Vitamin D and the Breastfed Baby
Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin”, is important for both moms and babies. It helps to make sure that bones and teeth are healthy. Our skin makes Vitamin D when we are in the sunshine; it is also found in some foods.
Vitamin D for Breastfeeding Women
It can be difficult for a breastfeeding woman to get enough Vitamin D, even if she has a healthy diet. Vitamin D is found in:
- egg yolks
- breakfast cereals
Sun exposure on the hands and face for at least 15 minutes a day will help. A Vitamin D supplement may be needed, especially in the winter months. Ask your health care healthcare provider about having your Vitamin D level tested if you are concerned.
Women at a higher risk for low Vitamin D include those:
- who have immigrated to North America.
- who are dark skinned.
- whose pregnancies have been close together.
- that do not drink milk.
Vitamin D for Babies
Breast milk is naturally low in Vitamin D. In addition, babies are not usually exposed to sunlight. Giving breastfed babies at least 400 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D each day is therefore recommended for baby’s first year. It can be purchased at most drug stores.
Vitamin D is available in different strengths. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. Many families prefer a concentrated form of Vitamin D (400 IU is contained in a single drop.) The drop can simply be placed on the nipple prior to a feeding.
Other parents use a more diluted form of Vitamin D (400 IU contained in 1 ml). To give this larger volume, hold your baby in a slightly reclined position. Place the end of the dropper inside baby’s mouth, pointing it at baby’s cheek. Slowly squeeze the end of the dropper. Give half of the dose at a time, allowing baby to swallow in between.
Premature infants or those living in northern communities may need a different dose of Vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that babies who are not breastfed need at least 32 ounces (1,000 ml) of formula with Vitamin D added in order to get enough Vitamin D. Please check with your healthcare provider to find out what is recommended for your baby.
If you would like to learn more, please refer to the following links:
About the authors:
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.