a.k.a. Vitadims, Viamins, Vy
Do you give your kids vitamins?
I can be a bit vitamin obsessed with my own health so as soon as my kids were old enough to start taking vitamins, I enthusiastically started supplementing. At first it was just vitamin drops that our pediatrician prescribed. Vitamins A, C, and D.
At my daughter’s 12 month check-up they checked her hemoglobin levels and she was low. Following an excruciating blood draw (my first of many kid’s blood draws to come), our doctor diagnosed her with iron-deficiency anemia and prescribed iron drops. Oh, and because our water does not contain fluoride, my daughter started fluoride drops as well. So just like that, I had an infant taking 3 different supplements, two of which had to be given at different times of the day because they interfere with absorption if taken together (fluoride and iron).
Taking vitamins became routine for us and Penny thrived on the iron drops. I noticed immediate changes in her mood, appetite and sleep. Without the iron drops, she would become a cranky melting-down child that refused to eat much and was obviously over-tired but could not ever sleep!
Well, iron worked really well for us but it did not come without side effects, namely constipation. Despite a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, I decided to try fiber gummies for kids once Penny was a toddler and could chew well. They worked well and helped keep her regular so fiber gummies joined the daily regimen.
When Penny was around 2 years of age, I realized that I had options with our multivitamin. I could give more than just the limited A, C, and D that the drops had to offer. I was excited to shop for the best kids vitamin out there and start my daughter on a more complete supplement, preferably all natural.
When I scoured the vitamin section of our health food store, I found that most of the formulations had little to no iron. With Penny’s history of anemia, these were just not an option for us. Out of at least 10 different brands (yes, I sat in the isle and read every bottle) there was only one that had 50% of daily iron, which was way better than the usual 0-10%. So that was the one that I bought and we loved it at first (it’s called Rainbow Light Kid’s One, contains 5mg iron).
After being on iron drops for over a year at that point, I figured that I could safely take Penny off of them and give her the multivitamin containing half of her needed iron, with her diet making up for the other half. Well, I was wrong. Within 6 months of no iron drops, Penny’s anemia came back. To this day it is a mystery as to why she is so susceptible to anemia!
Some background factors may be at play.
- I was vegetarian through my pregnancy and anemia was detected in the third trimester, after which I started iron supplements. So she was probably born with low iron stores to begin with.
- I was vegetarian through the first year of nursing Penny so my milk may have been lower in iron than meat eating breastfeeding moms.
- Anemia runs in my family so there may be a genetic component
- Penny is a picky eater, especially when it comes to meat.
- We live in an industrial neighborhood so environmental exposure to heavy metals that can interfere with iron storage and blood cell health may be at play.
We will probably never know the answer as to why, we just know that Penny is prone to anemia so a more complete multivitamin was in need in order to avoid the iron drops.
I finally just asked our pediatrician for a recommendation and he suggested Flintstone’s Complete with Iron. There are several formulations of Flintstone’s vitamins. The Complete with Iron formulation (it comes in a red box) has the highest iron content of any kids multivitamin that I’ve found to date (18 mg ~100% for a 4 year old). This is what I’ve been giving for the past couple of years despite my preference for all natural brands. We still reach times when iron drops are needed and I will give a small amount, usually about 25% of what was originally prescribed, just to quickly bump back up to normal.
You may be wondering how I know when iron is low… The truth is, I don’t know most of the time. The only way to know for sure is to have blood drawn and a full panel run and that is hard on the child and not always fully covered by insurance. Signs that I look for in my child include irritability, trouble sleeping, pale skin, and the most obvious sign that our doctor mentioned to me was pale gums. They should be nice and pink! Keeping track of how much iron rich food my daughter is eating is also very helpful in predicting whether or not she needs additional iron.
Once little brother was born, we pretty much followed the same pattern of vitamins because he too was slightly anemic at 10 months of age! I had him checked early since I noticed behavioral signs and knew what to look for after dealing with it for so long with Penny. I was much more careful about iron during my pregnancy with him and accordingly, his anemia was not as severe. In fact, he quickly bounces back to normal by just giving his Flintstone on a regular basis. He loves to eat meat too, unlike his sister.
One new variable that my son introduced to our vitamin regimen was the fact that he is dairy and soy intolerant. This means that a major source of calcium is missing from his diet. He does still get calcium from breastfeeding. However, I have chosen to give a calcium supplement as well, just in case. Penny caught wind of his extra gummy and now she demands a calcium vitamin too, of course. With calcium, it can also interfere with iron absorption so I give it at a separate time from both iron and fluoride. This means that I often forget to give calcium and that’s ok because my kids do eat other non-dairy forms of calcium, and too much calcium can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.
A few other supplements that I feel are important are are Omega-3/DHA and probiotics, as well as Vitamin C, and Echinacea during cold season. I give Omega-3/DHA when our diet is lacking in the fish department and probiotics mostly to Shea to help him with intestinal health, especially after eating a bit of dairy or soy.
I realize that all of this may be unnecessary. Our diet is pretty well rounded and all of our nutritional needs should be covered. But, we are talking about kid’s diets here and even though I serve them well balanced, healthful meals, they often pick and choose and don’t get everything they need. So for now, I’ll continue to be the crazy vitamin lady, potentially wasting my money. My kids see them as a special treat anyway.
Do you give your children any supplements? If so, which ones and why?