Having a child may be a magical experience, but caring for your baby to the best of your abilities requires some “training”. Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of a child’s wellbeing, and certain nutrients tend to be lacking in little ones’ diets. For infants, this is the case with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for tots’ development. When a baby fails to get the required amounts of this nutrient, their bone health suffers. Unfortunately, breastfeeding may not be enough to prevent a deficiency, and if so, supplements are necessary. If you want to be well-versed in vitamin D and children’s nutrition, keep reading!
- Thanks to vitamin D, babies can grow appropriately and develop strong bones.
- Low vitamin D in babies can cause rickets, a very serious condition affecting bone growth which leads to pain and deformities.
- Your paediatrician should prescribe you a children’s vitamin D supplement. Your child ought to take supplements until enough foods high in this nutrient are included in their diet.
Vitamin D and Infant Health: What Do I Need to Know?
We’re all aware that vitamin D is good for bones. But when does it start becoming important for the little ones in your home? It may surprise you to hear that this nutrient is essential for babies since the very moment of birth. If you want your child to enjoy strong bone health, both now and when they’re older, this article is for you!
Why Do Infants Need Vitamin D?
Our babies depend on vitamin D to grow healthy and strong. This essential nutrient helps us absorb calcium from food, then incorporate it into our bones. That’s how we develop a skeletal system which can withstand blows and grow appropriately (1).
Plus, vitamin D may also be vital for preserving babies’ brain health, heart health, and immune defenses. Scientists are exhaustively researching these topics!
How Much Vitamin D Do Infants Need?
According to the NHS and UK Department of Health, children under one year of age require 8.5 to 10 micrograms (or 340 to 100 International Units) of vitamin D per day (2).
This dose of vitamin D should be kept up for children under 14. About that age, our children begin to require higher intake of this nutrient (12.5 micrograms or 500 IUs).
However, remember that these guidelines are set as a reference for the average population. In certain situations, such as when babies experience illnesses or other special circumstances, your baby may have different needs. If needed, talk to your paediatrician about setting a personalised daily dosage.
What Happens If a Child Has Low Vitamin D?
Your baby’s bones grow and develop at lightning speed. If their body lacks the vitamin D needed to support that development, serious problems can result.
Vitamin D deficiency prevents calcium (and other minerals like phosphorus) from strengthening your child’s bones. Consequently, the baby’s skeletal system can become “soft”. The result? Bones which break more easily and are prone to deformity, severely affecting your child’s growth. This condition is known as rickets (3, 4).
The true danger of vitamin D deficiency is how silent it is; low vitamin D can pass unnoticed for weeks or months in infants. It may not cause symptoms until it’s too late!
As such, we suggest you continue bringing your little ones to all of their paediatric checkups. Following a specialist’s instructions is your best option when it comes to avoiding this dangerous vitamin deficit.
Vitamin D for Infants: Natural Sources and Supplements
It’s critical to give your baby all the vitamin D they require from the beginning. The prince or princess of your house depends on this nutrient to grow, after all. We suggest you fully acquaint yourself with the best vitamin D sources – so don’t skip this section!
Sunlight, Vitamin D, and Infants
Some experts have affectionately nicknamed vitamin D the “sunshine vitamin”. That comes from a quite special characteristic of this nutrient: astonishingly, we can produce our own vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. Incredible, isn’t it?
Babies enjoy this superpower as well; their bodies generate vitamin D when spending time in the sun. Unfortunately, little ones’ skin is extremely fragile. The sun’s radiation can burn them easily. In the future, that skin damage caused by the sun can lead to a range of problems in your child, including increased risk of skin cancer (melanoma) (5).
For that reason, sunlight is not typically recommended as a vitamin D source for infants. We highly recommend following this expert advice about sun exposure in babies to keep your tot’s skin safe (6):
- Babies under six months of age have delicate skin. Sunscreen can harm them, and its use is not recommended. They should not be directly exposed to the sun. When you take a stroll with them, they ought to wear a cap or hat, as well as clothing which fully covers the body.
- Children over six months can spend time in the sun during the safest hours of the day (before ten A.M. and after four P.M.). They should be supervised by their parents and should use plenty of sunscreen.
Remember that small children cannot use just any sunscreen! If your child is under three years old, avoid products with chemical filters like oxybenzone. Instead, opt for physical filters specially designed for babies. Compounds like these include titanium dioxide and are less irritating for small children’s skin (7).
The Infant’s Diet
Children consuming exclusively breast milk or formula may not be receiving all the vitamin D they need for healthy growth. But have no fear! Most paediatricians are conscious of this fact and prescribe newborns nutritional supplements which prevent any potential deficiencies (8).
After approximately the one-year mark, your child should start to eat meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. These foods are good sources of vitamin D and can help tots meet their daily nutritional requirements. Plus, we suggest you opt for products which enrich their diet, like milk and cereal fortified with vitamin D. Their bones will thank you!
Paediatricians and Prescription Supplements
Here’s the paradox: vitamin D is vital for babies, but children shouldn’t be exposed to the sun (which produces the vitamin) and breast milk doesn’t provide enough of it. What options does this leave us?
Nowadays, paediatricians are aware that supplements are the best way to keep your children healthy. The NHS recommends prescribing babies under one year of age a supplement containing 340-400 International Units of vitamin D (2). Specialists will prescribe your child vitamin drops which you can comfortably feed them.
Vitamin D supplements tend to be taken until the tot can eat normal foods (after the one-year mark), or until they can drink more than one litre of vitamin D-fortified milk per day. Remember to check with your paediatrician before stopping use of this crucial supplement (5).
Can I Give My Child Sundt’s Vitamin D Supplements?
At Sundt Nutrition, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of quality so that we can produce effective supplements which the body efficiently absorbs. Nevertheless, our products were formulated for use in healthy adults. They should not be given to babies or children under 18 years of age (5).
An excess of vitamin D can cause vitamin D toxicity, a very real risk which can affect small children. To prevent this outcome, remember to never give babies over-the-counter general supplements. Always rely on products prescribed by your regular paediatrician. Your child’s safety comes first (5)!
Infants require constant intake of vitamin D. It’s thanks to this molecule that they can develop strong bones and grow in healthy ways. When we don’t give our children all the vitamin D they need, they suffer from serious growth problems and tend to break bones more often. It’s any parent’s nightmare!
But have no fear: modern paediatricians are up to date on vitamin D’s importance. They’re perfectly aware of how difficult it can be to meet little ones’ daily requirements. If you follow their advice and instructions, we’re sure your baby will grow perfectly healthy. After all, they have the best parents in their corner!
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