Vitamin D Supplementation for Infants
by MedPlus Team, September 22, 2019
Should I give Vitamin D to my baby, and up to what age?
Vitamin D is necessary for the good development of your baby. But baby’s skin is too fragile, can not be exposed to the sun for a longer time. We must, therefore, consider supplementation.
Vitamin D plays two important roles, especially for babies:
a. it ensures the mineralization of bones, teeth during growth;
b. it allows the assimilation of calcium and phosphorus by the intestines and the body.
This promotes the good development of your baby. The body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun. Commonly, many vitamins are present in specific foods, this is the case with vitamin C in citrus fruits. But vitamin D can be synthesized by our body in the presence of the sun. Exposure to some UV rays for a quarter of an hour each day is enough to get 100% of the necessary daily vitamin D intake.
Do infants necessarily need vitamin D intake?
You have probably had vitamin D supplementation during your pregnancy, which is necessary for your baby’s bones. It must, therefore, extend for a while. In general, this treatment lasts until the 18-24 months of the child.
Why this supplementation?
Because toddlers, before 1 or 2 years old, should not be exposed to the sun because of their fragile skin. As a result, they may lack vitamin D. The prescribed doses vary according to the child’s diet (breastfeeding, cow’s milk, vitamin D fortified milk, etc.).
Are there foods high in vitamin D that I can give to my baby?
Vitamin D is synthesized primarily through the sun’s ultraviolet light. There are few foods which contain vitamin D. It is found mainly in oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, and anchovies in oil. We also think of egg yolk, but it contains vitamin D only if it is raw. And it is present in small quantities in certain meats: veal, chicken. In any case, this type of diet does not really concern young children.
What about milk enriched with vitamin D?
The milk your baby consumes, both first and second-age, are fortified with vitamin D, but not enough to prevent supplementation. A breastfed baby also deserves more. About 50 units of this vitamin are found in breast milk while the baby needs about 1,000 units a day.
What are the risks in the case of vitamin D deficiency in my child?
Vitamin D deficiency can be extremely serious in the sense that it can lead to rickets. Its absence is equivalent to insufficient absorption of calcium by the bones. More concretely, the bones of the skull can become soft, those of the wrists and ankles widen, etc.
There is also the presence of a
genu varum(bowlegs) which results in a significant gap between the knees when the feet touch. Do not worry, rickets may be prevented by administering supplementation to all children. Be especially careful if you live in a poorly sunny area and if your child has dark skin because the pigmentation filters the ultraviolet rays.
How do I know if my child is vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency?
Babies are more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency:
if they are breastfed.
if their mother lacks vitamin D.
if they have dark skin,
if they live in a community in the Far North.
All breastfed babies should receive a daily vitamin D supplement.
How much vitamin D should my baby take?
Breastfed babies should receive 400 IU (International Units) per day. Babies living in Far North communities (north of 55 degrees latitude) or with other risk factors such as dark skin should receive 800 IU / day between October and April because there is less sun. If you are not sure about the dosage, talk to your doctor.
Why do breastfeeding babies need a vitamin D supplement?
Breast milk is the best food you can offer to your growing baby. Even when your baby starts eating other foods, you can continue breastfeeding until your baby turns 2 years old, and even after.
However, breast milk contains only small amounts of vitamin D (from 4 IU to 40 IU per liter), which may not be enough to meet your baby’s needs. This is why breastfed babies should be given a vitamin D supplement from birth until they get enough from their diet.
If I’m breastfeeding and eating vitamin D-rich foods, do I still need to give supplements to my baby?
Yes. Although some foods are good sources of vitamin D, they do not provide enough vitamin D to enrich breast milk to meet your baby’s needs. If you are breastfeeding, ask your doctor if supplements of 2,000 IU per day are appropriate for you.
Do babies who take formula need vitamin D supplements?
Since vitamin D is already added to the formula, most term babies who are fed with these formulas do not need supplements. However, babies who take formula and live in communities in the Far North must receive an extra 400 IU per day between October and April to ensure they have enough.
Should pregnant women take vitamin D supplements?
The amount of vitamin D you absorb during your pregnancy will affect how much vitamin D your baby will have at birth. A baby born to a mother with vitamin D deficiency is more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. You are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency for the following reasons:
if you do not eat products like milk and margarine, which are fortified with vitamin D.
you do not expose yourself so much to the sun or your skin is covered most of the time.
if you do not take vitamin D supplements.
If you are pregnant, ask your doctor if supplements of 2,000 IU per day are appropriate for your condition.