Vitamin D for babies

When your newborn arrives, you will be eager to provide them the proper nourishment and nutrition. One very important nutrient for babies, children and adults is vitamin D. Vitamin D is especially important for breastfed babies, as breast milk doesn’t provide enough of the vitamin for their needs. Providing your baby with vitamin D drops can help to boost immunity, build healthy and strong bones, and prevent diseases like rickets. Read on to find out why your baby needs vitamin D, how much to give them, and the best ways to supplement your little one’s vitamin D intake.

Why Do Babies Need Vitamin D Drops?

You might be wondering, why does my baby need vitamin D drops? Well, vitamin D is essential for babies (as well as for older children and adults) because it helps the body regulate calcium and phosphate. Working together, calcium, phosphate and vitamin D build bones and help keep teeth and muscles strong and healthy.

When babies don’t get enough vitamin D, they could potentially develop rickets, a rare disease that involves softening and weakening of the bones.

Risks for Babies Who Lack Enough Vitamin D

When babies lack vitamin D, they may experience aches and pains, as well as weakened bones or muscles. In more severe cases of vitamin D deficiency, rickets may occur. This disease causes bones to soften and change shape.

Here are some risks of Vitamin D deficiency and rickets, and how to recognise the signs and symptoms:

  • Pain. Your baby or child may experience pain in the bones. If your child is of walking age, you may notice tiredness or a reluctance to walk. The pain may cause delayed walking in your child.

  • Fragile. Bones may weaken and become prone to fractures.

  • Bone deformities. These may include bowed legs, or thickening of the ankle, wrist and knee bones.

  • Developmental delays. This includes slow or stunted growth due to the weakened bones not developing properly.

  • Dental problems. Teeth may be weakened or slow to come through, as well as a higher risk of cavities.

  • Muscle cramps. Another symptom of rickets, especially in children with calcium deficiency. Twitching and tingling in the hands and feet may also occur.

  • Fits. Seizures due to vitamin D and calcium deficiency.

Additionally, researchers have found correlations between vitamin D deficiency and certain diseases and conditions that could occur as babies get older and reach childhood or adulthood, such as

  • several cancers

  • cardiovascular disease

  • type 2 diabetes

  • autoimmune conditions

  • osteomalacia.

Although these diseases and complications sound scary, remember that they are rare. With the right Vitamin D supplementation, your baby will get the necessary nutrients to stay strong and healthy! If you have any questions or concerns, consult your midwife or child’s health visitor.

In Summary

Getting the right amount of vitamin D is vital for babies, as a deficiency may cause rickets, a disease that softens and weakens the bones. Long-term vitamin D deficiency is also linked to other diseases that could appear later in childhood or adulthood.

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How Much Vitamin D Is Necessary for Babies?

Experts recommend a daily supplement of 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D drops for breastfed babies within the first year. For babies older than 1 year, the amount increases to 10 micrograms per day. To determine whether your baby is getting enough vitamin D, consider the following:

  • Breastfed babies. If you’re breastfeeding or partially breastfeeding, you baby will not get enough vitamin D from breast milk alone, so supplementing with liquid vitamin D (drops) is necessary and important.

  • Formula-fed babies. If you exclusively feed your baby formula, they are likely to get a good amount of vitamin D, as most brands are fortified with this vitamin. However, to get the full recommended amount of vitamin D, babies will need to consume at least 500ml of fortified formula each day. Most newborns and many young babies won’t drink this much, so supplementation with baby vitamin D drops is probably necessary. Check with your midwife or health visitor to be sure.

  • Pregnant and Breastfeeding women should also supplement their own diet with 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Taking too much vitamin D over a long period of time can lead to a calcium build up in the body, damaging the bones, kidneys and heart. Experts recommend no more than 25 micrograms a day for infants under 12 months, and no more than 50 micrograms for children aged 1 to 10 years.

To determine the appropriate amount of vitamin D drops for newborns and infants, consult the chart below and your child’s midwife or health visitor.

Child’s AgeAmount of Daily Vitamin DSources of Vitamin D
0 to 6 months8.5 to 10 microgramssupplementation
6 months to 1 year8.5 to 10 microgramssupplementation and solid foods
1+ year10 microgramssupplementation and/or solid foods

 

Sources of Vitamin D

There are various ways to get vitamin D into your body. It’s more difficult for babies to obtain vitamin D naturally, which is why a supplement is the best option. Sources of vitamin D include the following:

  • Sunlight. The body naturally manufacture vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Because of the dangers associated with direct exposure to sun, especially for babies, sun exposure is not an ideal source of vitamin D for your child. This is why infants under 5 years should be given vitamin D drops or supplements. To protect their delicate skin from damage, it’s also recommended to keep young infants out of direct sun, especially from March to October, and to cover up and use a high-protection factor sunscreen while outside in the sunshine.

  • Breast milk and formula. Breast milk does have some vitamin D and provides nearly every other vitamin your baby needs, especially C, E, and B vitamins; but it doesn’t have enough vitamin D to ensure healthy bones and ward off diseases like rickets. Infant formula is nearly always fortified with a good amount of vitamin D. This makes it a sufficient source if your baby consumes at least 500ml a day.

  • Solid food. Although some solid foods provide vitamin D, this won’t be a helpful source of the nutrient for newborns or young babies, who won’t be able to have solids until they are about 6 months old.

    • Every baby is different, but it’s best to wait until your little one is around 6 months old to start introducing solid foods.

    • When it’s time to expand your baby’s menu and include solids, you can try introducing some baby-friendly food with natural or added vitamin D, like eggs, yogurt, and cereal.

  • Supplements. The best way for babies to get the recommended amount of vitamin D every day is with liquid supplements. Vitamin D drops can ensure that babies younger than 1-year-old are getting 8.5 to 10 micrograms a day and babies older than 1-year-old are getting 10 micrograms.

In Summary

Babies can’t get enough vitamin D from natural sources alone, such as breast milk, sun exposure, and food. If your baby isn’t consuming enough formula fortified with vitamin D, it’s important to supplement to at least 10 micrograms per day. Consult your midwife or health visitor to determine exactly how much your baby needs.

How to Give Vitamin D Drops to Your Breastfed Baby

It isn’t possible or safe for your baby to swallow a pill for vitamin D. Instead, your baby will get a liquid version of this nutrient. Your health visitor can give you advice on where to get baby vitamin D drops. Using vitamin D drops for newborn babies is quite simple—all you need is the liquid supplement and the dropper that comes with it. Here’s what to do:

  1. Read the directions carefully. Always start by reviewing the amount of vitamin D to give your baby and following the directions on how to measure and administer the appropriate dose. Be sure not to exceed the recommended dose.

  2. Administer the drops. You can drop the liquid onto your breast, on or around the nipple before feeding your baby, or give the drops to your baby with a dropper or on a sterilised spoon with your baby in an upright position. When your baby is older, you can mix the vitamin D drops into their food.

When to Give Babies Vitamin D Drops

Your baby can start taking vitamin D drops soon after birth. Most likely, your child’s health visitor will recommend the standard amount, which is 8.5 to 10 micrograms daily of vitamin D for babies under 1 year, and 10 micrograms daily for those over 1 year. But once your baby can start getting vitamin D from other food sources (like salmon, egg yolks and fortified foods), you may be able to reduce the amount they receive by drops.

Every newborn, baby, and child is different, so although there is a recommended dose of vitamin D for babies, it’s always best to check with your child’s midwife or health visitor. Most babies need the standard dose, while others may need more, and some may need to supplement for longer than others.

FAQS AT A GLANCE

  • Most babies need vitamin D supplementation in the form of drops to prevent deficiency of this important nutrient. Breast milk and some formulas alone don’t provide enough vitamin D, so many babies need drops to reach the recommended daily intake of 8.5 to 10 micrograms.

  • Within the first year, your baby should receive a daily intake of 8.5 to 10 micrograms of Vitamin D drops daily.

    • Breastfed babies need a daily vitamin D supplement of 8.5 to 10 micrograms.
    • Formula fed babies will receive their recommended dose if they drink at least 500ml of fortified formula per day.
  • Babies who are deficient in vitamin D could develop rickets, a disease that causes soft and weak bones. Vitamin D drops for your baby are an easy way to administer the nutrient orally.

  • Taking too much vitamin D over a long period of time can lead to a calcium build up in the body, damaging the bones, kidneys and heart.

    Babies under 12 months should take no more than 25 micrograms per day. If in doubt, ask your child’s health visitor for advice.

The Bottom Line

Babies need adequate vitamin D to stay healthy, grow at the proper rate and build strong bones. Breast milk lacks enough vitamin D for babies, and babies may not be able to consume enough vitamin D fortified formula to reach the optimal amount of this nutrient. The best solution is to supplement with vitamin D drops, which are easy for you to administer and for your baby to swallow.

Although the daily recommended amount of vitamin D is 8.5 to 10 micrograms per day in your baby’s first year, every child is different. Talk to your health visitor to determine the amount of vitamin D supplement your little one needs.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.