Vitamin D is necessary for a baby to grow into a toddler to grow into a child. Of course, babies are born with vitamin D from the mom. However, this amount varies and is a direct result of the amount of vitamin D the mother has. Unless the baby's diet includes nutritional sources that supply vitamin D, the baby will need supplements.
Basics of Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium. If a baby does not get enough calcium, they are at risk for developing rickets, a condition where weak bones result in fractures and other possible bone issues. If not treated properly, rickets can result in bone pain and stunted development and growth. However, as long as you give your baby the appropriate nutrition, it is possible to prevent rickets.
In some cases, a baby is born with a greater risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Babies that are born to mothers who have dark skin or are obese have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency. Additionally, if the mother and baby are exposed to very little to no sunlight, they are both at risk for a vitamin D deficiency.
How much Vitamin D does Baby Need?
According to the UK Health Departments, infants aged six months and older should receive seven to 8.5 micrograms of vitamin D each day. While pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may get vitamin D from their diet, they are advised to also supplement with 10 micrograms per day.
When it comes to babies younger than 6 months old, the UK Health Departments don't have specific guidelines. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that breastfed babies should be given at least 10 micrograms starting at birth. Babies get a very small amount of vitamin D from breast milk. Babies that receive formula typically receive more vitamin D than breastfed ones. Older infants typically get vitamin D from foods with the important vitamin added.
Of course, no matter how old your baby is, your paediatrician will be able to advise you as to the exact amount you need to provide.
Providing Baby with Vitamin D
While you may wish to keep your baby inside due to their sensitive skin, studies have proven that even just a small amount of exposure to the sun provides an excellent source of vitamin D for your baby. On the other hand, using sunblock and winter weather decreases sun exposer. Additionally, a baby with dark skin receives less vitamin D than a baby with light skin.
However, even though vitamin D production is increased with sun exposure, you should not keep an infant in the sun for very long due to their skin. Therefore, babies are better off receiving vitamin D from nutrition and supplements.
There are very few foods that naturally contain this critical vitamin. Among those foods are: cheese, egg yolks, and fatty fish. Basically, a child that is eating solid foods should be able to get sufficient vitamin D from foods/drinks that have had this added to them. Typically, a cup of orange juice or fortified milk contains over 2.5 micrograms. Both cereal and yoghurt typically are fortified with vitamin D as well.
However, keep in mind that breast milk usually only contains less than 1 microgram of vitamin D per litre. This is way below the recommended 10 micrograms. Therefore, babies that are exclusively breastfed should receive a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D until they are drinking 1 litre or more of formula or fortified milk daily. On the other hand, babies who are formula-fed typically receive enough of this vitamin.
So, until you are ready to introduce your baby to cow's milk and solid foods, your breastfed baby will need vitamin D supplementation. You can find these in drops that you can dispense to your baby orally.