Why is Vitamin D Crucial for Infants?

Updated on September 1st, 2020
vitamin D for infants

As a responsible parent, it’s reasonable to be concerned about your baby getting everything nutritionally she needs. After all, babies grow at an incredible rate, doubling their birth weights within the first four to six months of life, and proper nutrition is crucial to proper growth.

Vitamin D is critical to every aspect of that growth because it helps the body absorb the calcium it needs to build robust bones.

The challenge is that vitamin D is not found naturally in very many foods, and while it may seem absurd, breast milk doesn’t contain enough to meet your baby’s requirements. What’s more, formula-fed newborn babies also likely aren’t getting adequate amounts of D because they’re not drinking enough a day to meet their daily requirements.

How much vitamin D do babies and newborns need?

Both infants and newborn babies need daily 400 IUs of vitamin D. By age 12 months, the RDA increases to 600 IUs and will be the same throughout teenage and the childhood years. It’s essential to ensure that your child gets adequate vitamin D because (and it bears repeating), it’s required to support the body’s absorption of calcium.

Vitamin D also boosts neuromuscular function, cell growth, and immune function [1].

Babies with deficient vitamin D levels are at risk of having brittle bones, which can cause disorders like rickets (a childhood condition in which the bones weaken, making them susceptible to fractures).

Moreover, building strong bones early on helps protect them later in life. Some research has shown that not getting sufficient vitamin D can increase the risk of autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Where can babies get vitamin D?

Newborn babies should intake a vitamin D supplement (possibly in the form of A-C-D drops) prescribed by a pediatrician. While the formula is fortified with adequate vitamin D to meet your baby’s daily requirements, formula-fed newborns are unlikely to take full feeding, so they may not match the RDA recommendations.

Once babies come to the point where they’re taking at least thirty-two ounces of formula each day, they no longer need to supplement [2].

Breastfed babies should supplement until they get habituated to solids. Once babies begin solid foods, they can get vitamin D from other sources like orange juice, milk, fortified yogurt, cheese, salmon, cod liver oil, canned tuna, eggs, fortified cereals, tofu and non-dairy milk like rice, soy,  oat, almond, and coconut milk.

If you’re worried that your baby isn’t getting adequate vitamin D or any other nutrient, you can add a daily multivitamin once your infant becomes a toddler.

While the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics ) doesn’t take a stand on the topic, if you’d like your kid to start, talk to your physician about whether it’s right for your little one and finest best brands.

[Also Read: Top 5 Vitamins & Supplements for Kids]

Why do breastfed babies need vitamin D?

While breast milk is a suitable food for babies, it doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to meet your little one’s daily needs. That’s the reason your pediatrician will generally prescribe a supplement in droplet form.

Breastfed babies need vitamin D drops the entire duration they’re breastfeeding, even if they’re supplementing with formula until they start receiving sufficient vitamin D from solids. Talk to your pediatrician about when correctly to stop taking vitamin D supplements [3].

Can babies absorb vitamin D from the sun?

Not astonishingly, physicians are wary of excessive sun exposure, primarily because your infants’ skin is oh-so-tender. Researchers say that babies can get vitamin D by sun-soaking 15 to 20 minutes outside daily without sunscreen.

If your baby has fair skin, then 15 minutes is enough, and if it’s darker, a little prolonged is excellent. Babies should still wear caps to protect their faces because the body can absorb vitamin D on the legs and arms just fine [4].

That said, it’s still crucial for breastfed and newborn babies to take a supplement because it’s challenging to ensure that their infant gets sufficient vitamin D from the sun alone.

That depends on skin tone (the darker a baby’s skin color, the longer it takes to absorb adequate vitamin D from the sun), and geographic region. The sun isn’t usually intense enough in the Northeast (particularly in the winters) to give enough vitamin D.

If you venture out for prolonged periods (as in longer than 20 minutes), make sure you lather the baby up with baby-friendly sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher at least half an hour beforehand and reapply every few hours.

Babies under six months should not be in the direct sun longer than 20 minutes at a stretch because it’s not yet prescribed by scientists to cover them from toe-to- head in sunscreen.

[Also Read: How Does Vitamin D reduce your risk of COVID-19]

Does a mother’s prenatal supplement help babies get the vitamin D they require?

Nursing moms should continue their prenatal vitamin intake while breastfeeding, but the supplement does not contain sufficient vitamin D to meet your baby’s requirements.

That’s the reason why breastfed babies require vitamin D drops until they can get enough through their diets. The usual prenatal vitamin only contains 600 IUs, which is not nearly sufficient to cover both baby and Mom.

That said, mothers who supplement with 4,000 IUs of vitamin D daily have breastmilk that will generally contain 400 IUs per 32 ounces or liter.

However, since newborn babies are not likely to drink a full feeding of breast milk, too, you’ll need to provide them with a vitamin D supplement initially to ensure that your baby is getting adequate until he/she receives a full feeding.

Though that’s not a practice new mothers typically follow, most researchers say it’s safe. But always consult with your OB/GYN and pediatrician to make sure what you’re doing is sufficient for your little one.

Bottom Line

Pregnant mothers should also make sure they’re taking sufficient vitamin D for their babies-to-be by getting around 15 to 20 minutes of sunscreen-free (direct) sunshine each day and eating high vitamin D foods listed above.

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