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What Kind of Supplements Does My Toddler Need?

Do we need to add these to our daily breakfast?

Do we need to add these to our daily breakfast?

Now that we’ve reached the toddler years, we’re at the pediatrician’s office far less than we used to be back in the baby days. In fact, our next scheduled appointment isn’t until Cullen’s third birthday! I’m sure a few things will pop up between now and then, but — knock on wood — we are lucky to find ourselves mostly healthy and out of the doctor’s office most of the time. Because of this, I keep a running list of questions to ask for the times that we are there. I have a sticky notes app in my phone and I add to our “pediatrician” list as I think of things throughout the days and weeks. Whenever we end up there, be it for Graham’s well-visit checkup or a quick check of the ears, it’s an easy way to keep track of all the things I’ve forgotten in the chaos of the moment.

And so at our last pediatrician visit, which actually happened to be a checkup for Graham, I pulled out my list and finally remembered to ask our doctor about toddler dietary supplements. Does he need them?

Somewhere around Cullen’s second birthday I started giving him a daily multivitamin. I spent an unhealthy amount of time in the supplement aisle reading over labels and obsessing over my decision. Ultimately, I settled on these chewable multivitamins from Animal Parade, specifically because they contain a bit of iron (which is lacking in many children’s vitamins). Because we are vegetarians, I personally wanted these to give him a bit of a boost in the iron department (just in case).

As I continued to think about nutrition and what my toddler might need, I couldn’t help but notice the many, many options for children’s DHA supplements. Is that something he needed too?

This article says no. The recommendation is for children to eat fatty fish for a direct source of fatty acids, rather than through supplementation. It also details how current research (or lack thereof) hasn’t really been able to dictate one way or another as to whether DHA supplements have shown any difference in learning or development in young children. Of course, there is no doubt that it’s an important part of a nutritional profile and individual diet, but where it comes from is still up for debate.

But what about kids — like mine — who don’t eat fish? My pediatrician reassured us that through a healthy, balanced diet, Cullen should be getting plenty without the added need to supplement. In fact, he said we didn’t necessarily need the multivitamin either, but it certainly can’t hurt (when given properly). And who knows, at some point we might end up deciding to give him fish. We do live in Seattle after all, where the seafood is fresh and abundant. And eventually, he can make that decision for himself. In the meantime, we make sure to include a lot of other healthy fat options in his diet — flax, walnuts, avocado, oils, etc. — and we continue to try to encourage him to eat healthy, balanced meals as much as possible.

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