Do Kids Need To Supplement With Vitamin B12?

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 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 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.

vegan baby, father holding a baby, first step, little baby trying to walk

(Sprout is about 3 mos old in this picture)

Better Safe Than Sorry

When I did a web search on 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 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).

b12-deficiency

“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 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 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 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 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 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.

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
  • fatigue
  • mood changes
  • muscle weakness
  • paralysis
  • psychiatric disorders
  • blindness
  • neurological deterioration
  • mental and cognitive problems
  • symptoms similar to those seen in autism: aloofness, loss of speech and social skills, movement abnormalities

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 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 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 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 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 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:

choose between 1000 and 5000 mcg.

Liquid option of methylcobalamin:

Since 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.  B12 deficiency is life threatening, but can be easily prevented, and fixed, if caught on time. 

sprouts-new-dress

(8.5 months old, healthy and happy)

This post is a continuation of B12 Deficiency Series.

Complete B12 Research

To get the entire report of my B12 research either:

  1. go through B12 category on this site, starting from the earliest post, or, make it easier and
  2. 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)

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  • Laura

    Thank you for this page.. 2 questions.. I am a long time vegan with a 10 month old son. I take meth.b12 sublingual every few days. Although I am still nursing about 6 times a day, I just started crushing 1/2 a tablet up and giving it to my son (sprinkle in his food). Do you think he will be absorbing it since he is not taking it sublingually? Also, do you know if the methylcobalamin supplement is vegan? Thanks!

  • Lisa

    Hi, my son is 17 months. He was born 9lbs 2 oz but is now just an ounce shy of 20 lbs. He went from being a huge kid to being in the 5th percentile for height and weight. He was growing fine til about 6 months when he got really sick and I gave him antibiotics and after 2 days felt strongly I was giving him poison and stopped. he got cradle cap after that and his growth plateaued. He is also a pretty picky eater. I try to hide some supplements in his almondmilk pudding. Today I gave him 1/4 of my 1000 mcg methyl B12 nugget that goes under the tongue. Do you think thats a good amt for him? I’m going to try this for 30 days to see if it helps him with growth and appetite.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Lisa, hi! You would really need a consult with me, but in short here is what you need to do:

      1. get him on prescription strength probiotic–it will take care of the cradle cap and restore his gut bacteria
      2. you can give him the full tablet, no worries about that, since he cannot overdose. My 2.5 yr old takes the whole thing and love it.
      3. growth–do not measure your kids against overgrown children in America. if you feed him nutricious foods and he keeps growing and developing (mentally and physically), there is nothing to be worried about. The first few months kids grow like weeds, then the growth slows down. In the second year of their lives they will grow marginally, compared to the first year, and then even slower with each year after that, except when they might go through growth spurts.

      At his age, it is pretty normal to be picky. If you are not nursing anymore, offer a wide variety of foods. Make sure to get grains going, such as oats, semolina, etc. Kids love them, and it will give them the calories they need in addition to smoothies, etc.

      If you need more help, feel free to schedule a consult with me. I will be happy to talk you through this.

  • Cheri Willmuth

    What do you think about this for a nursing mother? I am not vegan, but I know my body is lacking what it needs, trying to make steps in the right direction. http://www.wellnessresources.com/products/super_b_complex.php
    Or do you have recommendations for a B-complex vitamin that uses methylcobalamin ?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Cheri, hi! No, I have no recommendations for anything except for B12, since others will do more harm than good in the long run. I recommend whole foods to deliver complex vitamins, as opposed to isolated vitamins that no longer can be usable to the body, since they will be lacking other nutrients that they would normally have in their natural state, to help them get absorbed.

      Here is the B12 I use: http://astore.amazon.com/vega-licious-20/detail/B002FJW3ZY

  • Andrea

    Hello Elena…Is it safe to give my 2yr son the same over the counter B12 I use?

  • Yesica

    Hi Elena. My son is turning two tomorrow. I noticed that his behaviors changing every few weeks. He will be sleeping well and not crying for everything for two or three weeks and the. He goes back to the same crying and waking up at night for a week or so. Can this be a behavioral problem? Do you know if I can give my child b complex? I actually order the one from nutrilite for me and was thinking about giving him the same since it says it’s natural. Is this a good idea? My son is a fussy eating and I am concerned the lack of apetite can be cause by vitamin deficiency.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Yesica, it might not be anything to worry about. Such changes are pretty normal in two year olds. Wait until he hits two–there will be even more changes.

      When it comes to crying at night, it is pretty normal (although sad for us, parents) for kids of his age to have what is known as night terrors. It will get better with time, but might be cyclical. Unless he has some developmental issues, it is not very likely that it has anything to do with B12 deficiency.

      If he eats a pretty good, plant based diet, I would not recommend B complex, just B12 by itself is all he should need.

      Kids are fussy eaters from time to time at his age. If he has a few good foods that he eats now, keep offering him other options, and his repertoire will increase as he gets older. My kiddo is very healthy and bright, but she sometimes goes through phases when she refuses certain foods. I always have an option B for her–so, if she does not want cucumbers today, i will offer her tomatoes; but I always limit her choice options to only two. There are times, however, when she gets no options and is required to eat what the whole family is eating, so she will not grow up to expect that she will have special meals made just for her. The other day, for example, we had whole wheat spaghetti for lunch. She refused to eat it. I did not push it on her, but did not give her any other options. I let her play and we ran a few errands. At snack time, I offered here the same food. She had a couple of bites, but refused the rest. That was fine too. She was not given any other options. At dinner time she had eaten her entire bowl of spaghetti and loved it! Sometimes that is what it will take for our kids to learn to love certain foods and appreciate the work we put into making it.

      I hope all of this helps and wish you and your son the best of health.

  • Heather Hogan

    Hi Elena! My daughter’s blood work came back and the pediatrician said that the B12 levels looked great. I mentioned that you suggested that I should have more than one test done. She said there was no need to. Any suggestions?? Thank you! Heather Hogan

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Define “great”. Is there an actual number?

  • http://nolamomdotcom.blogspot.com/ TiptoesLightly

    I’d like to give my 5 year old a B12 supplement. I researched and found that the recommended dosage is 1.2 mcg for his age range, but the supplements available on the market start at 500 mcg and go up from there! I’m very confused about what dosage to settle upon. Any advice?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Sure thing. B12 is water soluble. You can give your kiddo 500 mcgs without any fear–her body will get rid of anything it does not need. You can also break the tablet down into 3-4 parts and do it that way. You simply cannot overdose!

  • Bridget

    What would you suggest for a 40 year old nursing mom, and kids 8, 6 & 4? Thanks!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      I normally recommend at least 1000 mcgs for adults a day, and you can give less than that to kids. I give mine about 1/5th of my tablet and she is fine. She still nurses once a day, but I started her on B12 when she was younger, to get her used to it.

      Does that help?

  • Nadia D

    Dear Elena, thank you for the blog. My mom suffered severe anxiety all her life and she always used B12 injections. My daughter was diagnosed with rear type of epilepsy, and she is not responding to drugs very well. I asked our doctor about giving her B12 after reading some studies, but the doctor said it doesn’t work with epilepsy. She is 2 and half, how much Jarrow lozenges can I give her?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Nadia, sorry to hear about that. With B12, you cannot overdose, so I am not sure why your doc is not willing to at least give it a go. I would look for one that will at least try.

      With Jarrow, again, because you cannot overdose, you can go 1000-5000 mcgs without a problem. 1000 should be plenty.

      • Nadia D

        My kids don’t eat any kind of meat, I decided to raise them Vegetarian. I am wondering if she is B12 deficient because of that, I’m going to test her and I’m going to start her on lozenges as soon it arrives. Thank you for all the information!

        • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

          If you are going to test her, make sure NOT to supplement beforehand, otherwise the tests will be faulty.

  • Jeannette Bruce

    hi I was wondering what you think of or if you know anything about ironkids omega3 and DHA supplements .

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Glad you asked. If your kids a plant-based diet, filled with whole foods, the only supplementation they need is B12, and then getting either flax/chia or hemp seeds for their omegas. I would stay away from all other supplements altogether. The latest studies show more and more just how unnecessary, and at times harmful, extracted supplements can be.

      • Jeannette Bruce

        my son has speech and other issues and I have had it suggested that he use omega three and DHA and b12

        • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

          I do not see how DHA and extracted Omega3 would help him. Were you presented with science behind it? B12 is necessary for all physical functions, the others are supposed to be coming from our food sources.

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  • evelyn

    Hello! :) I’m thinking of trying the Methyl Vitamin B12 nasal spray for my son who was recently diagnosed with autism. I had him tested for low B12 and they actually said he was a bit higher than normal but I read that its not toxic to give a little more. My son will be 4 in April and I was wondering how much I should give him. I was told the injections are only through prescription. :/ but im still researching. Any advice would be awesome!!!! :)

    -evelyn

    P.s.He is on the gluten/dairy/soy/sugar free diet

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Evelyn, you are correct, B12 is non-toxic. In fact you cannot overdose with it, since it is water soluble. I have had women in my program with kids who have autism, successfully supplement them with B12 and it seemed to help. You do not need too much. I am not sure how much one squirt of nasal spray would supply, but any amount should be fine. I normally recommend 500-1000 mcgs for kids, and 1000 mcgs for adults.

      Injections are a great option, but you are correct, they are by prescription only. If you do get them, make sure to ask for METHYLcobalamin form of B12.

      All the best!

  • SR

    So B12 can help with mood swings? I am researching this for my youngest brother who is 6 and we are wondering if B12 will help him. What kind of dosage is best for this age? I have been trying to find good sources who discuss this deficiency.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      SR, it could potentially help. I would start looking at his diet first, however. What does it look like?

      The B12 that I would use for children that age would be this–it tastes good–http://astore.amazon.com/vega-licious-20/detail/B002FJW3ZY,

      If you want a complete report on B12 deficiency, you might benefit from the report I published from my research http://www.vega-licious.com/books/red-hope-b12-deficiency-research-report/

  • Kristie

    Thank you for mentioning to only use methylcobalimin. My son has been taking this sublingual sine the end of the last school year. It was suggested by his ADHD doctor when I mentioned to him that my son has some characteristics of Aspergers. I have seen him make more eye contact, interact more with his peers, and engage more in his classroom. Recently I thought I’d save a few bucks and purchased the cyanocobalamin & dibencozide B12. I haven’t given any to him yet! What is the difference?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Methyl form of B12 is easier to absorb and does not have any cyanide in it, as does cyanocobalamin (thus the name). Cyanocobalamin can be harmful to people with certain health conditions (you can find out more by reading the rest of B12 articles, or getting the downloadable report: http://www.vega-licious.com/books/red-hope-b12-deficiency-research-report/)

      I would suspect that your son can benefit greatly. Have you thought about doing B12 injections? They would show faster results.

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  • SimplyDarlene

    What a great, fact-filled article, miss E!

    Thanks so much for all the work you put into the research and writing of it.

    Blessings.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      :) thank you for reading, miss D!

  • Nina

    Do you recommend for everyone to supplement B12, even for people who are not deficient? I heard that B12 is actually a hormone (produced by the body) and by supplementing your body will eventually stop producing it itself. I just heard it recently and to be honest this info didn’t come from a very reliable source but wanted to know your stand on it. I just bought one box today but can’t decide whether or not to take it- unortunately tests are rather conplicate if at all possible where i live. Thanks

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Nina, I personally do. And no, B12 is a vitamin, produced inside our bodies, but only when we get the right bacteria in the gut. Since our food production lacks that bacteria now, our bodies have nothing to produce it from. Vit D, however, is more like a hormone, and, perhaps, that is what that person confused it with?

      I personally would not want to risk not taking it ;). The excess, what you do not use, will be excreted by your body anyhow.

  • Jen Sloane

    Thank you for this post! I started injections for my six year old daughter who has autism a little over a year ago. We saw results within the first 6 weeks. Her sleep improved, she no longer had mood swings, social skills we thought she never had were seen. My husband and I got to thinking that perhaps our other two children might require B12 as well. Although they are not on the spectrum our son displayed autistic symptoms however, since started the two of them 6 months ago we also have seen improvements with them too.
    Thank you for taking the time to educate people on the importance of healthy eating and supplementation. Our daughter’s life has been changed for the better since making healthy changes two years ago and then 6 months ago to vegan, our family as a whole too! She almost shows no signs of autism. Without the guidance, help and support of wonderful people like yourself we would have never had the knowledge or courage to make such drastic but necessary changes to our families lives. Thanks from the bottom of my heart!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Jen, you don’t know how happy I am to hear of this. It warms my heart! I pray for her complete recovery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bree.leon1 Bree Leon

    Thank you for this! I just ordered the lemon one from Amazon, but it won’t be here for a month, but we have our NOW brand b12 to tide us over until we get the other one. I didn’t like that the NOW brand had folic acid, which we all get in our multivitamin and I know folic acid isn’t good for younger kids in large amounts, so I give a multivitamin every other day and the b12 on the other days. We will now be able to have our b12 everyday without me worrying, which is a huge piece of mind. Thank you for this article!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Bree, if you are on a vegan diet, folic acid should not be a concern at all, since we eat plenty of it daily. I am glad I could help :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rachel-Miller/100000680211472 Rachel Miller

    I was just wondering about this for my children. Because of you I found I was deficient and did the injections for a month which eliminated my roaming nerve pain! So I do not want my children going through this. We do follow a vegetarian diet (almost all vegan now) too. Tried to find the methylcobalamin drops at Natural Grocers and they didn’t carry it so will have to dig deeper. Thanks for the info! :)

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Rachel, so I happy this is helpful. I would also suggest doing a 6 mos injection treatment at least, then sublinguals, but if you are already doing better, I am happy.

      Have you tried Amazon for liquid methyl? I suggest that, since you would not have to pay for shipping if you do subscription. Here is one option:http://astore.amazon.com/vega-licious-20/detail/B0038NZ3KS