Doctors and other healthcare professionals recommend vitamin D for children, including infants. Here are the top five reasons for recommending vitamin D to this age group:
- To supplement exclusively or partially breastfed infants
Breast milk is the best nutrition that a mother can offer to her children. Due to a movement by healthcare organizations around the world to promote breastfeeding, more and more babies are being breastfed and for a longer period of time.2,3 Breast milk is indeed rich in nutrients. As more information has become available, studies now confirm that most mothers’ breast milk typically does not contain enough vitamin D to meet their baby’s needs.4,5,6 It is possible to increase a mother’s vitamin D level to reach sufficient amounts for her baby, this requires a high level of vitamin D which should be discussed with a physician beforehand. The other option is to give a daily dose of vitamin D to baby by following the recommendations of medical organizations.
- To help prevent Rickets
Vitamin D has been proven to help prevent bone softening and malformations. Rickets is a disease that used to be more commonplace decades ago. It almost disappeared for an extended period of time. However, in recent years, doctors have seen a spike in Rickets cases in both cold and sunny climate areas.7
- To supplement the lack of vitamin D found naturally in foods
It is difficult to obtain vitamin D from foods. Certain foods are fortified with vitamin D, but it is difficult to eat enough of these foods in your own diet to pass enough vitamin D onto your baby through breast milk. It is also likely your baby is not eating some of these foods yet, or she may just not be eating enough of these foods to obtain a sufficient amount of vitamin D.
- To help the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth
Calcium and phosphorus are required to help develop and maintain strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is the agent that allows calcium and phosphorus to enter the blood stream, so without vitamin D, ones’ calcium and phosphorus levels would below. Considering childhood is a stage of rapid bone growth and development, this is the time when you want to ensure an optimal level of vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus.
- To make up for the strict sun protection that is required for children, especially infants
Due to baby’s skin being more sensitive to the sun and due to the more serious effects of too much sun exposure on children compared to adults, various medical organizations in the United States8,9,10, Canada11,12 and the United Kingdom13 recommend that infants under the age of 6 months up to 1 year old should remain out of direct sunlight. Moreover, it is recommended that infants wear sunscreen at all times when they are outside.
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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.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding Report Card, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm
3. Statistics Canada. Health at a Glance: Breastfeeding trends in Canada. November 27 2015. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11879-eng.htm
4. HolickMF, Resurrection of vitamin D deficiency and rickets. J Clin Invest.2006;116:2062–72.
5. ThacherTD, Fischer PR, Strand MA, and Pettifor . Nutritional rickets around the world: causes and future directions. Ann Trop Paediatr. 2006;26:1–16.
6. Weisberg P, Scanlon KS, Li R, Cogswell ME. .Nutritional rickets among children in the United States: review of cases reported between 1986 and 2003. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 80(6, Suppl)1697S–705S.
7. Pettifor JM. Nutritional rickets: pathogenesis and prevention. Pediatr Endocrinol Rev.2013 Jun;10 Suppl 2:347-53.
8. American Cancer Society. Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection. 03/20/2015. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skincancerpreventionandearlydetection/skin-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-u-v-protection
9. Skin Cancer Foundation. Jennifer Linder, MD. Sun Protection for Infants; Baby Skin Requires Extra Diligence. June 7 2013. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/children/infants
10. American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQs. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs
11. Government of Canada. Healthy Canadians. Sun safety tips for parents. 2015-06-30. http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/healthy-living-vie-saine/environment-environnement/sun-soleil/tips-parent-conseils-eng.php
12. Canadian Dermatology Association. Sun Safety: Protecting Your Family. http://www.dermatology.ca/programs-resources/resources/sun-safety/protecting-your-family/
13. Sun safety for children. 13/01/2016. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/safety-in-the-sun.aspx