We have long said, and still do, that breastmilk is best for infants. It is full of important minerals and nutrients to help your little one grow. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.
Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Breastfed babies need an additional 400 IU of vitamin D each day until they’re weaned to fortified formula and can drink at least one liter (about 4 ¼ cups) every day. Starting at age 1, babies drinking plenty of milk fortified with vitamin D may no longer need a vitamin D supplement.
As your children grow and start eating solids, include foods that are rich in vitamin D, like fatty fish, eggs, and milk. But be aware that older children and even adults have a hard time getting the recommended levels of the vitamin through food alone. Check with your child’s doc to see if she should take a supplement with 400 IU to 600 IU. That amount is often included in chewable multivitamins which most kids like taking. Children with some chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis may be at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency and may need an even higher dose in a supplement.
You may have heard that the body makes its own vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UBV) rays from the sun. While true, sun exposure can be hazardous to baby’s skin and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 6 months avoid sun exposure. All other children and adults need to slather on the sunscreen throughout the day which can block the production of vitamin D. Pregnant women have particularly sensitive skin and should pay attention to sunscreen.
Important note: Be sure not to give too much vitamin D to babies. More of a good thing often is not good. High doses can cause a host of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, muscle aches, or more serious symptoms. Some researchers are beginning to suggest that adults should take far more vitamin D than the 600 IU daily guideline. But too much may be dangerous. Very high doses of vitamin D can raise your blood calcium level, causing damage to blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. The Institute of Medicine sets the upper tolerable limit at 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Check with your health care provider for the right amount for you.
And what about additional vitamin D from the sun? Fortunately, you can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun because your body simply stops making more. But don’t forget that sun exposure without plenty of sunscreen can raise your risk of skin cancer. So, apply the sunscreen and take whatever supplement your provider recommends.