The Importance of Vitamin and Minerals
Your baby needs vitamins and minerals so that he or she will grow and develop well. For strong bones, healthy teeth and skin, and for all-round good health, the complete range of vitamins and minerals is essential.
Unless your baby was born prematurely, or has some other health problem, supplements should not be necessary – a good diet will provide all the vitamins and minerals that baby’s body needs.
There are many vitamins and minerals, and each one is important – here we mention a few of the most important…
- Iron is essential for your baby’s growth and development – it does not cause colic, constipation, or any other problems.
- Iron is one of the more important minerals; a diet that is low in iron can cause iron-deficiency anaemia – leading to delays in development and possible learning and behavioural difficulties.
- Unless your baby was premature, he or she should get all the iron necessary from your breast milk, or from iron-fortified formula, for the first 4 to 6 months.
- After 4 to 6 months, extra iron is necessary, but should usually be provided by the new foods that you are introducing – such as an iron-fortified baby rice or cereal – to supplement the breast milk or formula that you continue to give.
- There will normally be no risk of iron deficiency unless you change to giving cow’s milk before your baby is 12 months old, or you don’t begin giving extra iron-rich foods after the age of 6 months.
- Premature babies often do need a supplement that includes iron.
When your baby reaches about 6 months of age, he or she should begin getting teeth, and at this stage fluoride becomes a major help in developing teeth that are strong and healthy.
From the age of 6 months, if your baby is only having breast milk or ready-to-feed formula to drink, he or she will not be getting fluoride. The tap water in many countries is fluoridated, and you should offer drinks of fluoridated water to your baby.
Adequate fluoride will not be provided by:
- tap water that is not fluoridated
- bottled water with no added fluoride
- water that has had fluoride filtered out
- well water
It is usually best to try to give your baby fluoridated water, but if this is not possible, speak with your baby’s paediatrician about a fluoride supplement, but be aware that too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis or staining of teeth.
- Vitamin D is important to your baby for healthy bone development.
- Deficiency of vitamin D can lead to rickets – a disorder that causes bone deformity and poor general growth.
- Rickets mostly affects those with very dark complexions, those who get very little exposure to the sun, or those who are exclusively breastfed and do not get enough sun exposure.
- If you breast feed, your breast milk does not contain adequate amounts of vitamin D for your baby’s needs, but extra vitamin D is available from sunlight.
- The negative effects of too much exposure to sunlight are well known, and you may be keeping your baby out of the sun, or using sunscreen – reducing access to extra vitamin D.
- The American Academy of Paediatrics now recommends that breastfed babies receive a vitamin D supplement from the age of 2 months – though this may not be necessary if your baby is light-skinned, and you live in a fairly sunny region.
- Formula is fortified with vitamin D, so if your baby has at least 500ml (17fl.oz) of formula milk each day he or she will not need to be given extra vitamin D.
- Talk to your doctor or paediatrician about vitamin D for your baby.