In the UK, toddlers do not always get enough of vitamins A & D from their food and from sunshine.

As your toddler is growing rapidly and these two vitamins are especially important for growth and development, the Department of Health (DH) recommends a supplement of them for:

  • Breastfed babies from 6 months, or from 1 month if the mother did not take a vitamin D supplement during pregnancy
  • Formula fed babies from the time they are drinking less than 500ml of formula milk
  • Toddlers up to the age of five years.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for growth and immunity. Whole milk, egg yolk and fruit and vegetables are the best sources for your toddler. However some toddlers only eat small amounts of fruit and vegetables and may not get enough vitamin A.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone development and immunity. Food only provides minimal amounts and most of your toddler’s vitamin D is made in his/her skin when outside in the sunlight. In the UK the sunlight is only strong enough for vitamin D to be made in the summer months April – September. In countries closer to the equator it happens all year round. Dark skinned toddlers need more time in the sunlight to make enough vitamin D and in the UK they are more likely to become deficient.

Oily fish is the best food source of vitamin D. Eggs and meat provide very small amounts as do some foods in the UK that are fortified:

  • Margarine
  • Some breakfast cereals
  • Some brands of yogurts
  • Formula milks – infant formulas, Follow-on formulas and growing up milks
  • Evaporated milk.

Babies and toddlers with very low amounts of vitamin D could have fits, heart problems or get rickets – a disease when bones become soft and misshapen.

Tips:

  • Healthy Start children’s vitamin drops are available from some NHS clinics and are free to families who qualify for Healthy Start vouchers. Ask your health visitor where to get them or see www.healthystart.nhs.uk
  • Alternatively, a range of children’s vitamin preparations are available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Choose a supplement that contains 7-10 micrograms (300-400IU) vitamin D/daily dose as this is the correct amount your toddler needs
  • Give only one child dose each day.

Did you know:

    • Sunscreen will stop your toddler making vitamin D in his/her skin so allow your toddler to play outside without sunscreen at times when he/she is unlikely to burn
    • The amount of time your toddler can spend outside in the sunshine without burning will depend on their type of skin including the skin colour
    • On a cloudy day or in shade less vitamin D is made in the skin
    • Vitamin D supplements are also recommended for all pregnant and breastfeeding women and those over 64 years in the UK
    • Fresh milk is fortified with vitamin D in some countries, but not in the UK
    • Oily fish including sardines, pilchards, mackerel, herrings, salmon, trout and fresh tuna
    • DH advises to limit oily fish intake to four times per week for boys and twice per week for girls. This is because some oily fish may contain small amounts of toxins that girls can retain into their childbearing years.

For more information on how to encourage healthy eating, check out our the NowBaby toddler section.