Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of baby’s immune system, bone density and strength, and absorption of calcium. Its deficiency may lead to many health issues, including rickets.
Despite popular belief that rickets affects bones only making them softer and causing bone deformities; it actually affects the entire body: nervous system, hormonal balance, digestion and may even lead to developmental delays. Besides, a lifelong sufficient vitamin intake lowers the risk of diabetes and cancer.
Ideally, this vitamin is produced in our skin during exposure to sunlight. However, doctors recommend avoiding this exposure due to cancer risk. All children and especially babies under 6 months of age should be wearing sunscreen while in the sun, even on a cloudy day. Sunscreen prevents vitamin production.
Babies store this vitamin in their skin while in the womb and are born with some supply. If your baby is formula-fed after birth, no additional supplementation is required. Exclusively and partially breastfed babies need additional supplementation daily right after the birth.
Baby’s daily intake requirement is 400 IU (international units). Your breast milk reflects the level of this vitamin that your body has. Ideally, if you consume 4,000 IU per day and spend 15 (if you have light complexion) to 30 (if you have dark complexion) minutes in the sun, your milk should contain adequate amount of vitamin D for your baby.
However, these ideal conditions might not be met religiously every day. And rickets is a very serious and an extremely difficult-to-reverse condition. In addition, it is hard to have too much of this vitamin. Only severe overdose can be toxic and cause adverse reaction. Therefore, American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily supplement of 400 IU.
Supplementation is especially crucial for premature, multiple babies and babies with certain health issues.
Ask your doctor if he/she could recommend any particular liquid vitamin brand. You can either mix it into the bottle when supplementing, or drop it on the nipple before a feeding.
Continue supplementation at least until your baby turns one and he/she starts drinking vitamin D-fortified whole milk. Monitor your child’s vitamin intake. If whole milk is the primary source, calculate what the daily milk intake should be. Visit Nutrition section to read more about breastfeeding nutritional requirements.
My son is not a huge milk-drinker, he is almost two and a half now, but I am still sneaking occasional supplement into his food on his “non-milky” days. I’d better be safe than sorry!
There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.