Some things are out of your control when it comes to your child’s health. For example, genetics. Your baby is born with DNA that will shape the person that they are destined to be. As parents, we cross our fingers that we transferred the best genes to our children.
Through the first part of your child’s life there are things within your control that may help your baby maximize their health both now and in the future. For example, you have an opportunity to help your child build a strong bone foundation starting right from when they are in the womb! These bones carry your child into adulthood and even their senior days.
The immediate importance of building strong bones as a baby
It is absolutely incredible to think that a baby’s skeleton, comprised of 300 bones (which will fuse to become 206 bones later on), is already in place by the 7th week of gestation. These bones have not hardened yet because the fetal skeleton is made of cartilage at this point. Nonetheless, the soft bones are well formed, in place and ready to grow. While in the mother’s womb, the cartilage cells start getting replaced by bone forming cells. The bone forming cells are called osteoblasts. They are responsible for replacing the soft cartilage with strong bone, a process known as ossification. At birth, bone formation has made headway but is not complete.[i]
Strong, healthy bones are important during childhood to avoid rickets. Rickets is a childhood disease that results in soft, deformed bones that can break easily. Rickets was largely unheard of a few decades ago, but unfortunately, rickets has been making a comeback over the years, much of which is a result of children’s low vitamin D levels.[ii]
The future importance of building strong bones as a baby
Once a child’s bones are ossified (hardened), the job is not done. Since bones are living tissues, bits of old bone tissue are constantly being replaced by new bone tissue. Therefore, we lose some bone and we gain some bone. The trick is to make sure that children gain more bone than they lose, because around the age of twenty, there won’t be any new bone formation, but there will always be some extent of bone loss. If we are not careful to ensure that as much bone is produced during the production years, this will have a negative effect on the bone health of our children in their adult and senior years, putting them at greater risk for diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, which can increase their risk of bone fractures later in life.[iii] In fact, osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as “a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences”[iv].
The American Academy of Pediatrics, Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend that all exclusively breastfed, healthy, term infants receive 400 IU vitamin D per day and those over 1 receive 600 IU.[v],[vi],[vii] The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends an intake of 800 IU vitamin D per day for northern Native communities during the winter months.[viii]
Other articles that might be of interest to you:
What are the benefits of vitamin D for kids?
What are important vitamins to take during pregnancy?
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Natalie Bourré is a Ddrops Guest Blogger. She is a mom of 4 young children, health writer and social media consultant who is passionate about promoting good health for the entire family. She is keen to share scientific information about about vitamin D in an easy to understand fashion. She also truly listens to people’s input and as such, she welcomes you to connect, discuss and share your questions and feedback with her on our social media accounts.
[i] Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Skeletal Development. http://www.healthofchildren.com/S/Skeletal-Development.html
[ii] Michael F. Holick. J Clin Invest. 2006 Aug 1; 116(8): 2062-2072. Resurrection of vitamin D deficiency and rickets.
[iii] NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. Kids and Their Bones: A Guide for Parents. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/juvenile
[iv] Hightower L., Osteoporosis: pediatric disease with geriatric consequences, Orthop Nurs.2000 Sep-Oct;19(5):59-62.
[v] American Academy of Pediatrics, Vitamin D Supplementation for Infants, 3/22/2010, https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Vitamin-D-Supplementation-for-Infants.aspx
[vi] Health Canada. Vitamin D supplementation for breastfed infants – 2004 Health Canada recommendation.
[vii] Canadian Paediatric Society, POSITION STATEMENT: Vitamin D supplementation: Recommendations for Canadian mothers and infants, January 30 2015. http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/vitamin-d
[viii] Canadian Paediatric Society, First Nations and Inuit Health Committee [Principal author: J Godel]. Vitamin D supplementation in northern Native communities. Paediatr Child Health 2002;7:459-63.