You’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby. After all, it’s the best choice for feeding your newborn. But you’ve also been told to add a vitamin D supplement your child’s diet. Vitamin D supplements, usually through easy to swallow drops, play an important role in your baby’s developing health. Infant formula is fortified with vitamin D, but if your child is breastfed, they may not be getting enough of this important vitamin.
Vitamin D is essential to your newborn’s health. Babies who don’t get enough vitamin D can develop Rickets. Rickets is a disease that softens your bones. Young children who don’t have enough vitamin D can end up with bowed legs as they grow, delays in crawling and walking, and soft skulls. In recent years, rickets has become more and more of a problem in young children. Doctors are trying to combat this by recommending vitamin D drops.
You and your baby can get vitamin D from a number of sources. One of the most common ways we get vitamin D is by exposure to sunlight. As you spend time in the sun, your body produces vitamin D. Throughout history, sunlight is a main way humans have gotten their vitamin D. Today you can also get vitamin D through the things you eat, or through supplements. Many foods like milk or cereal are fortified with vitamin D.
There are several barriers to your baby getting enough vitamin D at this important time of life.
- Using sunscreen. Although sunscreen protects against skin cancer, it also prevents your baby’s skin from making vitamin D.
- If you and your baby are spending a lot of time indoors.
- You’re not getting enough vitamin D (from sunlight or diet) while breastfeeding your infant.
- Vitamin D doesn’t always pass through breastmilk. Nutritionally, you might think that because you’re taking a prenatal or vitamin D supplement, that it’ll pass through your breastmilk to your baby. But this isn’t always the case. It’s hard to measure or know how much vitamin D your baby is actually getting.
- Babies with darker pigmented skin need a lot more sun exposure to develop vitamin D.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants get at least 400 IU of vitamin D supplementation per day. Infants who are formula fed will usually meet this recommendation. However, if your child is being exclusively breastfed, or even partially breastfed, they may not be getting enough vitamin D. You can purchase vitamin D drops from nearly any pharmacy or grocery store. Drops should be given on a daily basis for babies who are breastfed.
Your child’s doctor might ask you to supplement your breastfed baby’s diet with vitamin D drops. These drops can help protect your child against rickets and sure up their bone health. In addition to the drops, you can ensure your child is getting enough vitamin D by getting enough vitamin D yourself. You can also expose your baby to sunlight in short amounts (10 or 15 minutes) of sunlight daily. Just be careful not to keep your baby in the sun for too long.