It is normal for a new parent to be concerned about their baby getting the proper nutrition they need. As babies grow, they need good nutrition for proper growth. Vitamin D is one of the key nutrients for your baby as they grow; it is a vitamin that aids their body in absorbing the calcium it needs to build strong bones. But, where can your baby get vitamin D from? This nutrient is not naturally found in many foods but there are some fortified foods with vitamin D. It is important to know which foods this vitamin is found in and if supplementation may be necessary for your baby to meet their requirements. In this article, you will learn about why babies need vitamin D and how to make sure they meet the requirements.
Why do babies need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for your baby’s growing bones and teeth. This vitamin also plays an important role in respiratory health and immune system health. With such important functions in the body, vitamin D supplementation is usually necessary to ensure your baby meets their needs. Babies who are deficient in vitamin D can develop a brittle bone disease called rickets (a disorder in which the bones soften, making them vulnerable to fractures). Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and use it to build and strengthen bones and teeth.
Vitamin D requirements and where to get it from
Newborns and infants need 400 IUs of vitamin D daily until they are consuming 32 ounces of vitamin D fortified formula, or a minimum of 4 cups of whole milk (after 12 months old) daily, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (1). Babies who are breastfed should take a vitamin D supplement. If your baby is formula-fed, they may not need a supplement if they are consuming the minimum amount (32 ounces/daily). If your baby is breastfed until they transition to solid foods, they need to continue taking a vitamin D supplement. Babies can begin to get vitamin D from foods such as whole milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified orange juice, fish, eggs, fortified cereals, tofu, and fortified soy milk. You can also continue to supplement vitamin D after they begin solids to ensure they are still meeting their requirements.
Can babies get vitamin D from sunlight?
Our bodies make vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight. But, the UV rays from the sun can also be damaging to the skin at any age. The AAP guidelines recommend decreasing direct sunlight exposure for infants younger than 6 months old (1). With physical activity and time spent outside it is recommended to wear protective clothing along with sunscreen (after 6 months old) to ensure full protection from direct sunlight. When following these guidelines, vitamin D supplementation is necessary during infancy and childhood.
Why do breastfed babies need vitamin D supplements?
Compared to formula-fed infants, breastfed babies are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Although breast milk is the most nutritious food for your baby, it does not contain enough vitamin D to meet the daily requirement. That is why the AAP recommends supplementing your baby with 400 IU of vitamin D drops while breastfeeding (1). If your baby consumes a combination of breast milk and formula, they will still need to supplement vitamin D to meet their needs until they begin eating solids. What if a nursing mom is taking a prenatal vitamin with vitamin D? If a nursing mom is consuming a prenatal vitamin with vitamin D, it is still not enough to meet your baby’s daily requirements and supplementation is necessary.
- Wagner, C., & Greer, F. (2008, November 01). Prevention of rickets and vitamin d deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Retrieved from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/122/5/1142?ijkey=6af825389a1dd0b0046c2488cab41a48662f37f4&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha