It’s a well-known fact that the most natural and sufficient way to feed a baby is with breast milk – this provides the specific micronutrients needed for their development. But a lesser known fact is that mothers should pay extra attention to vitamin D in the first year of a child's life, regardless if they are bottle or breastfed. Why do doctors recommend additional vitamin D for the tiniest of babies? And why is spending loads of time outdoors or getting it via food not sufficient? Here’s a closer look at the ins and outs of vitamin D for infants:
1) Why do babies need extra vitamin D?
A woman's diet determines the composition of her breastmilk. The latest research shows us that breast milk generally contains too little vitamin D as this vitamin is hard to find in the average diet (only a few foods contain it). So even after you start introducing solids in addition to nursing, these forms of nutrition are generally not adequate as a sole source of vitamin D for your child.
2) Why the particular emphasis on Vitamin D?
While our food supplies us with vitamins and other essential micronutrients, in the case of vitamin D our bodies can self-produce it with the aid of sunlight (in the northern hemisphere optimum production is limited to April to September, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.)
But this is only true for adults; babies need supplementation from day one as their sensitive skin needs protection from direct sunlight. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has doubled the recommended intake of vitamin D to 400 IU per day for infants up to 12 months of age.
3) What to consider when choosing a supplement for your baby?
Of course, parents want to use the best quality when giving their babies or children supplements, especially young ones.
In this case, it's advisable to pay attention to the ingredients. Anything with artificial additives should be avoided. When opting for a liquid product, anything with alcohol is a definite no-no. Try to go for products with high-quality ingredients, such as sunflower oil - The taste is pleasantly neutral and ideal for kids.
4) Is it possible to overdose?
If you stick to the recommendations, there is no need to worry about overdosing your baby on vitamin D. Total intake refers to the consumption of vitamin D via food, supplements and enriched foods. The recommended supplementation of up to 25µg per day for babies does not present a risk of oversupply.
5) Should you continue supplementation beyond 1 year of age?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should receive supplemental vitamin D for their first year of life. However, it is also noted that older children may not maintain the best eating habits and therefore, could profit from continued supplementation. (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0715/p196.html, referenced 08.25.20)
Additionally, for people who live in the northern hemisphere, the body’s natural production of vitamin D is severely limited. Therefore, supplementation might be beneficial when considering the circumstances mentioned above. For more information and advice, please consult your pediatrician.