If you have been following Vegalicious long enough, you already know I am an avid B12 supplementation advocate. It was the shortage of this very vitamin, even though I supplemented with low dosages of it since going vegan, that led to several health issues and prevented me from conceiving.
The medical world, at large, is ignorant of what vitamin B12 is, how it works and what it can cure. How can I say that? Having gone misdiagnosed for over 5 years, being diagnosed and treated for about any other problem, other than B12 deficiency, gives me that right, I suppose. Having been through numerous medical and naturopathic doctors and spent thousands of dollars on needless experiments, while my problem could have been resolved for under $100, would certainly give me the right to speak up.
If you are new to my blog, you can see how I first connected the dots between my pituitary gland tumor (adenoma) diagnosis, infertility and vitamin B12 deficiency, and how I finally went on to correct it and conceive in only four weeks, after unsuccessfully and painfully trying for four years before that, by downloading the free report I offer ———-> on the sidebar. You can also browse the B12 benefits category. I will save the time and space in this post to talk about children (vegan or not) and their need for B12. As you can imagine, now that I have a child of my own (I lovingly call her my B12 baby) this topic is of huge importance to me, since I would not want her to go through the hell I had lived through.
(Sprout is about 3 mos old in this picture)
Better Safe Than Sorry
When I did a web search on vitamin B12 and children I got ZERO valuable resources. Even the Vegan Society missed this landmark by a mile, giving vague suggestions and no clear information on children and B12 supplementation. I will go directly to the source which helped me find my way in a maze of vitamin B12 deficiency and tell a couple of stories from there– Could it Be B12? by Sally M Pacholock (this is a non-vegan book, so, please, do not think that if you are an omnivore, you are safe).
“Low B12 levels severely damage the brains of hundreds of children each year, and new research shows that subclinical mental deficits may occur in tens of thousands more.”1
“In some cases children suffer irreversible brain damage because they have inborn defects of B12 metabolism that doctors fail to identify. In other cases, environmental factors–primarily diet–are to blame. The most common case of B12 deficiency in infants and young children is maternal dietary deficiency, which typically begins to cause symptoms in breastfed babies between the ages of four and eight months. Unfortunately, doctors know far too little about either acquired or inborn B12 problems. Parents, as well, often aren’t aware that breast-feeding their babies during infancy, and feeding them healthy meals when they’re older, won’t guarantee they’ll be safe. In fact, ironically, it’s often the most health-conscious mothers who put their children at greater risk.”1
The author tells a story of a little girl, the love of her parents’ lives, who was developing right on schedule… until she turned 8 months, when something went wrong. The little girl stopped talking, standing and playing with her toys. She stopped responding to those around her and eventually could not even sit. Her arms writhed (a sign that B12 deficiency was affecting her nervous system). She stopped growing.1
The little girl’s doctors considered many diagnoses, but missed an easy one, which could have given her a chance to a normal life. It was not until she was 14 months old that her parents found a new doctor who began to connect the dots and tested the mother and the child for vitamin B12 deficiency. Her mother tested low at 226 pg/ml (considered “normal” by the lab), and the baby’s levels were depleted. Thankfully the new doctor wasted no time and got the little girl on a treatment plan. She quickly began to improve and grow. Nine years later, her doctor reported that she was completely normal. Had this doctor, like numerous others, just as my highly paid specialists, missed the signs, this little girl would have ended with permanent brain injuries, and ended up with lifelong mental and physical handicaps.1
This little one was blessed to have proactive parents, who were fortunate to have found a smart doctor, but not all kids are that fortunate. Sally Pacholock tells stories of other kids, who went misdiagnosed and paid a life-long price for the ignorance of their doctors. One little girl, who began to show signs of deficiency by the age of 6 months, was one of those kids. When she finally had an MRI at the age of 13 months, the MRI showed brain shrinkage–a common sigh of vitamin B12 deficiency in infants. Her tests showed severe B12 deficiency. Unfortunately even with a treatment, she never fully recovered.
1Could it Be B12? by Sally M Pacholock
Causes of B12 Deficiency in Children
The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in newborns and babies is maternal deficiency of this vitamin. Women who are either deficient in B12, or have a low intake of B12, are at higher risk of giving birth to children with disabling or fatal birth defects. Nursing mothers need to be equally aware of their need to supplement. It does not mean that breast feeding mothers should stop giving their infants the best source of nutrition, it simply means that they should supplement through their pregnancy, nursing, and later, when the children are weaned, introducing B12 supplementation into their children’s regimen.
Some women, although they might be supplementing, or relying on their animal food intake to provide them with B12, might be in danger, because they might have pernicious anemia, which requires B12 injections, as opposed to oral supplementation of B12. Other risk factor of vitamin B12 deficiency can be found in the earlier post: Vitamin B12 Deficiency–Who is at Risk?
I personally would highly recommend for all moms-to-be, pregnant and nursing moms to get tested. A serum B12 and urinary MMA tests should be done. Testing is especially important for people who have a poor diet and who have other risk factors (linked above). I should also remind that women deficient in B12 are at a risk of having recurring miscarriages (men are at a risk of poor sperm health/counts); they are also at a risk of having preterm births and intrauterine growth retardation. A growing baby, inside the womb, needs plentiful amounts of B12, so small supplementation during pregnancy might not be sufficient.
Children (infants, toddles, etc.) who have any unexplained developmental disability should be immediately tested for vitamin B12 deficiency (a serum B12 and urinary MMA test). If diagnosis is done in time, it is very likely that babies and toddlers could quickly recover. If the issues go undiagnosed for a long time, permanent damages are likely to happen.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms in Children
The symptoms might vary, like in adults, but very common are:
- brain damage
- developmental disorders
- learning problems
- memory deficits
- declines in IQ
- mood changes
- muscle weakness
- psychiatric disorders
- neurological deterioration
- mental and cognitive problems
- symptoms similar to those seen in autism: aloofness, loss of speech and social skills, movement abnormalities
Vitamin B12 Deficiency is a Human Condition, not a Vegan Condition
The general public and especially the doctors, often limit the possibility of B12 deficiency to a vegetarian/vegan population. Unfortunately due to this gross assumption, many miss the mark, going misdiagnosed and untreated, including children. My symptoms began way before my vegan days. I went from one doctor to another, constantly misdiagnosed, and not even one of them tested my vitamin B12 levels. It was when I went vegan that I began to realize my need to supplement and started doing just that, although in suggested small dosages. I had to be aggressive in my research and firing my highly paid doctors, while looking for someone who would work with me, to change things and ensure my own well-being
Due to our modern farming practices, even the animals that the omnivorous population relies on for their vitamin B12 source, since they no longer graze outside, are prone to being B12 deficient. Vegans and vegetarians, who could formerly depend on their B12 to come directly from the soil, which could end up on their plant foods with B12 carrying bacteria, are in a similar situation–the produce, by the time it comes to stores, especially conventionally grown, is missing any possible trace of B12 on it.
Supplementing with Vitamin B12 | Dosage
I discussed supplementation of B12 in the Treatment Options post last year. I cannot stress enough just how important it is. Even if your child is not showing any symptoms of a deficiency, it is safer to supplement them with B12, rather than taking a risk of not doing so. Supplementing costs very little and can be done in a couple of different ways. Nursing infants can draw their vitamnin B12 from their mothers, so a nursing mother has to make sure to supplement. As the child grows, unless she has genetic markers requiring injections, she can be offered liquid or sublingual forms of B12. I am already teaching Sprout to take her B12. I break off a piece of my vitamin B12 lozenge, mash it and give it to her–since it tastes very pleasant, she gobbles it right up. I do not give it to her regularly yet, since she is still breast-fed (about 70% of the time), but as she becomes less dependent on me for her food supply, it will be a requirement in our household.
Here are some supplement options (always make sure to supplement with methylcobalamin form of B12!):
Jarrow formula of methylcobalamin, which also happens to be safe for vegans to use:
The same company produces a different strength of this supplement:
There are other formulas that come recommended by those in the vegan community:
Since vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin (your body will excrete any excess amount), there is not risk of overdosing. Whether you give your kiddo 500 or 1000 mcgs, you will only ensure their well-being.
For more information on the topic, I highly recommend reading Could it Be B12? by Sally M Pacholock.
I wish you and your entire family perfect health! I do ask you to share this post (there are buttons above and under the post) with everyone you care about. Vitamin B12 deficiency is life threatening, but can be easily prevented, and fixed, if caught on time.
(8.5 months old, healthy and happy)
This post is a continuation of vitamin B12 Deficiency Series.
Complete B12 Research
To get the entire report of my Vitamin B12 research either:
- go through B12 category on this site, starting from the earliest post, or, make it easier and
- get newly released B12 Research Report, which will have every single detail of my research in it (click on the link or the image below)