Have you ever heard of vitamin B12 supplements for children? It may sound like this is an adult thing, but it’s not really. Being vegetarian or vegan is a very common decision most people make as adults. However, people who do not consume any animal products seek to instill these values in their children from birth.
This is why there are occasions in which some vitamin supplements should be included in the diet of the youngest children to reinforce the absence of some vitamins present in meat and animal products. One of the most common is the cobalamin supplement, because of its great importance.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in a growing stage such as infantile vitamin B12 deficiency cannot occur under any circumstances. It is essential that the child obtains all the nutrients necessary to develop properly and if they are not eaten through food supplements of the appropriate type should be used. This is the only way to avoid anemia and other stomach problems.
This vitamin is essential for the intellectual development of the child and is involved in the metabolism of nerve tissue. If this vitamin deficiency occurs, it can lead to a slowdown in growth. We have given the example of veganism and vegetarianism, although it is clear that there may be other reasons why you need this type of supplementation, such as pathologies that appear from birth, anemias, etc..
Do children need to take vitamin B12 supplements?
If there is any deficiency in the diet of the small child, whatever the type, it will be essential to include in their diet some vitamin supplements such as vitamin B12 and any others they may need. This type of supplement is not usually necessary at all for infants under 6 months of age, as in infants of such a young age they are usually fed on breast milk or formula that has all the necessary nutrients, including vitamin B12.
The best thing to do is to include the vitamin supplement as soon as the child begins to take another type of food. This usually occurs after the fifth or sixth month of life, when soft foods are introduced that replace portions of milk and, with it, cause the baby to stop taking cobalamin and other vitamins from breast milk.
This will, of course, be the case in cases where the type of feeding is unbalanced or if certain pathologies occur that prevent the body from absorbing B12, such as malabsorption or nutrient synthesis problems.
Thus, the less breast milk or formula a child drinks, the more attention will have to be paid to nutritional levels, diet and, of course, if necessary, more supplements will have to be introduced.
It should be clear that either through supplementation or through food intake itself, the child must always have the recommended amount of vitamins to develop properly; this is essential.
Where do children get cobalamin? Types of sources
Recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B12 according to EFSA
Up to 6 months
From 7 to 12 months
From 1 to 3 years
From 4 to 8 years old
From 9 to 13 years old
14 to 18 years old
Cobalamin, both children and adults, is obtained from food of animal origin. Although many people think that this is present in some plant foods such as tempeh or miso, to name a few, the truth is that they contain a very small amount. Obviously, these are not recommended to enjoy the necessary B12 levels.
Vegetarian or vegan children, on the other hand, can obtain this type of vitamin through some vegetable products enriched with B12 that can help reduce the deficiency of this type of micronutrient; these are the enriched vegetable drinks, usually with calcium and vitamin B, and, by the time they grow a little more, enriched breakfast cereals.
Thus, children obtain cobalamin from meat, fish and dairy products. In addition, they may receive an extra dose of fortified foods. These are the soft foods that toddlers take at an earlier age and are able to meet their demand. If these are not consumed or if the small body is not able to absorb B12, it will be necessary to supplement.
In short, if a baby takes formula or breast milk, this milk will already be prepared with all the nutrients (in the case that the mother is well nourished) but if it starts with mixed feeding with baby food, etc., and does not receive the amount she needs it should always be supplemented with a supplement of B12.
Possible illnesses from having low B12 levels in infants
The presence of all vitamins is essential for the development of children from the time they are in the womb to their newborn development.
If we are in the case that the mother has decided to eat a diet rich in plant foods, such as vegan or vegetarian diets, a supplement of B12, in addition to being essential for her, is very important for the baby who is being pregnant.
This vitamin is essential for your baby’s proper brain and physical functioning and development. Their absence or small amount since the mother’s pregnancy can help increase the possibility of suffering from some serious diseases such as anencephaly or spina bifida, diseases that can cause severe partial or total paralysis of the child.
It can also cause a delay in their physical and mental development, leading to illnesses and pathologies of various kinds that affect their development completely. Therefore, the presence of cobalamin in infant feeding should be mandatory; it is not a matter to play with.
Vitamin B12 supplement presentations for children
The types of vitamin B12 supplements for children, whether they follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or for any other reason must be supplemented, there are several, choose the most appropriate depending on the age of this one, let’s see a list of the presentations of supplements most suitable for the youngest in the house:
Drups: The best option, when children are young, is to give vitamin drops. It is much more difficult to measure but very easy to give, mixed in a juice, milk or in a porridge, for example. The handicap, as we say, is the difficulty of measuring. In general, there are no problems if we overdo it; the important thing is not to underestimate it, since we could incur in the same pathology (although it would take longer to appear).
Pills: When your child is older and understands how medicine and medications work, we can start giving them tablets or sublingual pills. The only important thing is to make sure you take the correct dosage.
Nasal gels or injections: They pass directly into the bloodstream and require prescription and supervision. These would occur in extreme cases, in those where the child has internal problems that prevent him/her from synthesizing or absorbing B12.
In any case, it is essential to give the right dose for children, never offer pills with an adult dosage.
We highlight the case of vegetarians and vegans, because of their type of food, the first one will need this type of supplements as soon as they start eating porridge. The second, depending on the type of food you eat, may start a little later; although it is imperative that you start as soon as possible, check-ups and tests to see what your general health status is. Also, sooner rather than later, your vegetarian baby should also take cobalamin supplements.
Recommended daily dosages in B12 supplements for vegetarian infants and children
By age range and always in agreement with the European Food Safety Agency, it is appropriate, in terms of supplementation, to give you an approximate amount of:
2 daily dosages (mcg*)
1 daily dosage (mcg*)
1 weekly dosage (mcg*)
6 to 11 months
1 to 3 years
4 a 8 años
9 to 13 years
Over 14 years old
Vitamin B12 supplementation during pregnancy
For women who are pregnant and have a vegan or vegetarian type of diet, some vitamin B12 supplements will be needed to develop their pregnancy correctly.
The fact is that the decrease in this type of vitamins during this period of time can lead to greater tiredness and weakness in these months of gestation, as well as other types of illnesses in the mother, such as anaemia and the risk of developing illnesses in the fetus, such as diabetes or spina bifida.
Of course, it is not necessary to follow a vegetable diet to require these supplements. In fact, the vast majority of pregnant women take B12 along with folic acid (B9).
It is equally important to have adequate levels of cobalamin during breastfeeding because, if this is not the case, we are passing this deficiency to the baby through the breast milk itself.
Vitamin B12 for children is essential and much more important for babies whose mothers follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. The first years of life are the most important and condition both behaviour and development. For this reason, it is essential to enjoy good health in all aspects and to nourish oneself properly so that the organism can develop without any problems, carrying out all the functions and without any deficiencies of any kind that may result in pathologies or diseases of various kinds.