Whether someone needs supplements or not depends on the individual. Certain groups of people are often recommended to take supplements, and people can be sometimes deficient in vitamins or minerals whether vegan or not. Some people may advise that kids should take a multivitamin, and some think that they will get everything they need from a balanced diet so how do you decide if they need to take supplements or not?
Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin for vegans to make sure we get. Although anyone can be deficient in it, it is found mostly in animal products, so can be harder for vegans to get. The Vegan Society says that the only reliable vegan source of vitamin B12 is from supplements or fortified foods (such as some plant milks, fortified nutritional yeast, some breakfast cereals). The Vegan Society says that all vegans (and anyone over the age of 50) need to take B12 supplements or fortified foods, no matter their diet. They say that since it’s such an important vitamin, it’s not worth taking any chances. They also recommend that vegans make sure to get reliable sources of vitamin D, iodine,calcium and long-chain DHA Omega-3 fats. They suggest that taking a daily supplement can be a convenient way of making sure you get everything you need.
But what about vegan infants who are still being breastfed or formula fed?
In some countries, such as here in Ireland, where we don’t get much sun, it is recommended to give all infants vitamin D supplements, whether breastfed or formula fed. Most vitamin D drops for infants come from sheep’s wool so are not suitable for vegans, but there are some that are suitable for vegans. (I’ll put a link further down.)
Infant formula contains added vitamins and iron but what about breastfed babies?
La Leche League International says, “if a breastfeeding mother is getting an adequate supply of vitamins in her diet, her milk will contain adequate nutrients in the perfect balance for her baby. If your baby is healthy and doing well, there is no need for vitamins, iron, or other supplements in the early months.”
Kellymom says, “Vitamin and mineral supplements are not generally necessary for the average healthy, full-term breastfed baby during the first year.” and “It is recommended that mothers who do not eat animal proteins or who are otherwise at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency get adequate amounts of vitamin B12 during pregnancy and lactation via supplements or fortified foods.”
So vegans who breastfeed should make sure to take a vitamin B12 supplement, but vegans do not generally need to supplement their baby until they are at least over 12 months.
For the first two years of Rian’s life I didn’t worry about supplementing (apart from vitamin D) as he still got quite a lot of breast milk. He also drank some fortified plant milks and had them in food, and had some fortified nutritional yeast. But when he cut down on breastfeeding, I started thinking about supplements.
I didn’t worry much about most vitamins, iron or calcium since he had a varied diet which I’m sure provided a lot of these already, but I knew he probably needed B12 supplements, as well as iodine and vitamin D. I decided to give him a multivitamin formulated for children, just to reassure myself that he was getting everything he needed.
There are different brands of vegan kids’ vitamins but these are the ones I give to Rian, Natures Plus Animal Parade (sugar free). They say vegetarian on the bottle, but on their website it says they are vegan. Not all of the Animal Parade vitamins are listed as vegan on the website, but these sugar free ones are, so look out for that, if you’re getting them. They are also gluten free so that’s handy for people who have to avoid gluten. They are suitable from 2 years up, and are chewable and fruit flavoured. Rian loves them and calls them sweets, although he knows he can only have two a day or they would make him sick (they do contain iron, so be careful to keep them out of reach of children and only give two a day). He also loves that they are animal shaped and colourful and plays little games with them before eating them, saying “hello pink kitty, hello orange lion”. (Hmm, that sounds a little evil, maybe that’s not very vegan after all!)
I find it very convenient to be able to give him chewable vitamins, and ones that he likes the taste of. I can just hand them to him. In the past I’ve used liquid or powdered vitamins for him and have found that I wasn’t as consistent about giving them to him, especially if I was busy, as it was a little bit more of a hassle.
These vitamins seem to be working for him, and we have had no reason to think he might be deficient in anything. At some point in the future I will ask my doctor to do blood tests to make sure he’s ok, just for reassurance, but I’m not worried about it. He is full of energy and not pale or tired.
Nature’s Plus Animal Parade also make a vegan vitamin D3 liquid supplement for infants. I bought these in my local health shop.
I was not paid for this blog post and didn’t receive any free samples, and don’t necessarily endorse this product over other supplements. I just wanted to let people know of one vegan option available, that works for us. If anyone has any other recommendations for vegan supplements for kids or adults, please let me know in the comments.