Vitamin B12 is important for your child’s neurological function and the formation of his red blood cells. It is also water-soluble, which means that it is not stored in your child’s body and instead needs to be replaced each day. In order to provide your child’s body with a steady amount of vitamin B12, it is important to understand how much he needs according to his age and its best sources.
The Office of Dietary Supplements website states that from birth to 6 months of age, your child needs 0.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day. That amount increases slightly to 0.5 mcg from 7 to 12 months. From ages 1 to 3 years, your child needs 0.9 mcg; from 4 to 8 years, she needs 1.2 mcg; from 9 to 13 years, she needs 1.8 mcg. Finally, from 14 years of age until adulthood, your child needs 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 daily.
Babies birth to 6 months of age get the vitamin B12 that they need from breast milk and formula. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in foods and is naturally found in animal products like red meat, eggs, poultry, fish and dairy. It is also found in fortified foods, like breakfast cereal, juice and bread. Multivitamins and dietary supplements are also sources of vitamin B12.
Since vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products, it can be challenging for a child following a vegetarian or vegan diet to get the recommended daily amount. Signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, weakness, constipation, weight loss, loss of appetite and poor memory. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, soy beverages and other soy products are sources of vitamin B12, and fortified juices and cereals can be good options as well. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor might recommend that you take a vitamin B12 supplement to help your baby reach the recommended amount. Severe cases of vitamin B12 deficiency might be treated with injections, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements website.
If you are concerned that your child is not getting enough vitamin B12, talk to his doctor. Keep in mind that consuming large amounts of folic acid can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, while some stomach disorders like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease can make it difficult for him to absorb it. When offering animal products as a means of meeting the recommended daily requirement for vitamin B12, be sure to provide lean meats to reduce your child’s intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.