April 12, 2011
Is Your Child Getting Enough Vitamin D?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily intake of 400IU of vitamin D for all infants, children, and adolescents. This should begin in the first few days of life.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin made by your skin after exposure to sunlight.
You can also get some vitamin D from foods such as fatty fish, eggs from chickens fed vitamin D, and fortified flour and cereals. Vitamin D is very important for bone health, and it is also involved in immune function. Too little vitamin D can lead to a bone disease called rickets, and may affect the development of certain diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even certain cancers. Your body also needs vitamin D to properly absorb calcium from the food you eat.
Although breastmilk is the best food for infants during the first year, it does not provide enough vitamin D for your baby. Many adult women may not get enough vitamin D, and the amount of this vitamin present in breastmilk is lower than the amount in a woman’s body. This is true even if a nursing mother is not vitamin D deficient. For this reason, all breastfeeding infants (even if they also drink formula) should receive a vitamin D supplement of 400IU daily until they are drinking cow’s milk and eating fortified foods after 1 year of age. Formula fed babies who drink less than about 32 ounces of formula daily should also be supplemented.
Older babies, children, and adolescents who drink less than 32 ounces of cow’s milk daily should receive a vitamin D supplement as well. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, and sunblock use (which is still a must to help prevent skin cancer!) may keep our skin from making enough of the vitamin.
Vitamin D is commonly sold over the counter as drops, such as Tri-vi-sol (which also contains vitamins A & C) and D-vi-sol. Other brands are available too and chewable supplements are fine for older children. If using a liquid supplement, it is probably best to choose a preparation that uses a dropper that is to be filled to a marked line (often 1mL), and not one that contains the full dose in one drop, since it is harder to give your child the right amount this way. An overdose of vitamin D can be harmful. Talk to your PMA clinician at your next visit to see if vitamin D supplementation is right for your child. You can also get more information at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ web site www.aap.org.
Wagner, C. Vitamin D Recommendations during Pregnancy, Lactation, and Early Infancy. Clinical Lactation, March 2011, 27-31.
Wagner, C. & Greer, F. Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents. www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2008-1862.