Does Baby Need Vitamin D?by Katlyn Joy | June 13, 2011
Vitamin D is important for the development of strong bones and to prevent the bone-weakening illness of rickets. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to soft, thinning or misshaped bones. While the traditional method of obtaining Vitamin D is through sunshine, many factors interfere with getting sufficient amounts of the vitamin through this method alone. Weather conditions, seasons, smog, and how dark your skin is all affect the amount of Vitamin D a person may obtain from sunshine. Additionally, sun exposure is not recommended without adequate sun protection which will prevent absorption of Vitamin D as well.
Formula fed babies who drink 27 to 32 ounces of formula a day will receive sufficient amounts of Vitamin D in their diet. Toddlers who drink at least a quart of Vitamin D-fortified milk each day are similarly protected.
Breastfed babies however, do need Vitamin D drops to boost their intake. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing receive 400 I/Us of Vitamin D daily starting in the first few days after birth.
Vitamin D drops are administered by a dropper once daily. However, it is important that parents and caregivers are careful not to give more than the recommended amount of vitamin drops. In June 2010, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the risks of overdosing infants with liquid Vitamin D.
The FDA advises parents to use only the dropper provided with the product and to read the instructions closely to ensure the right dose amount is given. Some droppers if filled give too much of the vitamin. If parents are unsure how much to administer, they should speak with the child's health care provider.
Overdoses of Vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting, extreme thirst, reduced appetite, constipation, frequent urination, muscle weakness, stomach discomfort, muscle and joint pain, confusion or fatigue. Serious consequences can include kidney damage.
Vitamin D can also be found in food products such as fish oil, fatty fish, and eggs from chicken feed Vitamin D. It's highly unlikely that children will receive enough D from food sources other than Vitamin D fortified milk or liquid supplements. Human milk only contains 25 I/Us per liter, or less, which is why breastfeed babies need Vitamin D supplementation.
In April 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all infants from 2 months of age and beyond receive 200 I/Us of Vitamin D each day. However, in April of 2008 they revised these standards, raising the recommended amount to 400 I/Us daily beginning in the first few days of life. These amounts are available through either multivitamin drops intended for infant use which will contain the recommended amount of Vitamin D, or vitamin D drops that contain 400 I/Us. Prescription Vitamin D drops however, are not to be used at home by parents except in unusual instances as directed by a physician as these preparations contain higher amounts of the vitamin and could cause dangerous overdoses.
If a child is partially breastfed and also has some formula in his daily diet, parents should check with the child's pediatrician to inquire whether the child is getting enough Vitamin D through diet alone or whether vitamin drops may be necessary.
While breastfeeding does provide some Vitamin D and many babies do synthesize some D into their system through sun exposure, some infants have been reported as developing rickets. While this is a relatively rare occurrence, it is enough of a concern to warrant the AAP recommendations. This is especially true as growing evidence amounts about the significant dangers of sun exposure and educational outreaches are in place and growing to teach parents about protecting their children from the sun's damaging rays.
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