Calcium is an essential mineral. It makes our teeth and bones strong. Calcium also helps in muscle contraction, heart health, transmitting signals through the nerves, releasing hormones, and support our body system to function properly. Our muscles need calcium to move and nerves to carry signals between the brain to every other body part. Calcium is essential in releasing hormones and enzymes which may affect almost every function in the human body. Also, calcium helps blood vessels to move blood throughout the body. An adequate amount of calcium aid in ‘blood clotting’, and making our bones strong.
Mother’s milk usually provides all the calcium that a baby needs during the first year of her development. But after she crosses the age of 1 year, it is very important to feed the baby with varied foods that are rich in calcium.
Parents should know that the calcium absorbs in the baby’s body gradually and the diet should be planned in such a way that the intake is spread throughout the day, and not given all at once.
Benefits of Calcium for Your Baby
Calcium as discussed is an important mineral. It is crucial for babies too. Babies are in growing mode, hence they require calcium to develop strong bones and carry out other bodily functions. Beside bone-building, It helps in muscle building and teeth structure of babies. The major quantity of calcium in the human body is stored in our bones and teeth, supporting their structure and hardness.
How Much Calcium Does a Baby Need?
In babies, Calcium also supports the functions of a baby’s heart, to help the baby relax and contract tissues and for several enzymatic functions.
Calcium is measured in milligrams (mg). We all need it in distinct amounts at different stages of life. Obtaining calcium from food is always encouraged, yet in rare cases, if it’s not possible healthcare providers recommend supplements.
Here is a basic window of calcium requirement-
Calcium Babies Need-
- 0 to 6 months- 200 mg per day. They get their calcium from the mother’s milk or formula. No additional supplement or food is required.
- 6 to 12 months- 260 mg of calcium a day. Their daily milk+solid intake will suffice this. Nothing Extra. No cow milk or any other milk is encouraged.
Calcium Toddlers Need
- From 1 to 3 years old – 700 mg per day (2–3 servings).
Calcium Kids Need
- From 4 to 8 years old – 1,000 mg per day (2–3 servings).
Calcium Teens Need
From 9 to 18 years old – 1300 mg per day. (4-5 servings).
Risks of Calcium Deficiency in Kids
- Calcium deficiency or low blood calcium level is called hypocalcemia. Calcium deficiency can lead to bones becoming fragile and soft. Such bones are more prone to fractures. This bone deformation condition in babies and toddlers is called rickets.
- Osteopenia or osteoporosis
- Tetany and seizures. This can even cause death of the baby.
- Kids with calcium deficiency are lethargic and always low on energy.
- Low calcium causes numbness and trembling in the limbs.
- Insufficiency of calcium causes dry and brittle nails.
- Calcium scarcity in babies can delay tooth formation and crooked, decaying teeth in older kids.
- Calcium low levels have been associated with mood disorders. Such kids are aggressive and violent.
- Heart issues including blood pressure conditions and heart rhythms
Sign of Calcium Deficiency in babies
Looking for signs of calcium deficiency is challenging in babies. So, it is important to watch out indications of calcium deficiency in kids:
- Sweaty hair and pillow even when it’s not hot and humid.
- An uncontrollable baby who is always restless, irritative, aggressive, and violent.
- Frog belly that looks protruding
- Lethargy and fainting
- Less mental concentration
- Denies when offered food to eat
- Mentally confused. Not paying heed to others who are around.
- Delayed or crooked teeth
- Poor immune system
- Restless sleep. Cries a lot when put to sleep
- Twitch lips and tongue, Tingling Fingers, flap eyes up and down a lot
- Suffers from fits and seizures
- Eating mud, dust, sand, chalk, and other such things.
- Poor growth
- Deformed and week bones
- Muscular spasms, which look like a seizure
- Difficulty swallowing
- Brittle fingernails
Causes of Calcium Deficiency in Infants
Newborns are more prone to calcium deficiencies, especially premature babies. Older babies, if had good calcium level at birth very good control of blood calcium level.
Here are some causes-
- Low oxygen supply at the birth of the baby.
- Medicines like Gentamicin can influence your baby’s calcium levels.
- A diabetic mother is another reason.
- The deficiency of vitamin D can cause low calcium levels. Vitamin D aids in the proper absorption of calcium.
- DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disorder also causes hypocalcemia.
- A baby born with underactive parathyroid glands suffers from calcium deficiency.
- Premature birth.
- Feeding cow’s milk can lead to loss of calcium. Babies are unable to absorb calcium from cow milk.
- Serious illness.
How Can I Help My Child Get Enough Calcium?
Babies fetch calcium from the mother’s milk or formula. Toddlers get it from breast milk and an extra diet. Older kids need a higher amount of calcium. For this calcium-rich diet is needed.
Make sure kids get enough calcium for strong body. These tips may help.
- Give your kids a colorful food. The more color plate includes, the more likely meal is wholesome and nutrient-rich.
- Introduce dairy in their daily diet like cheese and yogurt
- Make fruit smoothies for older babies.
- Add soy and dry fruits.
- Add beans.
- Sprinkle sesame seed on their food.
- Use almond butter and apple butter.
- Top salads with chickpeas
- Serve cereals with a sprinkle of almond power.
- Serve fruits especially bananas.
- Give vitamin D daily.
Calcium-Rich Foods for Babies
Here are some rich sources of calcium-
- Dairy and milk products like cheese, butter, milk, yogurt, etc.
- Green Veggies like spinach, parsley, collard, kale, broccoli, and turnip greens
- Cereals that are fortified with calcium
- Fruit smoothies
- White beans
- Dry fruits like almonds and raisins
- Fruits like banana and orange
- Chia seed
- Almond butter
- Sesame seeds
Do Babies Require Calcium Supplement?
No, not actually. Babies fetch their required amount of calcium from breastmilk or formula. Older kids can fulfill their requirements by taking a calcium-rich diet.
Experts say, if children have a balanced diet, grow well, and are healthy, they need no extra supplements. Kids who take calcium supplements don’t get stronger bones, a study of clinical researches records. Giving more than 600-800 mg calcium per day will not help.
Milk and dairy foods should not be overlooked as beside calcium, these foods also provide vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium, which are crucial for bone health and body development.
Yet, some children don’t get sufficient nutrients for different reasons. supplements might help them. But supplements should not be encouraged for all kids. Food containing calcium should be preferred.
Tips to Treat Infant Calcium Deficiency
Most new babies are vulnerable to low calcium levels. Calcium deficiency should be addressed as earliest as possible. Right treatments at the right time can prevent complications.
Here is how,
- Breastfeed your baby, exclusively for the first 6 months if possible. If not, choose formula wisely and only on doctor’s advice.
- Give older babies a calcium-rich diet. on a regular basis at different times throughout the day.
- Expose babies to sunlight daily. Adequate vitamin D helps in proper calcium absorption.
- Talk to the pediatrician about daily calcium intake. He may recommend diets and charts.
- Immediately seek professional help if you sense something not okay. Talk to the doctor if you see signs of calcium deficiency or seizures.
Now that you know the importance of calcium in babies and consequences of calcium deficiency, ensures that your baby gets adequate calcium through a proper diet and sunlight. Keep all time vigil on your little bundle of joy. Your extra efforts will make your baby a healthy grown-up.