vitamin and mineral supplements
Nutrition

Vitamin and mineral supplements

Consultant dietitian Aveen Bannon gives parents advice on essential vitamins and mineral supplements for children

For parents who are wary about giving their child extra vitamin and mineral supplements, Ireland’s leading expert dietitian, Aveen Bannon, answers some questions.

Q: In what cases should you give your child a vitamin supplement?

A: All children from 0-12 months should be given vitamin D3 supplements daily (5ug). In North America, 5ug of vitamin D per day is recommended for infants and young children up to three years of age. In Canada, which is at a similar northerly latitude to Ireland, all babies taking less than 500ml of infant formula are supplemented with 10ug of vitamin D. We currently recommend 5ug per day and there are specific supplements specially formulated for babies that are available in your pharmacy.

Once your toddler has a balanced diet, they may not require any vitamin supplements, but an age-appropriate multivitamin will not do any harm either. If your child drinks 500ml of a growing up milk daily from one-year-of age, they will not need a vitamin as the growing up milk has vitamins and minerals added to it. To be clear, this is a personal choice. You can give your one year old a varied balanced diet with regular full -fat milk or use a growing up milk. The growing up milk or an age-appropriate multivitamin are not a necessity, but I suppose can act like an insurance policy for nutritional balance. Also bear in mind your toddler should not have more than 500ml of milk a day. Too much milk will fill them up and they’ll eat less at mealtimes.

Some children with food sensitivities, allergies, a vegetarian diet or who have been suffering from illness may require vitamins, which can be discussed with their GP or dietitian.

Q: With so many foods fortified with vitamins and minerals, how can you be sure you are not giving your child too many vitamins?

A: This is a very valid point. Taking a daily supplement won’t do any damage as long as it does not exceed the recommended daily amount (RDA) for any one vitamin or mineral. But if your child is taking a growing up milk they will probably not need a multivitamin.

As regards other foods, if your child is eating a varied diet and getting plenty of fruits, vegetables and iron-rich foods, they may not require a multivitamin.

Q: What precautions should parents take with giving vitamins to their children?

A: Always check they are age-appropriate and that they are stored in a cupboard where the children cannot access them. Some of them can look like sweets and therefore very tempting to a child.

Also remember that supplements are not a substitute for whole foods and are there to complement the diet. If your child is a fussy eater, give them a multivitamin in addition to taking steps to improve their eating habits.

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Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

A
Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….