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Study: Your Preemie May Not Be Getting Enough Vitamin D

Alison Wood |25, June 2013


Vitamin D is something our bodies need to develop strong bones and teeth. Babies need their share as well, and even more so preemies need additional amounts of Vitamin D every day.

Breast-fed babies tend to be more at risk for having low levels of vitamin D as opposed to formula-fed infants. However, if your breast-fed infant is taking in some rays every day, then his or her vitamin D levels are probably sufficient. However, moms are also told to keep their babies away from the sun and slathered in sunscreen lotion. While a baby's skin is more sensitive towards the sun, they still need a healthy amount of sunlight to make the needed Vitamin D.

How can you do this without adding supplements to your breastfed baby's diet?

Take your little one outside before 10 am or after 2 pm to avoid direct sunlight. Before or after these hours, take your little one outside for some stroller time or play time. Enjoy the grass and talk about the birds and trees. Fresh air will also give your baby an added health bonus. As long as you are not out for an extended amount of time, leave off the sunscreen so your baby can absorb the vitamin D in his or her skin.

However, if you find it difficult to get safe sun every day, consider adding 400 IU/mL of Vitamin D to your baby's diet. Be sure to check with your pediatrician before choosing which supplement brand to go with. These supplements are available over-the-counter. Prescription preparations of vitamin D have a very high concentration and are not for routine home use.

If you are not breast-feeding, your infant is probably consuming enough vitamin D through his fortified formula. The powdered formulas add this necessary vitamin that prevents rickets in babies.

What about preemies?

Babies born prematurely tend to have softer bones than babies who are born full-term. In the past, preemies were advised to consume 400 international units of Vitamin D per day for healthier bones. However, the pediatric experts are now saying,"It's not enough."

In a recent study in New Delhi India, over 96 infants were studied that were born between 28 and 34 weeks gestation. The study was conducted by researchers from All India Institute for Medical Sciences. The lead author of the study, Chandra Kumar Natarajan, DM, was recorded as concluding this:

"The study results show conclusively that in preterm infants with high rates of vitamin D insufficiency at baseline, supplementation with 800 IU of vitamin D3 per day compared to 400 IU per day reduces vitamin D insufficiency at term equivalent age and at 3 months," Dr. Natarajan said. "There also is a trend toward a decrease in the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency even in the 400 IU group at 3 months. Therefore, 400 IU per day may be sufficient after 3 months."

Even though the serum vitamin D levels were elevated in the group of preemies that received 800 IU, the high levels did not render a better outcome in better bone mineralization at 3 months of age. The length, weight and head circumference did not vary at a remarkable amount between the groups of preemies that received 800 IU and the group that received 400 IU.

Can my preemie or full-term baby consume too much vitamin D?

An excessive amount of vitamin D can lead to loss of appetite, decreased muscle tone, fussiness, constipation and other health issues. Discuss your concerns about your baby's levels of vitamin D with your pediatrician to ensure your baby is receiving not too little as well as not too much of this vitamin.

Besides vitamin D drops, are there any other ways to include Vitamin D in my baby's diet?

As mentioned before, sunlight is an easy way to add some extra vitamin D to your baby's system. Another way is to add some vitamin-D fortified baby cereals to your infant's diet once they have reached 4-6 months of age. Look for jarred baby foods that are enriched with vitamin D as well. Until your baby has reached the safe age for consuming solids, your only options are sunlight and vitamin supplements.

At your next well-baby check-up, discuss your concerns about your baby's levels of vitamin D with your pediatrician to ensure your baby is receiving not too little as well as not too much of this necessary vitamin.

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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