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Essential Supplements For Children

Affiliate Disclosure | in Everything Else | by | with 124 Comments

Yay! You’re Back!

Tuesday’s post on why multi-vitamins are not the insurance policy we think they are was kind of a downer. Today, though, is a good day! I’m going to share my two three favorite supplements – those I consider to be essential. Duh duh duh DUH! Here they are!

Cod Liver Oil

“Why is thunder so BOOMey?”

“Why do dogs lick?”

“Why can little kids clog clog up the toilet so easily?”

The Book of Questions is just that: Our book. Of Questions. Specifically, questions that Katie asks me at the most inconvenient moments. Have you ever tried to do the macarena while unraveling the mysteries of the universe? I don’t recommend it. In fact, I have developed a three-part system to avoid doing any such thing.

    1. Get a book.
    2. Write it down.
    3. Consult Google.

Sometimes I joke that I took too much fish oil when I was pregnant with Katie – but actually, I’m thrilled by her capacity. What parent isn’t? Omega 3’s play a HUGE role in brain development and function, which is why they are the #1 supplement I recommend for children.

Unfortunately, with just a few exceptions fish oil supplements are “purified” using a chemical extraction process at very high temperatures. Most of the omegas and naturally occurring antioxidants are destroyed or stripped out, so manufacturers add back specific essential fatty acids/vitamins/antioxidants. What you end up with is something that looks like a whole food product but in reality is more like Humpty Dumpty – no matter how hard they try they just can’t the molecular structure back together right.

There ARE fish oils that have been purified using natural processes, but I think fermented cod liver oil (CLO) is superior because it is processed naturally with all it’s antioxidants intact AND it contains vitamins A&D. These two fat-soluble vitamins work synergestically with one another to create robust little people. You need them in certain ratios  to maximize their benefits. This is why I recommend CLO over Vitamin D3 + Fish Oil. In that scenario you’re still missing a piece of the synergistic puzzle. And don’t believe the experts, carrots do not contain vitamin A!

But wait! Doesn’t Nina Plank say in her book Real Food for Mother & Baby that fermented cod liver oil is  low in omega 3′s – or at least not a sufficient source – and that it was good to take fish oil as well? Yes, she does.

Do not depend on cod liver oil for omega-3 fats. Cod liver oil contains large amounts of vitamins A and D, but only few omega-3 fats. Fish oil, by contrast, contains large amounts of omega-3 fats, but scant vitamins.”

~ Real Food For Mother & Baby, p.124

I respectfully disagree. Here’s why: Fish oil manufacturers do boast higher omega-3 and DHA/EPA contents than cod liver oil, but that’s because it’s all they have to talk about! Almost every fish oil that I know of is an industrial product – something you need a lab to create. Though they are able to increase omega 3/DHA/EPA concentrations, they do so using refining processes that destroy valuable micronutrients, fat soluble vitamins, enzymes, quinones and a bunch of other things we haven’t discovered yet. In my opinion it’s the equivalent of pasteurizing breastmilk, extracting a few “power nutrients” such as lauric acid and DHA, and then selling it as a superior product. What about all the stuff that didn’t get included?

Fermented cod liver oil, in contrast, is something fisherman used to make by storing cod livers in a barrel with seawater for a few months. It is not heated and has been revered since Viking times for its rich nutritional benefits. And according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, it IS a good source of omega-3’s!

“Cod liver oil is a good source of DHA and EPA and one of the oldest ways of supplementing these essential fats”

~Gut & Psychology Syndrome, p. 269

Where To Buy Cod Liver Oil

Almost all brands of cod liver oil on the market go through a process that removes naturally occurring vitamins A&D. Green Pastures makes the only traditionally fermented cod liver oil, which is recommended because it preserves the naturally occurring vitamins and also contains co-factors that may increase the body’s ability to absorb the A&D.

You can order Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil here. For a list of If this brand is not an option, the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends cod liver oil that has the correct ratio’s of synthetic vitamin A&D here.

How To Get Your Child To ACTUALLY TAKE Cod Liver Oil

Katie shoots CLO straight without flinching. But the first time I gave it to Micah? He, uh, foamed at the mouth. Seriously. Fortunately, there ARE ways to get your kids to take CLO without a fuss! For younger babies Dave Wetzel, owner of the only company that makes traditionally fermented cod liver oil, gives this tip:

“Our family includes 6 children from the age of 2 to 18 . . . The two year old boy (Basil) is the picky one. He is too young to discipline so we either hide the FCLO and Butter Oil in food or when we change his diaper we lube his buns with fclo/bo. I have seen references from the 1800’s that doctors found applying to the skin was just as effective as taking through the digestive tract. My observations would concur with the doctors studies from this period.”

Lessons On Taking FCLO From Our Family

Note: Cod liver oil will stain clothing and burn eyes, so keep it out of baby’s reach! I have found that the best method is to apply it just before bedtime because it is the only time we use disposable diapers. Otherwise I have to strip oils from our cloth diapers way too often. Plus, the fishy smell is gone by morning!

For toddlers/preschoolers, I’ve found that mixing the CLO with butter oil and a little honey helps a lot – this is how Micah takes his. Note: Some flavors like Cinnamon Tingle come sweetened with stevia so no honey is needed, but we can’t have stevia on GAPS. Questions about toxicity and dosage amounts? Check out Cod Liver Oil Basics from the Weston A. Price Foundation.


Other than cod liver oil, the only other supplement I consider essential are probiotics. Good bacteria actually manufactures vital nutrients (such as vitamin K2 and B vitamins) in our intestines . . . something we cannot do on our own. They also increase our capacity for mineral absorption and help with metabolism and the breakdown of toxins.

“A good probiotic on average increases absorption rate of nutrients from foods by 50% or more. On top of that probiotic bacteria are supposed to be the main source of vitamins B, K, biotin and many other substances within the body “

Dr. Campbell-McBride ~ Gut & Psychology Syndrome, pages 296-297 (emphasis mine)

Probiotics are found in fermented foods, so if your child will eat LOADS of traditionally prepared sauerkraut feel free to skip this. I will say, thought, that even though we consume fermented foods every day I still supplement. Stress, toxins, illness, coffee, medications and a bazillion other thing assault our good bacteria everyday. They are our first line of defense and need to be supported and repopulated continually.

How To Choose A Good Probiotic

“Many brands of probiotics on the market do not have bacterial species listed on the label or do not have claimed bacterial strength….

First of all it always makes sense to work with a qualified practitioner with experience using probiotics, but if you are trying to chose a probiotic yourself, then there are some general guidelines to follow:

  1. A good probiotic should have as many different species of beneficial bacteria as possible. A human gut contains hundreds of known species of different bacteria. We should try to get as close to that as we can. Different species of probiotic bacteria have different strengths and weaknesses. If we have a mixture of them then we have a better chance of deriving maximum benefit.
  2. A mixture of strains from different groups of probiotic bacteria is more beneficial than just one group. For example, many probiotics on the market contain just Lactobacilli. A combination of representatives from the three main groups: Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria and soil bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) usually works best.
  3. A good probiotic should have a concentrated amount of bacteria: at least 8 billion of bacterial cells per gram. You need to provide probiotic bacteria in large enough doses to see an improvement.
  4. The manufacturer of the probiotic should test every batch for strength and bacterial composition and should be prepared to publish the results of testing.

Once you have found a good probiotic, you need to know how to use it. A good therapeutic strength probiotic will always produce a so-called “die-off reaction”. What is it? As you introduce probiotic bacteria into a digestive system, they start destroying pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. When these pathogens die they release toxins. These are toxins which make your patient autistic or schizophrenic or hyperactive. So, whatever characteristic symptoms the patient has may temporarily get worse. Your patient may also feel more tired than usual, generally “off-color” or develop a skin rash. It is a temporary reaction and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks in different individuals. To make this reaction as mild as possible, build the dose of your probiotic slowly.

Start with a very small amount. Observe the patient for any “die-off” symptoms. If there are none then increase the dose. When you see a reaction, let your patient settle on this dose until the “die-off” symptoms disappear. Then increase the dose again. Keep increasing the dose in this manner until a therapeutic level is reached. The period of building up the dose can take from a few weeks to a few months in different patients.

The therapeutic dose level of probiotics is individual. Here are some general guidelines:

  • An adult should have around 15-20 billion bacterial cells per day.
  • An infant up to 12 months of age can have 1-2 billion bacterial cells per day.
  • A toddler from 1-2 years old can have 2-4 billion bacterial cells per day.
  • A child from 2-4 years old can have 4-8 billion bacterial cells per day.
  • A child from 4-10 years can have 8-12 billion bacterial cells per day.
  • From the age of 12-16 we can increase the dose to 12-15 billion per day.”

Gut & Psychology Syndrome, p 170-171

Note: Because of their immature digestive systems infants/young babies cannot metabolize the D(-) isomer of lactic acid produced by many lactobacilli. Make sure to choose a formula that only contains L(+)-lactic acid producing lactobacili.

Where To Buy Probiotics

I’ve included a link here for where to buy soil based probiotics/a> I recommend.

Update: Vitamin K2, Trace Minerals & Magnesium

Based on this article from The Healthy Home Economist, I have also begun supplementing with Vitamin K2. Also, after researching more on the lack of minerals available due to soil depletion I have incorporated trace minerals and magnesium oil into our supplement routine. Iodine is another nutrient worth checking into if you are not eating foods that are rich in it, such as seaweed and fish broth.

So There You Have It . . .

The two three supplements that I consider most important for my children (and actually, for myself too!). Though actually if I was on a desert island I’d eat fish instead of take fish oil.:)

Eek! Out of time again and I haven’t covered how to bypass multi-vitamins and get MORE from your produce or how to choose supplements. Looks like this two-parter just became a series!

Next in this series: How Do I Choose The Right Supplements For My Family?

Questions about baby nutrition? Check out my new e-book, Nourished Baby!


Photo credit: Molossoidea


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124 Responses to Essential Supplements For Children

  1. Hand Sanitizer Recalled For Containing Burkholderia Cepacia Bacteria « The Mommypotamus says:

    […] burkholderia cepacia be the next MRSA, C. Diff or NCM-1? I hope not, but I’m going to take my cod liver oil and go roll in some dirt just in […]

  2. Annie says:

    HI! I just came across your blog :) Though I have heard of CLO, and walk past it every week at my local natural foods store, I can’t say I am well informed about it. I am very interested in using it but one concern I have is mercury contamination. Isn’t it highly contaminated, being it is from cod? I currently take a krill oil supplement along with D3, but I’m considering the CLO if it isn’t badly contaminated.

  3. Annie says:

    Awesome! I will definately have to look into that. :)

  4. Neveen says:

    Ugh, I wish I can use the probiotic on your reference page. My 4 1/2-month-old has food intolerance and can’t do milk. It says that the probiotics are derived from milk. Do you know if the milk protein is still present in them or not. Or do you have a hypoallergenic brand you recommend. I’m currently giving her a probiotic I buy from our local breastfeeding center. It is an infant formula that has 10+billion bacterial cells. She can only tolerate a small dosage of it, otherwise things don’t go well. Also wondering if you know if probiotics are present in my milk. Because of her food intolerance, I took out all dairy, among a lot of other stuff, out of my diet. I started taking a supplement with 5+billion and making water kefir. I also try to eat sauerkraut when I can remember, but I can’t always remember to eat fermented foods. And I can’t eat most fermented foods because of said allergy. So I was wondering if I up my probiotics supplement, buy a stronger brand, if it would benefit the little lady as well. Or should I keep things the way they are so I don’t release toxins into my milk?

  5. Brittany says:

    I was wondering on the ages that it is ok to take FCLO. My son is 5 months.. is he too young?

  6. De ce sa nu le dam copiilor multivitamine | Gânduri pentru Ana says:

    […] tot de aceeasi autoare, un articol despre ce suplimente le putem da micutilor. Noi din lista avem doar cod liver oil de la green pasture. Tot uit sa il dau copiilor, dar acum […]

  7. Meg says:

    Can you take the FCLO when pregnant (too much vitamin A?)

  8. Ema says:

    Hi Mommypotamus! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with others! I’ve come to value your perspective from reading your blog, so I wanted to ask you why you don’t include a magnesium supplement as a necessity. I’ve been reading that most Americans are very deficient in this. Does FCLO contain lots of magnesium? Or is there a reason it’s not as essential as these others on your list? I’d love to hear your opinion, since I’m trying to decide which supplements my family should be on. This was very helpful, thanks again!

    • Nebraska says:

      I would also like to know about the magnesium.
      For a 4 yr old, myself and my husband.
      Is it necessary to give kids extra magnesium supplement as well? Or would it be enough to give them baths with some epsom salts and magnesium butter foot massage?

  9. Andrea says:

    Could you just skip the K2 supplement and do high vitamin butter oil with the cod liver oil?

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I’m currently taking Green Pasture’s FCLO/HVBO blend daily and nursing my 8 week old. This might be a stupid question, but here goes :) Once she hits the 3 month mark, do I need to start giving her her own dose or is what she’s getting through breastmilk sufficient?? Same question goes for probiotics. Can you offer any guidance?

    • Heather says:

      Not a stupid question at all! The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends starting with 1/2 teaspoon FCLO around four months. Since Vitamins A & D can be absorbed through skin I rubbed it on my babies bottom rather than give it to them orally until they were over a year old. When to introduce probiotics seems to have more to do with the type of birth the baby had (whether mom had good gut flora that she passed on through the birth canal), whether or not formula was introduced, etc. rather than age. I know some people that introduce probiotics at 1 week old and some that don’t until 6-10 months. Hope that helps!

  11. Valerie Kite says:

    How much of the FCLO/butter oil blend are we supposed to give to 1 year olds, 3 year olds and 5 year olds? Also, I see that you give your children K2. Do you use Jarrow’s MK-7? if so, for children, do you remove the casing? How do you administer it?

  12. Natural Remedies For Ear Infections « The Mommypotamus says:

    […] Dr. Gerber makes a distinction between betacarotene and true Vitamin A, which is only found in animal products such as fermented cod liver oil. […]

  13. Kylie says:

    I love your blog! Thank you for the wonderful information. I recently bought fermented cod liver oil capsules from Green Pastures from a health food store in our area. After I bought them, I left them in the warm trunk of our car for 3 hours. I know you are supposed to store them in a cool place or refrigerate. Do you think they are still good? I’m worried it gave the opportunity for something harmful to grow (I don’t know a ton about the oil, except the basics from Sally Fallon…) Thank you so much for your time!

  14. How I Reversed My Daughter’s Tooth Decay « The Mommypotamus says:

    […] cod liver oil. From what I’d heard it wasn’t an adequate source of omega-3′s. I’ve since changed my mind, but back then my fridge was stocked with several fish oils that supposedly had different benefits. […]

  15. Nebraska says:

    As the Fermented Cod Liver Oil / Butter Oil also contains vit K – why did you add additional vit K supplement?
    Is there not enough in the Green Pasture oil?
    I am just about to start giving it to my 4 yr old son, but was wondering if I need to incl other supplements.
    We will substitute store bought probiotics by milk kefir.
    Many thanks for any advice.

  16. Theresa says:

    Is there another brand of Cod Liver Oil that you’ve promoted in the past year? I can’t remember if it was on your site, but I’m thinking it was raw and therefore didn’t cause the nausea that some of us encounter with the fermented. :)

    • Heather says:

      Theresa, there is one that is supposed to be coming on the market soon but it hasn’t arrived yet. :)

      • Theresa says:

        Thanks for replying! One of the things I appreciate about your blog is that you reply to comments long after you’ve posted the article. :)

  17. Tracy says:

    My 4 year old takes his FCLO in elder berry syrup. He has never hesitated and even licks the cup sometimes.

  18. Natalie says:

    I’m interested in starting a quality probiotic at the “die off” strength that you recommend, but I’m nursing right now. I don’t want my breastmilk to be full of toxins. Should I wait until he weans before beginning the probiotic?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Natalie, unfortunately I am not qualified to give advice regarding specific situations. You might try contacting the company to see what they recommend :)

  19. Tara says:

    Heather, can you give me any guidance about dosage for magnesium and K-2 for a toddler (16 months)? I do have some of the magnesium oil for myself, but it has never occurred to me to use it for my toddler, though it does make sense to do it. But I wouldn’t have any idea how much to use. I’ve also seen some discussion (in reviewers’ comments on Amazon – a great source of info, yes?) about the different kinds of vit K — MK-4 versus MK-7, I think. Do you have any thoughts about the difference and which is better? I also noticed that some of the products (such as MK-7 by Jarrow) have soy, which I’d rather not give to my toddler. One other thing: I take the cinnamon tingle FCLO but haven’t been sure whether that flavor is okay for a toddler. I’ve given him the unflavored, which he previously took gladly but lately has been refusing. Just wondering if I could try giving him the cinnamon tingle, or if the cassia oil and stevia leaf in it would be too much (or unsafe) for him.

  20. Shea says:

    This might be a stupid question. I am trying to buy Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil for my kids. I live in Norway however so the site is all in Norwegian. I can click on the picture to see which bottle I am purchasing however can’t read the description. I cannot find one that specifically indicates it is for children on the bottle. Is there one for kids? Or are they for anyone and you just following the recommended dosing according to the Weston Price link that you gave above? Thank you!

  21. trisha says:

    thank you, again, for providing such well-researched and organized information on your site. i am so grateful, over and over, as i continue to browse your pages.

    my question is: how do you count Vitamin K2, Trace Minerals & Magnesium as one supplement (your modified count is now three and not two.) can you find them together as one supplement? if not, what brand K2 supplement of you use? (and is it liquid, capsule, tablet…?)

    • trisha says:

      i also just realized that high-vitamin butter oil has a good amount of vitamin K2. is it enough if we use the combo FCLO/BO? and do you feel the dosage should be increased when using the combo rather than straight FCLO? thank you!

  22. Kendra says:

    What is the importance of FCLO and butter oil being taken together? Is this a must? Thank you!!! Love love love all of this info!!!

  23. Natural Remedies For Pink Eye | The MommypotamusThe Mommypotamus | says:

    […] I write about here, fermented cod liver oil is one of the best sources of natural Vitamin A. Here’s […]

  24. Angela says:


    What do you think is the best way to get that capsuled probiotic into little ones? Would my 2 year olds get about 2 capsules/day if they are 65 million units per capsule?


  25. Daniela Squizzato says:

    Dear Heather,

    I absolutely love your blog! I read your ebook on pregnancy recommendations, and loved it. My son is now 7 months old, and we are doing everything we possibly can to provide him and our family with a WEPF diet. However, I have a question regarding FCLO that I haven’t been able to find anywhere– not on the WEPF site, or, unfortunately on your blog. I introduced my son to FCLO when he was 5 months old, and he took it like a champ. If anything, he loved it. We were doing it daily until some major hectic life event occurred, and I forgot to give it to him for 4 days straight. So, when I remembered to give it to him again, at 6.5 months, he suddenly developed a reaction to it: his outer mouth (possibly even inner, for all I know) and his neck, upper chest were red. It eventually went away after a few hours, and he didn’t seem uncomfortable. I was just wondering if you had ever heard of anything like this before? I just find it strange that he was fine, and now he has a reaction. Haven’t tried since. Maybe that’s what I should do? Try again?

    Thanks so much– not just for taking time to respond to this, but to respond to complete strangers, offer support, kindness and so much knowledge! You are an inspiration!

  26. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Heather,

    I am on a mission to try to save my 20 month old’s teeth! I thought I was on the right track nutritionally (much better with him than my 5yr old who has no cavities), but he has 3 teeth with cavities and alot of signs of decay on his front teeth. I have already started fclo/hvbo but want to add the k2 suppmelements. What dosage would you recommend for a nearly 2 yr old? Thanks!

    • Amanda @ Mommypotamus Support says:

      Elizabeth, Unfortunately, because I am not a healthcare provider I am unable to make recommendations regarding specific situations. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner may be able to offer some guidance. My friend Jennifer at 20 Something Allergies (include link) is wonderful.

  27. Peter says:

    This post was so helpful. We just received our order of Oslo Orange FCLO today after using Cinnamon Tingle before that. Whoo, is the orange fishy! :)

    Do you recommend Biokult over Prescript Assist probiotics? If so, which type of Biokult? And are these effective sprinkled over food for little ones that can’t swallow capsules?


    • Heather says:

      I personally prefer Prescript Assist because my family gets lactic-acid based bacteria through fermented foods. Right now I just give them part of a capsule, but PA is supposed to be coming out with a kids chewable soon :)

  28. Emilie Blakley says:

    Hi there, just a note on probiotics…instead of buying the ‘supplement’ version, why not just make ur own home grown probiotics? i make keifer from organic keifer grains that makes the enzymes and good bateria needed, turning cows/goats milk into fermented milk…u can also get water keifer which makes natural ‘squash’…one cup a day made into a smoothy and me n my little dude love it! much cheaper, easier than supplements and u know where its come from….what are ur thoughts?

  29. Sara says:

    Hi Heather,
    At what age do you usually start your kids on the COncentrace? My son is 20 months old and I’m wondering if I should start that now? Same question about the magnesium oil. I know it stings him, even the lotion one, but I put epsom salts in his weekly bath. And how do you give them the K2? Isn’t it in a capsule?

  30. Krystal Wight Armstrong says:

    Our hospital sent us home with a box of commercial liquid Vitamin D supplements we’re supposed to give our newborn, but it’s got junk like ‘caramel coloring’ added. So my Doula suggested this:

    I’d love to give her the most natural, healthy thing I can though, and the WAPF links don’t work anymore. Can you tell me if FCLO is safe for newborns, and in what quantities? She’ll be 4 weeks on Tuesday. Poor thing was born right intime for Winter where we won’t get nearly the amount of natural sunlight as I’d like to give her for it!

    Thank you!

  31. erinn says:

    What are your thoughts on the garden of life probiotics for kids in the powder form. I mix some in homemade kumbucha with some liquid minerals. Also they take Catalyn from standard process it has the basic vitamin structure A C D thyromine, riboflavin, and vitamin b6. Is that too much supplementation I side more on whole food supplemetation and lots and lots of butter and grass fed foods organic foods

  32. Suzanna says:

    I had a physical with complete bloodwork + Vit D screen and my Vit D levels are normal. Does this mean I should not supplement with the FCLO? Would I be overdosing if I did? Is there something else I’m missing as a reason to take it? Thanks so much I really appreciate the investigation you and colleagues do for us!

  33. Jessica says:

    Hi Heather! Just wondering did you take a probiotic supplement while you were breastfeeding?

  34. natasha says:

    can i give my 2 and 5 year olds the probiotic you recommend here? Should I just give them 1/2 a capsule each? thanks for your guidance.

  35. Alyssa says:

    Great post! I have been thinking of giving my kids food supplements, but I can’t seem to decide what is best for them. Thank you for this very informative post.

  36. Stacy says:

    How do I find out if my children’s probiotic is D- or L+? Is it on the label? Where did you learn of this info (source)? They’re currently taking this one:

  37. Lauren says:

    Hey Heather, I currently only have the cinnamon tingle flavor fclo. Can I still give that to my almost 10 month old?

  38. Beth says:

    Is the probiotic you recommend the one you give your children? If so, how much do you give them a day/week? Thanks in advance.

  39. Blanca says:

    Hi Heather, I have a very important question: what kind of test can I ask my daughter doctor to order besides iron and vitamin D. She has an appointment on the 17. Thank you, I appreciatte your help.

  40. Blanca says:

    Or anyone who can help me with my question. I need to check how my daugther is so I am going to ask her doctor to order some blood test, but the ones a can think are iron and Vitamin D, what others can I ask for. Thank you!!!

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