Making sure your kid gets the right amount of vitamins is a daily parenting task. Food may have vitamins, but if your child is like most, they probably aren't eating the most nutrient-rich foods in the world. That's why finding the right multi-vitamin can feel so important. Whether it's the chewable Flintstones from your own childhood or a new organic brand, a vitamin washed down with pizza can make parents feel better about a kid's refusal to eat vegetables. However, vitamin D requirements can be especially confusing and leave you wondering: is there enough vitamin D in kids' multivitamins? The answer will vary depending on your child's age, health, and the brand of vitamin.
"Recent studies have shown that most children may not be receiving vitamin D through their diet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends infants under 12 months of age receive 400 International Units (IU) per day and children from 1 year and above (including adolescents) require 600 IU per day of Vitamin D," says Trung Tristan Truong, a board-certified pediatrician at Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, in an interview with Romper.
Even if you tried to increase your child's intake of vitamin D through their diet, there aren't many natural food sources of this important nutrient. "Fresh wild salmon is the best dietary source of vitamin D," says Marnie Baker, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. She also recommends canned tuna and eggs as well as "Vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk, infant formula, orange juice, cheese, yogurt, and breakfast cereals." Additionally, Truong mentions Shitake mushrooms as a natural source of vitamin D.
Besides food, the sun is our other main natural source of vitamin D. However, your skin must be exposed to the sun in order to absorb the vitamin. "Because of recommended sunscreen use," says Truong, "children may not be receiving enough vitamin D through sun exposure." So while children may get some vitamin D from the sun and some from fish or fortified foods, it may still not be enough. That's where vitamin D supplements and multi-vitamins come in.
According to Truong, "Vitamin D supplements come in different forms (chewable multivitamins, liquid vitamin drops/preparations) and vary in concentration with the liquid formulas, so it’s important to dose appropriately based on the child’s age. For example, 400 IU of vitamin D may be measured as half a milliliter, 1 milliliter, or 1 drop depending on the particular liquid preparation used." Read the instructions carefully and ask your pediatrician if you're not sure.
It's also a good idea to talk to your pediatrician before beginning vitamin D supplements or any kind of multi-vitamin. Baker points out that not all children need to take nutrient supplements. "The exception is exclusively breastfed infants," Baker says, "as human milk does not have adequate vitamin D. Exclusively breastfed infants need 400 IU/day of vitamin D, which is found in over-the-counter liquid form that is easily administered with a dropper. There are a variety of brands, but they all have the standard dose of vitamin D, so any infant/baby vitamin D drops will suffice. Infants that are formula fed do not require additional supplementation."
Why is vitamin D such an important nutrient? Baker explains that it's "a hormone needed for the body to absorb and use calcium, so it's an important part of bone health in children. It also regulates levels of other important minerals in our body and has protective effects on our cardiovascular and immune system." Truong adds that "vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets (bone-softening disease) and bone fractures for children." So you definitely want to make sure your kids are getting the right amount of vitamin D, but not more than is necessary. Talk to your pediatrician about your child's specific vitamin needs.
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