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How important is Vitamin D supplementation for the baby while I am breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding mom wonders if newborn is getting enough Vitamin D

How important is Vitamin D supplementation for the baby while I am breastfeeding?  I was told that if a breastfeeding mother continues taking her pre-natal vitamins, the baby would get enough Vitamin D.

Robert Woodford | Pediatrician

Robert Woodford

Vitamin D is important for maintaining normal calcium and phosphorus balance in the body.  The current recommendation is to supplement all breastfed infants with 400 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D, starting in early infancy.  This amount prevents Vitamin D deficient rickets in children (a bone disease resulting in decreased bone mineralization and often enlarged wrists and knees and  bowing of the legs). 

Breast milk alone does not provide adequate Vitamin D, even if the mother is continuing to take her pre-natal vitamins.  Supplemental Vitamin D is also suggested in breastfed infants who are partially fed formula.  Infants who are only fed formula need to drink 32 ounces per day in order to meet the daily requirement of 400 IU.  Newer recommendations include continuing the daily Vitamin D supplementation of at least 400 IU throughout childhood.

Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin with exposure to sunlight.  Supplementation is especially important for those individuals living in more northern areas (especially in the winter when there is less exposure to sunlight) and for people with darkly pigmented skin.  In addition, the amount of cloud cover, the amount of air pollution, the amount of skin exposed to the sun, and the use of sunscreen all influence the amount of Vitamin D made in the skin.

For persons consuming cow’s milk, each 8 ounce glass contains 100 IU of Vitamin D and 300mg of calcium.  Few patients over 1 year of age are getting adequate Vitamin D and calcium in their diet, without supplementation.  Several diseases may be associated with inadequate Vitamin D intake, including various cancers, heart disease, and depression.  However, Vitamin D deficiency has not been shown to cause these diseases.

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