Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vitamin found in many common foods like citrus fruits, apples, berries, potatoes and peppers. It’s also readily available as a dietary supplement.
Vitamin C is important so your body can form:
- Collagen, blood vessels, cartilage and muscle. This helps to maintain many body tissues, including your skin. It also aids with connective tissue repair and wound healing according to one study.
- Neurotransmitters, the chemicals that are important for signaling in the nervous system.
- Carnitine, a chemical that supports the transport and breakdown of fatty acids to generate energy.
- Healthy bones and teeth, which are super important during your child’s formative years.
But one of best known functions, of course, is its role in supporting the body’s immune system. “Because vitamin C is an antioxidant and vital to maintaining overall health, it actually can help boost your little one’s immune system if they have the sniffles,” says Dr. Radhakrishnan. Antioxidants help reduce damage to cells from free radicals in the body. Vitamin C is also highly concentrated in immune cells, which suggests that it’s an immune-boosting agent.
Your child’s growing body can’t produce vitamin C on its own. So as a parent, you have to ensure that your child eats a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables every day — sometimes easier said than done! Plant sources, including tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and kiwi, are the best sources of vitamin C.
If your little one is a picky eater, vitamin C is also available as an oral supplement. “There are a lot of different types of vitamin supplements available. It’s best to talk to your child’s pediatrician about which one is right for them,” says Dr. Radhakrishnan.
How to know if your child has a vitamin C deficiency
The good news: Vitamin C deficiency is quite rare in the United States.
“Vitamin C deficiency is very seldom seen in children and adults in developed countries, unless they have severe intestinal malabsorption or poor eating habits that avoid sources of vitamin C,” says Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Diagnosing vitamin C deficiency requires special blood tests. But the main condition caused by deficiency of vitamin C is scurvy, which is very rare. Scurvy was described by the ancient Egyptians and in pirate stories, as it was a leading cause of death during long ship voyages in the industrial revolution era.
People with scurvy may have small brown spots on the skin, roughening of the skin, thickening of the gums and bleeding from the mucous membranes. They also may have a feeling of weakness or discomfort, emotional changes, poor wound healing, bone pain, and in late stages, jaundice, nerve involvement and convulsions.
Can taking vitamin C prevent a cold?
There’s been a lot of debate about if vitamin C helps prevent the common cold. “It’s a topic that has been extensively researched, and there’s some evidence that vitamin C may reduce how long your cold may last,” says Dr. Radhakrishnan. But he says taking vitamin C on a regular basis doesn’t reduce how often you’ll get a cold — or how severe it will be.
“Although the medical evidence is not overwhelming, this vitamin may help reduce the duration of common cold,” Dr. Radhakrishnan concludes. This is why some healthcare professionals recommend vitamin C for the common cold.
“Given how safe and relatively inexpensive vitamin C is, it may be alright to give your child a short course of vitamin C during a cold – but this should be discussed with your child’s physician,” he says.
Like your mom always said, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Becoming a parent can be one of the most joyous and challenging experiences of your life.
One of the first lessons every new parent learns is how to make sure your baby is well fed and adequately nourished throughout each stage of their life.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that’s essential for optimal health across the life cycle.
Many new parents wonder if their infants are getting enough vitamin C and whether a supplement is ever necessary.
This article reviews everything you need to know about vitamin C for babies, including what it is, how much is needed, and how to make sure your baby is getting enough every day.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that plays a critical role in a variety of your baby’s most vital physical functions.
It’s essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, enhancing iron absorption, and producing collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body (1Trusted Source).
Vitamin C is unique to many other nutrients because it also functions as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect cells from free radical damage (2Trusted Source).
Free radicals are highly volatile, cell-damaging chemicals that are a byproduct of normal human metabolism. Antioxidants like vitamin C can bind to free radicals, making them unable to harm surrounding tissues (2Trusted Source).
Vitamin C is considered an essential nutrient, which means your baby’s body can’t produce it by itself. Therefore, it must be obtained from the foods they consume each day.
This nutrient can be found in breastmilk, infant formula, and many types of fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C requirements for infants
Though essential throughout every stage of life, infants need less vitamin C than adults.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that babies receive the following amount of vitamin C each day (3Trusted Source):
- 0–6 months of age: 40 milligrams (mg)
- 6–12 months: 50 mg
Women who are breastfeeding have increased vitamin C requirements because they’re supplying the baby with vitamin C through their breastmilk.
If you’re breastfeeding, aim to consume 120 mg of vitamin C per day. This is about 60% more than the amount required for women who aren’t breastfeeding (3Trusted Source).
Infant formulas also contain vitamin C. Thus, if your baby is formula fed, they’ll be able to meet their vitamin C needs.
SUMMARYVitamin C is an essential nutrient that supports immunity and collagen production. It also functions as an antioxidant. Babies require 40–50 mg of vitamin C per day, depending on their age.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), infant formula, breastmilk, and food should be the only sources of vitamin C your baby consumes (3Trusted Source).
Supplementing with vitamin C is unnecessary for most healthy babies and could increase their risk of developing symptoms associated with vitamin C toxicity.
Possible side effects associated with overconsumption of vitamin C include kidney stones, nausea, and diarrhea (3Trusted Source).
The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) only advises that vitamins and mineral supplements be given to infants 6 months of age or older (4).
Supplementing at 6 months is recommended for infants who aren’t breastfeeding and consume less than 16 ounces (500 mL) of formula per day (4).
If taking a supplement is deemed necessary, the dosage should be determined by your baby’s healthcare provider (4).
When supplementing may be appropriate
If you suspect that your baby isn’t getting enough vitamin C, taking a supplement may be necessary.
Vitamin C deficiencies are rare in developed countries, but babies with neurodevelopmental disorders, digestive dysfunction, or cancer may be at an increased risk of developing them (5Trusted Source).
Severe vitamin C deficiency is the root cause of a serious medical condition known as scurvy.
Symptoms include bleeding gums, bruising, fatigue, loss of appetite, and irritability. If scurvy is left untreated, it can be fatal (1Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
You should never attempt to diagnose your baby with a vitamin deficiency on your own.
Be sure to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your baby’s diet. They can determine the safest, most appropriate dosage.
SUMMARYVitamin C supplements are generally not recommended for babies. In rare instances, supplements may be required, but dosage should be determined by a qualified healthcare provider.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends beginning to introduce solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old (6).
This is the perfect time to start offering foods that are rich in vitamin C to help your baby continue meeting their nutrient needs as they grow.
At 6 months of age, most babies can meet their daily vitamin C requirements from a combination of food and formula or breastmilk (3Trusted Source).
Here are some examples of baby-friendly foods that are high in vitamin C (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source):
- Red bell pepper, 1/4 cup (23 grams): 58% of the daily vitamin C recommendation for babies
- Strawberries, 1/4 cup (41 grams): 48% of the daily vitamin C recommendation for babies
- Kiwi, 1/4 cup (44 grams): 82% of the daily vitamin C recommendation for babies
- Tangerines, 1/4 cup (49 grams): 26% of the daily vitamin C recommendation for babies
- Cooked broccoli, 1/4 cup (24 grams): 31% of the daily vitamin C recommendation for babies
- Papaya, 1/4 cup (57 grams): 70% of the daily vitamin C recommendation for babies
Remember that every baby is different and not all of them will be particularly open to trying new foods right away. Be patient with them as they explore all the new flavors and textures that solid foods provide.
In the meantime, you can rest assured that your baby will get plenty of vitamin C from their formula or breastmilk.
SUMMARYAt 6 months, you can begin introducing foods rich in vitamin C to your baby’s diet. Strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and tangerines are all excellent baby-friendly options.
One of the most important parts of caring for a new baby is ensuring they’re provided with adequate nutrition. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in immunity, collagen production, and protection from free radical damage. Breastmilk, infant formula, and whole foods, such as bell pepper, strawberries, and papaya, are the best sources of vitamin C for your baby. Vitamin C supplements aren’t appropriate for infants unless recommended by a healthcare provider. If you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough vitamin C, talk to your medical provider before adding any supplements to their routine.