Depending on their age, children require a certain amount of calcium every day. Calcium is an essential mineral at any stage of life but is vital in childhood when growth, tooth formation and the proper function of the nervous and muscular systems can be compromised with even small deficiencies.
98% of the calcium that we consume is stored in the teeth and bones. As children's bones are growing constantly, they need a continuous intake of this mineral, although the recommended amounts vary depending on age:
From 0 to 6 months
Just 200 milligrams of calcium a day. If the baby is breastfeeding, you need not worry as breast milk provides all the calcium your baby needs. If you are bottle feeding, the paediatrician will make sure that your baby is getting enough calcium through his daily feeds (although it is easy to do the calculation by looking at the directions for use for the formula). Keep in mind that premature babies usually require more calcium.
From six months to one year
270 milligrams/day is the recommended amount. At this age, children are basically getting their calcium from breast milk, if still breastfeeding, or from the infant formula they consume. From 10 months, when yoghurt can be introduced into their diets (provided this is recommended by the paediatrician), it is even easier to reach the required levels.
From one year
Between the ages of one and three, your child needs more than 500 milligrams of calcium a day. It is important that this amount is consumed daily because at this age one day's intake cannot be compensated for with another day's intake. Make sure then that each day your child has a large glass of milk, some yoghurt, a piece of cheese and some custard, for example. However, there is no need to overly worry: a lot of vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are rich in this mineral.
Remember that the body requires appropriate levels of vitamin D to absorb calcium (vitamin D is found in egg yolks, oily fish and cheese).
1. Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
Reviewed by : Josep Ruiz - Biotechnologist