In the early years of life, vitamin D plays a vital role in bone function and growth in children, but it is especially essential in the early months. Lack or absence of it can lead to vitamin D deficiency which can cause conditions like Rickets in infants& children.
To prevent this and for several other reasons, your baby needs a daily dose of vitamin D, and it must begin right from the early days. Our article will help you understand the amount of vitamin D that your baby needs, how you can give it to them and when you can stop.
Why is Vitamin D important for Babies?
A deficiency of vitamin D in infants can lead to a condition called Rickets which is the softening and weakening of bones. Vit D plays an important role in the growth of bone and teeth. If babies suffer from vitamin D deficiency, it might also increase the risk and manifest in the form of conditions like Diabetes when they grow up. Vitamin D is also needed by babies to absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are important for bones. Vit D is also needed by the immune system. Hence they must be given supplementation right after they are born. A lack of vitamin D may lead to brittle bones, deformities, stunted growth, or deformed teeth as children grow older.
Do Babies get enough Vitamin D from Breast Milk?
Many people believe that breast milk acts as a complete source of nutrition for babies, and they are also reluctant to feed infants anything apart from breast milk in the early days. But it is widely accepted by pediatricians that breast milk does not provide sufficient quantities of vitamin D to the baby. Some studies show that if the mother takes a high dose of vitamin D up to 6400 IU/day, some of the requirements of the baby can be met by increasing the vitamin D content of the milk. But such high does are not advisable for the mother and must not be taken without consulting with a medical professional.
However, babies who consume formula might be able to get higher doses of vitamin D as compared to breast milk fed babies. But again, the quantity might vary depending upon the amount of formula they consume. Generally, one litre or 32 ounces of formula provides 400 IU of vitamin D which is the recommended daily requirement of Vit D for infants. The baby may not consume so much of milk/day also.
Can Babies get Enough Vitamin D from the Sun?
While our body gets vitamin D from the direct sunlight on the skin, it is not safe to expose babies to direct sunlight. Whenever you step out in sunlight, make sure you cover your baby with a blanket and their stroller must have a shade. This means that babies may not get enough vitamin D from the sun. Additionally, if your baby has dark skin, it might be even difficult to synthesize vitamin D from the sunlight due to the higher concentration of melanin. Also most people do not bring the baby into the sun everyday, right from birth and the baby may not be exposed to sunlight at all.
How Much Vitamin D do Babies Need?
Vitamin D is measured in international units, and infants up to 1 year of age must get at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily (according to ICMR, Indian Council of medical Research, recommendation). They can get this by drinking at least one liter of formula. If your baby feeds only on breast milk, likely, they do not get the required 400 IU and need supplementation. Additionally, they might not consume one liter of formula daily. So you might still need to give them supplementation.
All the vitamin D that is present in infants during birth is derived from the vitamin D levels in the mother. However, the vitamin D level reduces by over 50% within the first month, and if supplementation does not begin immediately, the deficiency might start to develop. Hence, it is advisable to give vitamin D supplementation right after birth, as suggested by doctors.
How Should you Give Vitamin D to Babies?
The only way to give babies vitamin D is through drops or sprays since they are too small for tablets and injections are not advisable everyday. Generally, the dosage instructions will be given on the box. Make sure you give only the recommended dose. Instead of aiming for the back of the throat, try to give the drops or sprays on the cheeks.
If you give your baby formula, you can even mix the drops in their formula or put one drop at a time on your nipple while they feed.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency in Babies
Vitamin D deficiency is hard to spot in babies unless it’s extremely severe. The symptoms might also not show up to months or years later after the deficiency has started. Some symptoms that might appear if the deficit is on the higher side include bone deformation, fractures, skeletal deformities, etc.
Your baby’s pediatrician might recommend checking your baby’s vitamin D levels if he/she falls sick very often, shows signs of bone deformities or fractures.
It is therefore recommended that you introduce vitamin D supplementation to your baby right after birth to eliminate the chances of deficiency. Not all doctors might agree with the opinion, but studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation is essential in children. Therefore, you could take a second opinion and pay extra attention to it if the mother suffers from a vitamin D deficiency too.