No, you definitely should not give your baby vitamin C. I discussed this issue with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., chief medical officer of Weil Lifestyle and an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health, and an authority on botanical medicine. Dr. Low Dog tells me that as long as your baby is drinking formula or breastfeeding, he or she is getting all the vitamin C that’s needed, and no supplement is necessary. Dr. Low Dog said that an older report from 1994 suggested that preterm babies born with higher levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) were more at risk for dying; however, other studies have failed to confirm this.
Until the age of six months, babies need 40 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C daily. This increases to 50 mg per day when they’re between the ages of six months to a year. To set your mind at rest, know that infant formula contains 8 mg of vitamin C per 100 calories. One-month old babies need about 472 calories per day, which supplies about 37 mg of vitamin C. At six months of age, babies need about 650 calories per day, which would provide 50 mg of vitamin C from formula.
Breastfed babies get enough vitamin C, provided that the mothers are not deficient or suffering from malnutrition. You would know if you were malnourished – this comes from a severely unbalanced diet, an eating disorder, or malabsorption disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, bleeding gums, and skin rashes (on the legs especially). Prolonged deficiency can cause scurvy, a potentially severe but now rare illness.
When in doubt, be sure to talk to your baby’s healthcare provider.
However, there is one supplement your baby (and all breastfed babies) does need. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supplementing with 400 IU of vitamin D drops daily, starting within a few days of birth. Human milk doesn’t contain enough D to prevent deficiency in breastfed babies. Vitamin D is included in infant formula, so it isn’t necessary to supplement with vitamin D if you’re formula feeding.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
K.M. Silvers, et al. “High plasma vitamin C concentrations at birth associated with low antioxidant status and poor outcome in premature infants” http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Vitamin-D-And-Your-Baby.aspx1994; 71:F40–4
B.A. Darlow et al. “Vitamin C supplementation in very preterm infants: a randomised controlled trial.” Archives of Diseases in Childhood. Fetal Neonatal Edition 2005; 90:F117–F122