New moms can feed their newborns all the formula and/or breast milk in the world and still wonder whether their baby is getting enough nutrients – and I can’t blame them! Maximum health and nourishment for newborns is at the very top tier of importance. Despite all of the nutritional facts, labels and knowledge on natural human anatomy, the question often pops up, “Doc, does my baby need more vitamins from supplements?”
Of course the answer to this question varies from baby to baby, but a regular and well- balanced diet is enough to provide all the nutrients both for nursing moms and baby. Human breast milk contains a natural balance of vitamin C, E and B, so if both mom and baby are receiving enough of those essential vitamins through sustenance, your baby does not require an additional supplement. Usually discovered through check-ups, there are some instances where babies are lacking healthy levels of certain vitamins. In these cases, doctors will determine and recommend a fixed amount of supplementation.
Breastfeeding moms are encouraged to continue their daily dose of prenatal vitamin supplements for optimal nutritional balance. Although breast milk contains small amounts of vitamin D, it is not sufficient to prevent rickets (a condition with weak and brittle bones) therefore breastfed infants need supplemental vitamin D. Besides milk and formula, vitamin D is naturally produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. It’s an important recommendation that all babies should avoid direct exposure to the sun and use plenty of sunscreen; however these actions prevent the skin from producing vitamin D. The best and safest of both worlds would be taking the baby out for a short walk in the morning (avoid afternoons when the sun is hottest) or even sit by the window just so he can intake some sun.
The Academy of Pediatrics advises that all infants and children should receive a daily minimum intake of 400 IU of Vitamin D per day starting immediately after birth. Vitamin D assists in calcium absorption essential for healthy bones and teeth. Most formulas contain adequate amount of vitamin D so if your baby’s daily milk intake total is at least 32 oz. per day, she most likely does not need any vitamin D supplements. In cases when an infant is premature or has an underlying medical problem, a pediatrician may recommend vitamin drops.
Moms who are on a strict vegetarian diet and breast feeding should also take extra Vitamin D and B complex nutrients because their diets lack meat, poultry or fish products — foods that are rich in these vitamins. Babies who are deficient in vitamin B12 can lead to anemia and abnormalities in their nervous system. Formula-fed babies generally receive adequate vitamins from their daily milk intake.
Most term babies are born with sufficient iron reserves that prevent them from getting anemic. Breastfed babies usually receive enough iron from mom to give them adequate supply. At around 4-5 months of age, your breastfed baby can also receive iron from solid foods such as cereal, green vegetables and meats. For babies who are formula-fed, make sure that you give iron-fortified formula which contains 4-12 mg. of iron from birth to the first year of life. Again, premature babies may need extra iron supplements over what they receive from breast milk or formula.
Beware that megadoses of vitamins, especially A, C, or D, can produce toxic symptoms like headaches, nausea, or rashes and sometimes may lead to even more serious adverse reactions. Overcompensating is never a good idea either, so always make sure to consult a trusted professional you’re comfortable with before administering any dosage.
It’s also important to note that taking care of yourself, Mom, is just as critical for your baby’s health and your own wellness! Being mindful of your own health and taking time for yourself are essential for your family’s health overall.
All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site.
Dr. Pearl Cenon
A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She writes basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.