There’s a common misconception among new parents that breast milk provides all the nutrients growing infants need. But when it comes to vitamin D for babies, breast milk isn’t enough.
Supplementing vitamin D is critical for growing newborns. Without a sufficient daily dose of this vital nutrient, babies can experience negative health effects in the short and long term.
How do you ensure your baby is getting the vitamin D he or she needs? We speak about that and more next, so keep reading.
A Guide to Supplementing Vitamin D for Babies
The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) recommends that infants up to 12 months old get at least 400 IU of vitamin D per day. Babies between the ages of one and two years need 600 IU or more of vitamin D per day.
But how much vitamin D is in an IU? IU is the abbreviation for one international unit. 400 IU roughly equals 0.01 milligrams, and 600 IU is about 0.015 milligrams.
Do Formula-Fed Babies Need Vitamin D?
We’ve already mentioned that exclusively and partially breastfed infants need to supplement with vitamin D. Still, you may be wondering: what about babies who exclusively drink formula?
Babies fed at least one liter of fortified formula per day will get their daily dose of vitamin D. Just make sure that the label says the formula contains at least 400 IU or 0.01 milligrams of vitamin D per liter.
Most infants don’t drink an entire liter of formula until they’re at least a few months of age. This is why the APA suggests new mothers and parents further supplement their infants’ diets with vitamin D drops.
Vitamin D Deficiency in Babies Symptoms
Vitamin D deficiency is sadly common in babies. It usually manifests first as extreme tiredness or irritability. These symptoms may not seem serious, but they’re signs that more severe side effects are coming.
Hypocalcemia is a condition that occurs due to calcium deficiency. It can lead to symptoms like cramping, numbness, muscle spasms, and even seizures. A lack of vitamin D is one of the most common causes of hypocalcemia.
Why? One of vitamin D’s roles in the body is to increase the rate of calcium absorption. As vitamin D levels decline, the body’s ability to absorb calcium drops, too, leading to hypocalcemia.
Vitamin D is critical for healthy bones as we age. But it’s also important for healthy growing bones. This is why vitamin D deficiency commonly causes stunted growth in children.
For example, a 2017 study looked at the connection between vitamin D deficiency and weight. Researchers found that underweight children were 2X more likely to have lower vitamin D levels than children of average weights.
Respiratory infections are a leading cause of illness around the globe. They occur when we’re exposed to bacteria and viruses. Colds, ear infections, and pneumonia are all considered respiratory infections.
People with vitamin D deficiency have an increased risk of developing respiratory infections. That’s because vitamin D helps defends our bodies against germs like those that cause respiratory infections.
Rickets is the most severe symptom of lacking vitamin D. It’s a condition characterized by weakened or brittle bones. Rickets usually only occurs in children experiencing prolonged vitamin D or calcium deficiency.
Luckily, you can eliminate your baby’s risk of developing rickets. Getting plenty of vitamin D, especially during periods of growth, can help protect your baby’s bones and prevent rickets from developing.
How to Ensure Your Baby Gets Enough Vitamin D
The key to preventing the negative health effects of vitamin D deficiency is supplementation. Here are three ways to ensure your infant is getting the nutrients he or she requires.
Choose a Fortified Formula
The simplest way to ensure your baby is getting enough vitamin D is to incorporate a fortified formula into your feeding schedule.
Babies drinking one liter or more of fortified formula will get the daily recommended dose of vitamin D.
What if your baby isn’t drinking one liter of formula per day? Many newborns won’t drink enough formula to get their daily vitamin D needs. In this case, you should use an additional vitamin D supplement.
Supplement With Vitamin D Drops
Vitamin D drops are simple, convenient supplements for babies.
You can administer vitamin D drops directly into a baby’s mouth or add the drops to your baby’s formula. If you’re breastfeeding, drop the supplement onto your nipple before your baby latches.
The great thing about vitamin D drops is that they come pre-dosed. Most brands offer a 400 IU daily dose of vitamin D per drop.
Incorporate Vitamin D Rich Foods
Babies between the ages of one and two have increased vitamin D needs of at least 600 IU per day. How do you ensure weaning babies get enough of this vital nutrient?
As your baby starts to wean from breast milk and infant formula at this age, he or she will begin to reach for solid foods. Encourage your growing baby to choose vitamin D-rich foods, including:
- Salmon, sardines, and canned tuna, which contain ~150 IU vitamin D per ounce
- Egg yolks, which contain ~37 IU vitamin D per yolk
- Milk, which contains ~125 IU of vitamin D per cup
You can also purchase vitamin D fortified foods. Soy milk and orange juice often come with added vitamin D and calcium. Fortified cereals are another excellent way to give your growing toddler the nutrients he or she needs.
More Advice for New Parents Like You
It’s critical to supplement vitamin D for babies. If your infant is vitamin D deficient, he or she could suffer from negative health consequences like stunted growth, increased respiratory infections, or even rickets.
Are you struggling to find the best vitamin D supplementation routine for your baby? The Pediatric Center is here to help. Contact us today to set up an appointment and finally get the answers you need.