Sources of B12

Vitamin B12 & Your Plant-Based Baby

micronutrients Oct 18, 2020

Are you raising your baby on a plant-based diet? If so then you will need to consider your baby’s intake of vitamin B12. The most common questions I get asked by parents are:

  • Why does my baby need B12?
  • What sources of food contain vitamin B12? 
  • How much B12 does my baby need?

So let’s dive in and find out more about B12 and by the end of the article you will hopefully feel confident in how to ensure you are meeting your baby's B12 requirements.


What is B12? 

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin which is important for the function of every cell in your infant’s body. Vitamin B12: 

  • Supports brain development
  • Assists with the production of healthy red blood cells and keeps the nervous system healthy 
  • Releases energy from food
  • Helps the body to use folate

Water soluble vitamins are required in your baby’s diet regularly, to allow their body to access the vitamin daily. Vitamin B12 is absorbed better when consumed frequently and in small amounts. It is not found in plants so vegan or plant-based parents will have to consider fortified foods or supplements for your little one.


B12 & Your Baby

Your baby’s journey with vitamin B12 starts in the womb where they begin receiving this essential vitamin for important physical and brain development. The second phase is 0-6 months where your baby will either be breastfeeding or drinking infant formula milk, both of which provide your baby with B12.

Once your baby begins complementary feeding from around the age of 6 months, they will continue to receive breast or formula milk to support their nutritional needs, however the food they eat will begin to be an important source of B12 as they reach 1 year old and move through to toddler age.


Breast & formula milk 

If your infant is breastfeeding, then you can relax knowing that vitamin B12 is transferred through breastmilk to your baby, this is providing you are consuming enough B12 in your diet. It is important that your diet is adequate in B12, otherwise the quantity of vitamin B12 that baby receives will be impacted. If your infant is bottle fed, all British infant formula milks are fortified with vitamin B12 so your baby should receive an appropriate amount through their milk. 


Fortified food 

It is important to include a reliable source of vitamin B12 in your baby’s diet from fortified foods. 

Foods to consider include (always check the label for content of B12): 

  • Unsweetened fortified soya, oat, coconut or almondmilk (used in cooking only, not as a standalone drink) 
  • Plain fortified soya yoghurt 
  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Vegan spread
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Yeast extract with no added salt (use sparingly)

Offer your baby foods fortified with vitamin B12 two to three times daily to ensure they consume enough to absorb a sufficient amount on a daily basis.

There are some vitamin B12 microorganisms found in soil and plants but not in sufficient supply to support the daily requirements. It has been suggested that foods such as spirulina, nori, tempeh and barley grass are suitable sources of B12, however these claims haven’t been shown to be confirmed according to The Vegan Society UK.


How much B12 does my baby need daily?

Daily guidance for B12 for infants, pregnant and lactating women.

  • 0-6 months:   0.4mcg
  • 7-12 months: 0.5mcg
  • 1-3 years:       0.9mcg
  • Pregnancy:    2.6mcg
  • Lactating:      2.8mcg

The typical absorption of B12 is around 50% of the actual amount eaten and guidance usually takes this into account when providing the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Consuming little amounts and often is preferable for B12 and offers the best opportunity for absorption. However if that’s not possible then it’s important to increase the amount consumed in one sitting. There is no evidence of detrimental effects to babies and children from consuming high quantities of B12, so there is no need to be concerned you might give your little one too much.


Ideas on how to incorporate B12 for your baby 

One of my favourite ways to offer vitamin B12 to my baby & toddler includes nutritional yeast flakes. I shake it into most of our savoury meals or sprinkle it on top as I serve it to my children. Meals that work really well include soups, home-made cashew cheese, pasta sauces and baked beans on toast. When your baby is first learning to pick sticks of food up you can also roll foods like avocado slices or boiled carrots in nutritional yeast flakes to provide a grip to help pick it up, they also get the benefit of the nutrients so it’s a win-win. 


I currently still breastfeed my infant so I am reassured that she is receiving B12 from breastmilk but as she decreases her intake of breastmilk and her skill of eating increases I ensure I offer B12 fortified foods daily. I opt to give her fortified oat milk in meals like porridge and offer plant-based yoghurts too. I also use a spoonful of no added salt yeast extract to an amazing lentil shepherds pie that my family loves sharing on a Sunday evening. 



Ensure foods fortified with vitamin B12 are present in your baby’s diet in small and regular amounts. Alternatively, you can consider a supplement for your infant. Should you choose to opt for supplements please always consult with your healthcare professionals first. 


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