Breast is Best, But Not When It Comes to Vitamin D

Breast is Best, But Not When It Comes to Vitamin D

Breast milk is the most nutritionally complete food for infants. But did you know that it substantially lacks one essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the development of a baby’s bones and teeth?

Without supplementation, a mother’s milk may only contain up to 50 IU (international unit) of vitamin D per quart. 

When Is A Baby At Risk of Being Deficient in Vitamin D?

Babies are most at risk of suffering a vitamin D deficiency when:

  • They are exclusively breastfed (many infant formulas now contain adequate amounts of vitamin D, so check with your healthcare provider for further guidance)
  • The mother doesn’t have enough vitamin D
  • They have a darker skin tone
  • They live in a northern community
  • They live in an area with a lot of pollution or dense cloud covering

How Do We Receive Vitamin D?

We get vitamin D from a number of sources. The primary source we receive vitamin D is the sun.

  • Vitamin D from the Sun

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it naturally forms when our skin is exposed to sunlight. For central and northern states, however, the sunlight may not be enough – even in the summertime.

Babies under the age of six months should never be placed in direct sunlight, ruling out the sun as a source of vitamin D for infants. But many parents won’t receive enough vitamin D from sunlight because we frequently wear sunscreen and clothing that blocks the formation of this essential vitamin.

  • Vitamin D from Foods

Many foods naturally contain some levels of vitamin D. This includes tuna, salmon, and liver.

Several other products are fortified with vitamin D to help ensure that children and parents are receiving enough. Products like milk, eggs, cereals, and margarine can often be found with vitamin D added.

  • Vitamin D from Supplements

Supplements are often the preferred way to ensure that kids and parents alike are receiving enough vitamin D. Medical professionals typically recommend that babies receive 400 IU of vitamin D a day. These supplements for infants come in a liquid form, and only one drop is needed per day to ensure your little ones are getting their required dose.

Mothers shouldn’t assume that because they take a vitamin D supplement and are breastfeeding that their baby is also receiving enough without their own supplements. While one study found that supplementing 6,400 IU of vitamin D a day could ensure that baby is getting enough, mothers should check with their doctor first before taking such an approach.

Parents should continue to supplement their baby’s diet with vitamin D until they are receiving enough from their diet. This may not happen until they are up to two years of age.

How Can I Successfully Encourage My Baby Take a Supplement?

One of the greatest concerns parents have is how they can encourage a baby to take the supplement. When it comes to younger infants who are not yet eating solid foods, adding a drop to your finger or to your nipple prior to feeding is an effective way to ensure that your baby is getting the vitamin D they need. Older children can have the supplement added to their food or drink, or parents may opt to provide them with a chewable children’s D-vitamin gummy or tablet.

As a reminder, it is always best to consult with your baby’s healthcare professional before including supplements to the diet.

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Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

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