I am always a believer of food before supplements, but in many cases (mine included), your little one is likely not getting enough of these nutrients from food yet, so supplementing is important.
Not all supplements are created equally - many have unnecessary fillers and others don’t have enough of the active ingredient to do much. For this reason, I’ve created a “Babies & Toddlers Supplements” section of our supplement store that carries the brands I use and trust. Simply click here if you don’t yet have an account, or here if you’ve used Fullscript before. Then, click Catalog, and HEAL’s Supplement Dispensary Favourites. Then click “Baby & Toddler Supplements”.
Without further ado, here are the four supplement must-haves for your little one.
Your baby needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus in order to make strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is also critical for the immune system -- a deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.
Of course, sun exposure is the main source of vitamin D for adults, but not an option for babies and many new mothers spend a lot of time indoors. While breast milk is a great source of nutrients, breastfeeding alone likely won't provide enough vitamin D for your baby. Even if you’re supplementing it may not pass through to breast milk enough.
Health Canada recommends all breastfed or partially breastfed healthy, full term babies get a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU every day, from birth until 12 months of age. Babies fed formula alone may not need extra vitamin D because it is fortified. From 12+ months onwards, the recommendation is 600 IU/day.
Liquid vitamin D supplements are the easiest to give and most easily absorbed.
Our Vitamin D Recommendations:
The first three years of life are critical in formation of a child’s gut health.
In a study published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers found that children born by C section were lacking a specific group of bacteria, found in infants delivered vaginally, even if they were breastfed. This difference in gut bacteria is a possible cause of disease like autoimmune disease, obesity and leaky gut.
Many kids receive antibiotics and medication, which can lead to a die-off of beneficial bacteria and lead to gut health issues later in life.
Probiotics may also help with colic, diarrhea, eczema and constipation in infants. A 2014 study found that treating healthy babies in their first three months with Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 helped to avoid the onset of GI conditions, like reflux and constipation, as well as reduce overall crying time. A 2011 study connected a reduction in colic symptoms with the use of probiotics. The study examined the results of breastfed infants who were administered five drops of a probiotic supplement 30 minutes prior to feeding for 21 days. The study found that the infants using the supplements cried less than those not using the supplement.
Once your child starts solids, he or she is likely not consuming a wide variety of fermented foods yet. While Sophie does love sauerkraut, she doesn’t eat it every day. A safe bet for getting the good bacteria is a probiotic.
Our recommended probiotics for infants/toddlers:
Our recommended probiotics for toddlers/kids, depending if they can chew a gummy:
Fats play an important role in a child’s brain growth, neural and cognitive development. Fats also help carry, absorb, and store the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) in your bloodstream. Specifically, Omega 3’s are critical for cognitive, brain and eye development.
The Omega 3 fats DHA and EPA are naturally found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, chunk light tuna and barramundi. While Sophie did have a phase where she ate sardines, and she does eat salmon about once a week, we supplement with cod liver oil in her bottle as it’s also a rich source of vitamin A (I will put it in her smoothie once she’s weaned from her bottle). The cod liver oil does contain some vitamin D, so keep that in mind if you are also supplementing with vitamin D.
If you aren’t on board with the taste of cod liver oil, or simply prefer an Omega 3 supplement, Nutra Sea makes a kids product in bubblegum flavour.
Our recommendation for EFAs:
Multivitamins are actually not necessarily a must-have. It depends on your child’s eating habits. They are more like an insurance policy for you if your child isn’t getting their nutrients from foods. That said, the typical kids multivitamin you find at your local pharmacy or grocery store are fulllllll of artificial flavouring, food colouring (linked to kids’ behavioural issues) and fillers like gluten that you just don’t need.
Our recommendation for a Children’s Multivitamin is below, and I would speak to a practitioner about dosing.
*This article is not meant to replace medical advice. Always check with your family doctor before incorporating new supplements.