Vitamin requirements, infant

Vitamins are organic substances that are essential in minute quantities for the proper growth, maintenance, and functioning of the baby. Vitamins must be obtained from food because the body cannot produce them. The exception is vitamin D, which can be produced by the skin when it is exposed to the sun.

There are four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and several water-soluble vitamins (the “B” vitamins – niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, and biotin). These vitamins have been added to infant formulas to ensure proper nutrition. Unless otherwise directed by their pediatricians, routine vitamin supplementation is not necessary for healthy full-term infants taking formulas.

High doses of certain vitamins can have adverse effects. For example, high doses of vitamin A can cause headaches, vomiting, liver damage, brain swelling, and bone abnormalities. High doses of vitamin D can lead to high levels of calcium in blood and kidney and heart damage. Therefore, high doses of vitamins should NOT be given to infants and young children without supervision by their pediatricians.

Infants who are low birth weight (LBW) or premature need supplemental vitamins (and iron) and special formulas. These specialized formulas contain more calories per ounce than routine formula, but are manufactured in a special way so as to be easily absorbed by the immature digestive system. There are several brands of this type of formula (for example, Similac Special Care and Similac LBW (Ross Pharmaceuticals)). Part of preparing an infant for discharge from the neonatal ICU involves establishing proper nutrition, which must be continued by the parents at home. Individual recommendations will be made by the infant’s neonatologist.

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