposite of what this page says. I have always taken the recommended vitamins for pregnancy and breastfeeding, but I'm just confused now! Looking on numerous forums many parents say they had varying advice about vitamins depending on who their doctor/health visitor is.

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Ocean100 said on 21 August 2013

In January 2013, when my son was 6 months old, I asked my health visitor for advice about giving vitamins to him. She said that it was unnecessary to give him vitamins and to just concentrate on giving him a varied diet. I do give him a varied diet, but I wish I had ignored her advice and given him vitamins as well. Why are health visitors not following the guidance that their employer is promoting?

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Magicats said on 20 April 2012

Why isn't this advice being passed on to new parents by Health Visitors and Doctors? There has been a lot in the news about the concern that babies and children under five are not getting enough Vitamin D - even though the experts talking about it say that Vitamin D helps in so many ways!
There should be more information given - Vitamin D isn't in a lot of foods and how many children eat oily fish?
I feel very strongly about this!

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Media last reviewed: 11/03/2013

Next review due: 11/03/2015