By Ashley Cockrell, Nurse Practitioner School-Based Manager
Is your baby getting enough vitamin D? It is a question that may take new parents by surprise when asked by their baby’s pediatrician. New moms are encouraged to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of life. While breast milk is considered the perfect source of nutrition for babies, it may not always be enough when it comes to vitamin D.
That is because breast milk only contains about 5–80 IU per liter. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began recommending a daily supplement of 400 IU starting within the first few days of life and continuing throughout childhood. The AAP recommendation applies to all breastfeeding infants regardless of whether he or she is also being fed formula.
Non-breastfed babies as well as older children, who consume less than 32 ounces per day of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk, should also receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU a day. The AAP made these vitamin D recommendation based on several factors:
- Vitamin D deficiency can occur very early in life because many pregnant women have deficient blood levels of vitamin D.
- The vitamin D levels of un-supplemented breastfed infants are often low, particularly during the winter months as well as in cities located far from the equator.
- Adequate sunlight exposure for sufficient manufacture of vitamin D in an infant is difficult to assess and usually not achieved.
- Too little vitamin D can cause rickets, a softening and weakening of bones.
Vitamin D is important for growing infants and children. In addition to keeping their bones healthy and strong, vitamin D also helps with their immune system, heart, brain, and other organs. In fact, interest in vitamin D increased recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many wondering if this common vitamin could help prevent or mitigate the damaging effects of the virus.
As your baby gets older, you can help your child meet his or her daily vitamin D requirement but adding foods that contain vitamin D to their diets. That includes salmon, egg yolks and fortified products like bread and cereal.
If you have questions about your baby’s need for vitamin D supplements, reach out to your baby’s Legacy Community Health provider for guidance. Call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.