Breastmilk is the preferred nutrition source for the first year of life, but it doesn’t measure up when it comes to Vitamin D.
While many breastfed infants are able to retain additional vitamin D through routine sun exposure, “published reports of cases of vitamin D deficiency rickets among breastfed infants in the United States caused researchers to take another look at whether all breastfed infants were getting adequate vitamin D,” reads the CDC website.
What Are Rickets?
While it may sound like a bug, it is actually a bone deficiency that can result in a misshapen or deformed skeleton, pain, fragile bones, and poor growth and development. The most common cause of the condition is an extreme lack of vitamin D, calcium, or both, which is why it is recommended that breastfed infants receive a vitamin D supplement until they begin drinking at least 500 mL of vitamin D milk or vitamin D-fortified formula.
Breastmilk simply doesn’t provide an adequate amount of the vitamin, estimated that babies ingest approximately 25 IU of vitamin D through their mother’s breastmilk, falling extremely short of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 400 IU recommendation set in November of 2008.
While vitamin D deficiency rickets is rare, having a lower exposure to sunlight can also affect children, creating a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Since it is recommended that sun exposure is limited due to cancer risks, a balancing act must be performed to give kids enough of exposure for its Vitamin D benefits. This is why supplements are a good way to go for parents.
Here Comes The Sun
All kids are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, but those impacted by the following six factors are at an even higher risk, according to the CDC:
- Living at high latitudes (closer to the polar regions), particularly during winter months
- Poor air quality conditions, or high levels of pollution
- Weather conditions that include dense cloud coverings
- Regularly covered up by clothing so there is less skin exposure to sunlight
- Using sunscreen
- Having a darker skin pigment
Parents can easily give their babies the additional vitamin D necessary for proper bone nutrition through an over-the-counter oral drop.
Don’t Overdo It
It is important for parents to give only the recommended amount of vitamin D daily, using the dropper provided with the supplement. Dangers of excessive amounts of the vitamin include “nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constipation, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, muscle and joint aches, confusion, and fatigue and even cause serious damage to kidneys,” says the FDA as cited by WebMD.
Other Vitamin Deficiencies
Other specialized diets can create vitamin deficiencies in breastfed babies in addition to vitamin D. If a breastfeeding mother follows a vegan diet, her baby is at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to anemia and nervous system abnormalities.