One of the most common topics we cover with parents is how to make sure newborns are getting enough of what they need to grow and thrive. We made this ultimate newborn vitamin guide so that all moms can make it easy to know what vitamins to give babies so that they can foster a thriving brain and body. We also know that focusing on the natural stuff, like breastmilk and whole foods in the maternal diet can be a healthy way to make sure baby is getting enough. By reading this blog post you will learn what newborn vitamins are essential, and how to make sure your baby is getting enough vitamin sources naturally.
In this post you will find:
- Does My Baby Need a Vitamin?
- 2 Most Important Nutrients for a Newborn
- Your Newborn Baby Needs Vitamin D To Be Healthy
- 4 Best Ways to Prevent your Baby from Becoming Iron Deficient
- Free Cheat Sheet for a Healthy Breastfeeding Diet
- Vitamins Recommended for Breastfed Babies and Formula Fed Babies
- I wish I knew More about B12 and Breastfeeding and This is Why
- Top 2 Natural Vitamin Brands for Your Newborn Baby
Note: information in this post is for educational purposes only and not meant to substitute for medical advice. Thanks for reading Momma! If you have more questions, text us at NurtureTalk. And we love that you took a minute to hang with us so click here for 75% off the only unlimited access to nutrition and baby feeding experts NOW)
Does My Newborn Baby Need a Vitamin?
You want to make sure that your baby is getting of everything that they need to grow and thrive. You may have seen advertisements for supplement drops for newborn babies and wondered, “Will my newborn need a vitamin?” The answer depends on what else you, or your baby is eating, so let’s break it down!
The recommended intakes of vitamins for all newborns are based on the intake of exclusively breastfed infants. The content of vitamins in infant formula are based on these recommended intakes. Because of the manufacturing process in infant formula, and the awesome breastmilk bioavailability (how easily digestible breastmilk is for babies) there are different recommendations for vitamin intake for breastfeeding/breastmilk feeding babies versus that of formula fed babies. Don’t worry, we will talk about this in a minute.
What newborn vitamins are most important?
There are 13 essential vitamins that the human body needs. There are 16 essential minerals that the human body needs. We know that Mommas have enough to worry about every second of the day so we want to discuss only the few vitamins that are most critical to your newborn’s health. These vitamins are also the ones that dietitians see most frequently as deficient in newborns.
2 Most Important Nutrients for a Newborn
It is estimated that only 20% to 37% of infants in the United States meet the recommendation for vitamin D intake.
Vitamin D is important for baby’s bone and teeth growth. Deficiency in vitamin D can lead to rickets. You can get some dietary vitamin D when you eat Sardines, herrings, tuna, egg yolks, fish oils, and fortified milk (or milk substitute) products. However, the major source of D vitamin is the body’s own production when exposed to sunlight. Because of growing bones, children need more vitamin D than adults. Baby vitamin D supplementation is often recommended in northern latitudes, such as Canada, Northern United States, and Scandinavia.
Bonus Momma question!>>>> Can I eat enough vitamin D so that my breastmilk has enough vitamin D for my baby?
It is currently recommended that infants receive 400 IU vitamin D from birth. How much vitamin D you are eating and getting from the sunshine influences the vitamin D levels in your breastmilk and thus the vitamin D blood levels of your baby. It is shown that without supplementation, a baby born to a mom with vitamin D deficiency will become vitamin D deficient sooner than a baby born to a mother with adequate vitamin D intake. Therefore, you can possibly meet the needs of your baby with the intake of enough vitamin D. Because dietary sources can be inadequate in many diets, coupled with the fact that we may not get enough vitamin D from the sun (i guess this is one bad thing about sunscreen!), a dietary supplement is likely needed for you to get enough vitamin D to increase the vitamin D levels of your breastmilk. Infact, intake of up to 10 times the recommended adult vitamin D intake may be needed to promote sufficient transfer to your baby. More research is needed to determine recommendations for vitamin D supplementation for breastfeeding mothers so that baby’s vitamin D levels are sufficient for best health. If you wish to try to get enough vitamin D via diet and a vitamin supplement, so that you can pass along sufficient amounts to your baby, it is best to consult a dietitian or your healthcare provider for recommendations and monitoring.
Your Newborn Baby Needs Vitamin D To Be Healthy
- All breastfed and partially breastfed infants should receive a supplement of 400 IU vitamin D per day starting within days of birth.
- Formula-fed infants consuming less than 1 liter of formula should receive a supplement of 400 IU vitamin D per day.
After your baby is born, his iron needs during infancy are high per unit of body weight. Iron deficiency during infancy has long-term, irreversible, negative consequences on cognitive and motor development. There is good news though, exclusively breastfed infants typically have adequate iron stores for approximately the first 4 to 6 months of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does, however, recommend that all breastfed infants receive 1 mg iron per kilogram per day starting at 4 months of age until iron-containing complementary foods have been introduced.
If you are choosing to formula feed your baby, the AAP recommends that all formula-fed infants receive only iron-fortified infant formula. Some moms ask if the iron in iron fortified formulas can cause irritability, colic, constipation, reflux, gas, or cramping in their babies. Studies show no evidence that the iron in iron-fortified formulas cause these negative symptoms.
- At 4 months of age, supplement exclusively breastfed infants with 1 mg/kg per day of oral iron until age-appropriate iron-containing complementary foods are introduced.
- Partially breastfed infants receiving more than half of their diet as breastmilk should receive supplemental iron beginning at 4 months of age, at 1 mg/kg per day, until iron-containing complementary foods are introduced.
- Formula-fed infants should receive iron-fortified infant formula as their main beverage for the first year of life and do not require additional iron supplementation.
- Vitamin C–rich foods enhance iron absorption from non-heme (non-animal) sources.
Bonus Momma question!>>>> Does my newborn need extra fluoride?
Fluoride is needed to strengthen your baby’s teeth and bones. However, fluoride supplementation is not recommended before 6 months of age. If your local water supply has less than 0.3 ppm fluoride in it, supplemental fluoride is recommended for infants beginning at 6 months of age. You should check with you local municipalities to learn the fluoride content of your water supply. Purchased bottled waters may contain fluoride but you should check the label for fluoride content.
Vitamins Recommended for Breastfed Babies and Formula Fed Babies
Breastfed Babies and Vitamin D
Breastmilk provides your baby with a variety of nutrients and immune-supporting compounds. Just as achilles had a small weak spot in his heal, research has shown that breastmilk does not include enough vitamin D to promote the best possible growth. Therefore, breastfed babies should also get vitamin D supplementation every day.
Breastfed Babies and Iron
As mentioned above, babies are born with enough iron stores to last for the first four months of life, give or take. Iron is an important component of blood, because of his fast rate of growth, your baby is actually making lots and lots each day they’re growing! Around 4 months, start giving your baby an iron supplement each day. (Note: if your baby was born prematurely, your doctor may recommend that baby start iron supplements earlier.) Once your baby starts solids, some of the iron drops can be replaced by iron-fortified cereals or infant meats.
5 Top Foods for a Healthy Breastfeeding Diet and How They are Best for Baby
- Fish (Salmon): FIsh like salmon can be high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. VItamin D is essential for baby’s strong bones and omega-3 fatty acids are needed for brain, eye, and nervous system development. Vegetarian option: walnuts, flax seed (for omega-3s; UV exposed raw Portobello mushrooms (for vitamin D).
- Milk: Cow’s milk is an easy source for calcium, vitamin D and protein. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones for you and baby. Smoothies made ahead and frozen can be an easy morning option after a long night (you can add flax seed for extra omega-3 fatty acids too!) Vegan/milk intolerance option: Fortified soy milk is the milk alternative with the most protein after cow’s milk. Be cautious when making homemade soy or almond milks, these will not have added calcium and vitamin D.
- Eggs: Boiled eggs (or any form of eggs really) are a great source of protein that is quick and easy. Eggs have vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and selenium which are great for building your immune system; the B-12 is essential for baby’s brain development and making red blood cells. Vegetarian/vegan option: Brown rice and beans.
- Oatmeal: A bowl of oatmeal in the morning or for a daily snack is touted to increase milk supply (see milk supply post coming soon!). Oatmeal is another easy way to add essential food groups when you add yogurt, fruits or nuts to flavor it. Oatmeal is higher in protein than other grains and is also a great source of fiber.
- Dates: This fruit is jam packed with nutrients including some protein and iron. Some moms attribute having a snack of dates has helped their milk supply (more research is needed but dates are so healthy anyways that trying them doesn’t hurt!). Dates also have fiber, vitamin B6 and antioxidants (hello hope for better skin!). Baby obviously benefits if a snack of dates may increase milk supply, but the iron and other micronutrients that are jam packed in this little fruit universally benefit him also.
Bonus Momma question!>>>> My Dr. has been worried that I do not get enough vitamin B12 in my diet, does my baby need a B12 vitamin?
Infants who drink breast milk from mothers who consume adequate amounts of vitamin B12 do not typically need to take a B12 vitamin. Infants need vitamin B12 for their brain development and making healthy red blood cells. If mothers diet intake is not adequate while she is breastfeeding, the baby can become deficient in B12. If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency in infants can lead to permanent brain damage.
Vitamin B12 is found in foods from animals, primarily meat, fish, milk/milk products, and eggs; therefore infants of mothers who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.
If you are on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, you should consult a dietitian or your healthcare provider about taking a supplement that contains the right amount of vitamin B12 for your dietary preferences.
Also, if you have had a malabsorptive bariatric procedure (such as gastric bypass surgery), or have a history of pernicious anemia (this is a low number of red blood cells caused by inadequate amounts of vitamin B12), or who have certain gastrointestinal disorders, you may not be able to absorb certain vitamins and minerals (vitamin B12, folic acid (vitamin B9), iron, and calcium).
For any of the above conditions, it is best to consult your healthcare provider to find out about recommended supplements and to monitor your levels.
Formula-Fed Babies and Iron
Infant formulas are designed to provide all of the vitamins and minerals a baby needs. If your baby is taking more than 32oz of formula per day, the formula should be meeting all of your baby’s needs. (There are special formulas with different amounts of vitamins and minerals designed for premature babies.) Iron Fortified baby formulas are recommended. Check the label of your formula of choice to make sure that it has Iron added.
Formula-Fed Babies and Vitamin D
If your baby is taking in less than 32oz of formula per day (such as when he or she starts solids), you will likely need to add a vitamin D supplement.
Babies Starting Solids and Vitamin Requirements
Iron and vitamin D are still necessary (and can be difficult to get enough of) when your baby starts solid foods. Include iron-fortified cereal and infant meats for iron early on in feeding. If your baby doesn’t like the taste or texture of these foods, you may need to continue with a supplement until your baby starts to like these foods.
As your baby starts to eat other foods, you should continue to give breastmilk and/or formula for additional vitamins and minerals. Whether they drink breastmilk or formula, you should continue with a vitamin D supplement through the age of one year, because vitamin D is not as abundant in foods as other vitamins. After the age of one, your baby can start having cow’s milk, which is almost always fortified with vitamin D.
Additionally, if your baby eats mostly plant-based foods, he or she may need vitamin B12. As talked about above, vitamin B12 is found exclusively in animal foods (meats, fish, and dairy). Check if your formula has vitamin B12. As talked about above, if you eat animal foods, your breastmilk will likely have B12.
The Best Newborn Vitamins that are Natural
The Best Multivitamin with Iron for Newborn Babies According to Dietitian Mommas
The Best Vitamin D Supplement For Newborn Babies According to Dietitian Mommas
Bonus Momma question!>>>> Since It sounds like I have to give my newborn baby vitamin D when I am breastfeeding, is it just better to give formula?
A newborn vitamin complete with vitamin D is needed for a majority of breastfed babies to them grow strong bones and bodies. Why does breastmilk not have enough vitamin D? Well, It is hypothesized that breastmilk and its poor levels of vitamin D may be traced back to evolutionary hypotheses around UVB radiation and humans moving into extremely high latitudes-but I digress.
So, yes, breastmilk-fed infants do require additional vitamin D supplementation. But, we do know that the benefits of offering any breastmilk to your newborn far outweigh the benefits of offering formula, if breastfeeding is what you choose – even if breastmilk does not have enough vitamin D. Some key examples of the benefits of offering breastmilk is the prevention of ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections, meningitis, allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
I like to equate the choice of infant formula over breastmilk, when thinking about the lack of vitamin content to the following scenario: a mom is choosing between 2 cars (at the same price point). The first car is a luxury car that gets double the mileage, has seat warmers and a sun-roof, but is lacking an automatic starter. The second car is a not-so-luxury car that lacks everything except the electric car starter. And mom chooses the second car just because the luxury car lacks an eclectic starter (when she can have an eclectic starter installed easily after purchase).
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“Emily was a huge help to me with the early days and weeks of breastfeeding. I’ve gotten her help with issues that have come up later as well. With her background as both an IBCLC and a dietitian she has the knowledge to help with the many stages of newborn to infant to toddler feeding and is a great problem solver. Texting with Emily as questions came up had a huge positive impact on my breastfeeding journey and the health of my children.”
Emily Sylvester is the Founder or NurtureTalk and has worked as a pediatric Registered Dietitian and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for over 7 years. She has worked closely with breastfeeding families, NICU graduates, babies who are substance exposed, and children who need help to grow and thrive. Emily specializes in infant and toddler feeding and provides nutrition care in homes, schools, community groups, and outpatient clinics. Emily is the president of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition and helped to establish a Baby Café in Boston, MA. Emily obtained her master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Rhode Island and graduated from the National Institutes of Health Dietetic Internship. Emily is the proud mother of 2 and 4 year old girls, 7 month old baby boy, and was recognized as the 2018 Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Emily founded NurtureTalk to help fill the need for more affordable, accessible, timely, and tailored infant feeding information; this information aims to support families in their feeding journey, in an unbiased manner, from pre-birth through 1st birthdays.