Yes, I realize the title of this article may have freaked you out just a little. After all, what if your child is seriously deficient in some genius vitamin and you don’t realize it!!!
*handing you a paper bag*
Deep breaths. It’s okay, that’s probably not the case, or your doctor would have hit the red panic button ages ago (and given you a super-long supplement list).
No, my purpose here actually isn’t to toss you into the back of the Guilt Trip Van and drive you over the edge of the Grand Canyon. (We don’t do those types of articles here.)
My purpose is a lot more simple.
- Give you a well-rounded view of the nutrition your baby needs and where to get it.
- Shamelessly encourage you to pick up an über-cheap copy of What to Feed Your Baby: When to Introduce Healthy Foods to Your Baby.
Hey, at least you know where I stand, right? No sales-tricks here!
So let’s start with the most important part of this article, teaching you the basics of your baby’s nutritional needs.
Understanding Baby Vitamins:
The Amazon vs Etsy Comparison
There are two types of vitamins:
- Fat Soluble Vitamins
- Water Soluble Vitamins
The Fat Soluble Vitamins are absorbed into the body’s fats, where they sit around like an Amazon warehouse: just waiting around for your cells to place an order.
The Water Soluble Vitamins are absorbed by water and float through the body like an Etsy shop: constantly on the limited-time-only shelf. This means that the water soluble vitamins have to be ingested every day.
In order for us to have a good understanding of the types of foods your baby should start eating first, we have to start by examining which vitamins get stored, and which ones get flushed.
Fat-Soluble Baby Vitamins
That Get Stored Away
Your baby’s adorable fat rolls are more than just just sweet cherub chubs that make everyone’s heart melt. They are storing up some pretty awesome developmental vitamins!
As you are introducing new foods to your baby’s diet, try to get a few of these sources in his tummy every few days.
Vitamin “A” Stands for Awesomeness
Vitamin A is a powerhouse vitamin. It does lots of super chores around the body like…
- Healthy vision development
- Bone growth
- Protecting the body from infections
- Strengthening the cells and tissues in the hair, nails, and skin
Doctor’s recommend children between 1 and 3 years old get 1,000 IUs of vitamin A per day. Where are you going to find these vitamin A parties?
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut Squash
Want some good news? It’s nearly impossible to overdose on Vitamin A, so the Spinach-Cantaloupe casserole you’ve got planned for dinner tonight is just fine. (Too bad I’m busy tonight… sounds delicious!)
Vitamin “D” Stands for Daytime Playtime
Vitamin D is pretty-darn unique. It isn’t found naturally in some magic vegetable. Nope, it’s something your body makes when you’re in the sun. Another piece of evidence that we weren’t created to live underground. (A great point for future debates on this subject.)
Vitamin D is crucial in helping your body absorb the calcium it needs for healthy bones and teeth. It keeps the Rickets Monster away (which can cause deformities), and helps regulate digestion, insulin, and cell growth.
Yes, your baby needs a good sunscreen, to prevent burning, but you also don’t want to go overboard either. Sunscreen helps prevent the bad AND the good from getting into your child’s skin.
If you’re worried about this, you can purchase Vitamin D fortified orange juice, milk, yogurts, and egg yolks. Usually it’s clearly stated on the label.
Vitamin “E” Stands for Energizing Immunity
Of all the baby vitamins here, I think Vitamin E is the most like a super hero. It limits the power of free radicals (doesn’t that just sound like something a superhero vitamin would do?) that can damage cells. It fights germs, helps keep blood vessels open to encourage blood flow, and serves as a a mediator to help the cells work together to stay healthy.
Children 1 to 3 years need about 6 mg or 9 IUs of vitamin E every day. It’s very rare for a child to have a vitamin E deficiency severe enough to cause health issues, so you’re probably already doing amazing with this vitamin. (And you didn’t even know it!)
Continue to help your baby tank up on this immunity-booster (especially if he’s in daycare!) by offering foods like…
- Nut butters (if older than 1 year)
Vitamin “K” Stands for
Vitamin K is the magic elixir that clots your baby’s boo-boos when he gets scratched by the cat for squeeeeeeeezing too hard. It’s vital in blood clotting. It is very rare that a child needs to supplement this vitamin, and you should never do so unless specifically advised by your doctor because overdosing on vitamin can be toxic.
Just make sure your child has a few leafy greens in his diet a few times a week, and he should be just fine.
- Plums (and prunes)
- Fish & Meat
Water-Soluble Baby Vitamins
That Get Flushed Daily
Those were the baby vitamins that get stored away (like an Amazon warehouse). The other type of baby vitamins (water-soluble) get flushed out of the system every day, like the constantly rotating shelves of an awesome Etsy craftswoman.
This means you should try to get a little of each of these vitamins in your baby’s diet as much as possible. (If you can’t do everyday, give yourself the flexibility of a few times a week!)
Vitamin “C” Stands for Cobble Back Together
Remember a few paragraphs back, when I mentioned how vitamin K helped your baby when Cap’n Cuddlesworth finally snapped and clawed at those delicately chubby arms?
Well, vitamin K may have stopped the bleeding, but it’s vitamin C who strengthened the blood vessels, and repaired the damage. It helps keep infections away, keeps your baby’s gums healthy, and is a huge aid in letting the body absorb iron from food. (Iron is an essential nutrient for brain growth!)
Vitamin C is everywhere. It’s actually pretty rare for children to have a vitamin C deficiency, because it’s so easily found in foods your baby has already fallen in love with. Foods like…
- Orange juice
Vitamin “B12” Stands for Bring on the Bacon
Okay, I don’t mean literally.
Don’t feed your baby bacon. He can discover that manly-man wonder when he’s older.
What I mean is that B12 is a special vitamin that is crucial in your baby’s brain and development, and it’s found primarily in animal products.
A deficiency here can impact steady growth, so if your baby is older than 6 months and you’re worried he’s not getting enough of the foods below, toss over a few of these Spinach and Kale puffs for him to snack on. (Or offer yummy gummies for older toddlers.)
If you are following a vegan diet, be sure to talk with your pediatrician about other ways to get this vitamin into your baby’s diet, since it will be easy for a deficiency in this area to creep up.
Besides those puffs, you can find B12 inside…
- Cottage Cheese
- Pureed meats
- Fortified cereals
Going Beyond Breastmilk or Formula
In the first 5-6 months of life, it’s easy to assume that your baby’s nutrition is all packaged nicely in a bottle (or breast).
In fact, even though babies over 6 months are eating solids, they will still get most of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula. Until they are over a year old, “eating” is really more about practice than nutrition.
A Dirty Secret About Breastmilk?
Although BREAST IS BEST, it’s not perfect.
- It’s entirely dependent on your diet. If you’re eating junk, so is your baby.
- A new study hinted that there may be issues with breastmilk and Vitamin B12 deficiencies.
- Another medical study showed breastfed babies may not be getting enough Vitamin D – the main defense against rickets.
If you’re a breastfeeder concerned about your baby’s nutrition, contact your doctor. He will be able to determine whether or not any additional supplementation is necessary.
There is No Perfect Formula
If breastmilk isn’t perfect, it should be no surprise that formula (which is trying to be breastmilk) isn’t either. (They are also, across the board, low on Vitamin D).
Formula made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soybeans, or amino-acids are all constructed differently and have different vitamin levels. Really, when you use formula, you are trusting your baby’s nutrition to good manufacturing, rather than your personal eating habits.
Certain Foods Should Be
Introduced at Certain Times
As you are considering your baby’s vitamins and over-all health, don’t fall into the trap of introducing foods randomly.
That little tummy is still developing! It’s not ready to digest certain foods, and introducing them too early can lead to stomach discomfort (aka screaming).
If you don’t already have a copy of What to Feed Your Baby, I would really encourage you to pick it up.
- It’s super cheap.
- It’s beautifully designed, so when you put it into a 3-ring binder you can leave proudly it out on the kitchen counter.
- It’s insanely helpful. Not only does it let you know at which ages it’s safe to introduce each fruit and vegetable, I include when those foods are in season (and are cheap to purchase), how to prepare them for your baby, how to freeze them, even when to buy organic (and when that’s a waste).
The first version of this document sat on my own kitchen counter for six years (and three babies). I was referencing it constantly. I’m confident you will find it just as helpful!
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Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at MightyMoms.club and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She’s a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, has been a featured parenting expert writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, Cafe Mom, and others. If it’s 2am and you’re desperate to read SOMETHING, check out her deepest darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn’t be allowed to blog.