One of the first lessons every new parent learns is how to make sure their infant is well fed and adequately nourished throughout the early stages of their life.
Vitamin C plays an important role and is essential for optimal health across the life cycle.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that plays a critical role in a variety of your baby’s most vital physical functions.
It is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, enhancing iron absorption, and producing collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body.
Vitamin C is unique to many other nutrients because it also functions as an
antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C is considered an essential nutrient, which means your baby’s body can’t produce it by itself. Therefore, it must be obtained from the foods they consume each day.
This nutrient can be found in breast milk, infant formula, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C requirements for infants
Though essential throughout every stage of life, infants need less vitamin C than adults.
The dietary guidelines recommends that babies receive the following amount of vitamin C each day:
- 0–6 months of age: 40 milligrams (mg)
- 6–12 months: 50 mg
Women who are breastfeeding have increased vitamin C requirements because they’re supplying the baby with vitamin C through their breastmilk. When you’re breastfeeding, try to consume 120 mg of vitamin C per day. This is about 60% more than the amount required for women who aren’t breastfeeding.
Infant formulas also contain vitamin C. Thus, if your baby is formula fed, they’ll be able to meet their vitamin C needs.
Most babies shouldn’t take vitamin C supplements
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), infant formula, breast milk, and food should be the only sources of vitamin C your baby consumes.
Supplementing with vitamin C is unnecessary for most healthy babies and could increase their risk of developing symptoms associated with vitamin C toxicity.
Possible side effects associated with overconsumption of vitamin C include kidney stones, nausea, and diarrhea.
The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) only advises that vitamins and mineral supplements be given to infants 6 months of age or older.
Supplementing at 6 months is recommended for infants who aren’t breastfeeding and consume less than 16 ounces (500 mL) of formula per day.
If taking a supplement is deemed necessary, the dosage should be determined by your baby’s healthcare provider.