When Does My Child Need To Take A Vitamin D Supplement?

As an essential nutrient for bone health, immunity and calcium absorption, vitamin D should be part of our diet everyday. This vitamin is especially crucial for children, who without it, can’t grow and develop properly.

In this article you will find:

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is extremely important for immunity and bone health in children. Commonly known as ‘the sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D is formed naturally from sunlight. During winter months or periods where we stay inside more often, levels of this nutrient can drop. 

Where Is Vitamin D Found?

Vitamin D is only found in few foods such as oily fish and eggs and is sometimes added to cereals or grains. However it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food alone. 1

According to the NHS, all children under the age of 5 should be taking a vitamin D supplement. In fact, between the ages of 1 and 10 can have up to 50 micrograms (2000 UI) of vitamin D per day. (2) To put that into perspective, the table below shows vitamin D levels in popular foods:

Table showing vitamin D content in foods

Why Is Vitamin D So Important For Kids?

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and to control the amount of calcium in our blood. It is important at every stage of life, but especially for rapidly growing infants and teenagers. Vitamin D also plays a part in heart health and fighting infection. 1

Additionally, without enough vitamin D during pregnancy, your baby’s bones and teeth can’t develop properly.

How Much Vitamin D Should A Child Take?

Because vitamin D is so important, you’ll want to be sure your child gets enough. Giving your child a daily supplement or a multivitamin with vitamin D is the easiest way to do this.

In the UK it is recommended that babies from birth to 1 year of age who are being breastfed should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5-10 micrograms/day of vitamin D. Babies that are fed infant formula don’t need to have any vitamin D drops if they are having more than 500ml of formula daily, this is because formula has already been fortified with vitamin D. 

It’s also advised that children aged 5 and under should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, especially in the winter months. This creates a base level of the nutrient which can be topped up with foods or sunlight exposure. It’s important to remember that vitamin D is essential for children and adults of all ages, so a supplement for children over 5 can be useful too.

What Happens If A Child Doesn’t Get Enough Vitamin D?

Some people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. These include those with naturally darker skin, people who stay indoors more often and those that are overweight or obese.

Signs of vitamin D deficiency in children include:

  • Bone aches and pains
  • Muscle cramps
  • Delayed motor development
  • Tiredness
  • Low mood or depression

What Other Vitamins Should My Child Supplement?

Along with vitamin D, the NHS recommends that children under 5 also take supplements containing vitamins A and C. (2) Vitamin A is essential for eye health (3) and vitamin C plays a role in immune function, brain health and the condition of skin. (4) Although these two nutrients are more easily obtained from food, it can be difficult to ensure your child is eating a fully balanced diet every day.

Take Home Message

As you can tell, Vitamin D is extremely important for children and supplementation is almost always necessary in order to maintain good health. If you live in a cold climate such as the UK, ensure that your child takes Vitamin D drops or a multi-vitamin that contains 8.5-10 micrograms of Vitamin D.

  1. Andıran, N., Çelik, N., Akca, H., & Doğan, G. (2012). Vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents. Journal of clinical research in pediatric endocrinology, 4(1), 25.
  3. Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal vision.
  4. Vitamin C contributes to the maintenance of the immune system, psychological function and collagen formation in the skin.
  5. Ramos, M., & Stein, L. M. (2000). Development children’s eating behavior. J Pediatr (Rio J), 76(Supl 3), 229-37.
  6. Jackson, R. L., Hanna, F. M., & Flynn, M. A. (1962). Nutritional requirements of infants and children. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 9(4), 879-910.
  7. Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126.
  8. Munns, C. F., Shaw, N., Kiely, M., Specker, B. L., Thacher, T. D., Ozono, K., … & Högler, W. (2016). Global consensus recommendations on prevention and management of nutritional rickets. Hormone research in paediatrics, 85(2), 83-106.
  9. Misra, M., Pacaud, D., Petryk, A., Collett-Solberg, P. F., & Kappy, M. (2008). Vitamin D deficiency in children and its management: review of current knowledge and recommendations. Pediatrics, 122(2), 398-417.

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Writer and expert

Jenaed Brodell is one of UK's leading Paediatric Dietitians. She is the lead dietitian and director of the nutrition company Nutrition and Co. She has a wealth of experience in the private sector and NHS. Her focus area's are cows milk protein allergy in children, autism , sensory eating, ARFID and fussy eaters.