There are so many things we can do to improve the health of our children, even while we’re pregnant and when they’re newborns. I’ve shared some guidelines on nutritional supplementation during pregnancy in another post, but now I want to focus on what nutritional supplements we should be giving our babies.
For breast-fed babies, mom’s diet and nutrition status is very important. It’s best for breastfeeding moms to continue to take the full dose of a prenatal multivitamin/mineral. You can find my favorite prenatal multi (and the one I still take) here. Breast milk quality is of the utmost importance and cannot be made up for with nutritional supplements given to a baby. Likewise, any type of baby formula cannot come close to mimicking breast milk. If you can, breastfeeding your baby is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for their health.
Vitamin K is typically given to newborns as an injection when they are born in a hospital. Vitamin K is administered to prevent spontaneous bleeding in the newborn, since some of our blood clotting factors require vitamin K to become activated. Vitamin K is produced by our gut bacteria, and newborns do not have an inoculated gut. Our daughter was born at home and we were able to choose if and how we wanted vitamin K administered. We chose for her to get a vitamin K injection from a single-dose vial (pure, without preservatives), since the injection is more effective than oral vitamin K, and has little to no risk when given in the preservative-free form. You can read more about vitamin K for newborns in this Evidence Based Birth article.
It’s important for breast-fed babies to supplement with vitamin D3, since it does not sufficiently pass through into breast milk. I follow the current guidelines and give 400 IU daily to my daughter, which I started the day she was born.1 Most baby formulas are fortified with vitamin D. Ensuring an optimal vitamin D status in infants will help them grow healthy and strong bones, promote a healthy immune system, decrease the risk of allergies and asthma, support their cognitive development, and foster healthy mineral levels.2
Omega-3 fatty acids are another important supplement for babies, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA supports the development of the brain and eyes, since it’s a major structural component. It has been suggested that DHA supplementation during pregnancy and within the first two years of life increases a child’s IQ. Since I exclusively breastfeed my 3 month old daughter, I supplement with DHA daily (which I did during pregnancy as well), and I give her DHA directly as well. Infants who consume breast milk that have higher levels of DHA have higher IQs than infants who don’t consume breast milk, or consume breast milk that have lower levels of DHA.3
Lastly, probiotics are extremely beneficial for all of us, but especially infants. Infants acquire their first doses of beneficial probiotic bacteria when they are born through the birth canal, and when they consume colostrum and breast milk. I supplemented with probiotics throughout my pregnancy, so that my birth canal would be inoculated with healthy bacteria species for my daughter to acquire as she passes through. Gut colonization in infants is so important for the development their immune system. Gut microbiome development in infants is disrupted by C-section births, antibiotic administration, and formula feeding.4 This puts babies at an increased risk for metabolic conditions (diabetes, obesity, etc.) and immune diseases (asthma, eczema, autoimmune disease, etc.).4 Probiotic supplementation in infants can be extremely helpful in preventing these conditions, and establishing a robust, strong immune system.
On a final note, an iron supplement may be considered around six months of age. Iron is important for babies’ brain development, and in preventing anemia. Be sure your baby is consuming foods that are naturally rich in iron at that point (meat, poultry, egg yolks, vegetables).
Are you pregnant, looking to become pregnant, or have a newborn? I’d love to give you more specific guidance on nutrition, diet, & supplements for you and your little one. Let’s get acquainted! Schedule a complimentary 10-minute phone consult with me here.
Ahrens, K.A., Rossen, L.M., and Simon, A.E. Adherence to vitamin D recommendations among US infants aged 0 to 11 months, NHANES, 2009 to 2012. Clinical Pediatrics. (2016);55(6):555-556.
Helve, O., Viljakainen, H., Holmlund-Suila, E., et. al. Towards evidence-based vitamin D supplementation in infants: vitamin D intervention in infants (VIDI) – study design and methods of a randomised controlled double-blinded intervention study. BMC Pediatrics. (2017);17(91).
Bernard, J.Y., Armand, M., Peyre, H., et. al. Breastfeeding, polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in colostrum and child intelligence quotient at age 5-6 years. The Journal of Pediatrics. (2017);183:43-50.
Mueller, N.T., Bakacs, E., Combellick, J., et. al. The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends in Molecular Medicine. (2015);21(2):109-117.