Why your little one needs Vitamin D
Feeding your baby is easy in the early days: there’s only one item on the menu, either breast milk or formula. Then your tiny newborn grows and their food needs change. Once your baby is six months old, introducing them to food can be a real test—especially when it comes to making sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.
There are some guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to feeding your little one (don’t fret, they’re easy to follow!). Caroline Weeks, a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist, gave us some important food tips for your little one. Check out her video below.
There are some guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to feeding your little one (don’t fret, they’re easy to follow!). Caroline Weeks, a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist, gave us some important food tips for your little one.
Caroline’s first tip is all about vitamin D and why it’s important for your little bub.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that everyone needs for healthy growth and development. It comes from our food, the sun, or supplements (or a combination of the three). We tend to credit calcium for strong bones, but calcium couldn’t do its job without vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your little one absorb calcium and other supplements so they can get big and strong. Vitamin D supports muscle movement, assists the brain in sending messages to the body through the nerve network, and helps the immune system fight off microbes, like bacteria and viruses.
Lack of Vitamin D in Children
In cases where a child doesn’t get enough vitamin D, their bones become soft, brittle, and may even bend. This is a condition called rickets and happens when a child experiences prolonged vitamin D deficiency. By ensuring your baby gets enough vitamin D, you’re keeping their bones strong.
How Much Vitamin D Does a Baby Need?
Your baby needs vitamin D from the moment they’re born. They’ll either get it from formula or supplements (for breastfed babies). The recommended amount of vitamin D from birth to 12 months is 400 IU (international units) and for children age 1 to 13, it’s 600 IU.
More isn’t always better. With vitamin D supplements, make sure you don’t exceed the recommended amount as it can be harmful to your little buddy. Read through the instructions on the supplement bottle and talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.
Breast Milk and Vitamin D
Breast milk is rich in most of the nutrients your baby needs, however, it’s unlikely to provide enough vitamin D to hit your baby’s daily quota. Your doctor or midwife will explain that if you’re planning to breastfeed, you need to give your little one a vitamin D supplement. Make sure you pick up the supplement intended for babies; it comes in liquid form with a dropper, so you can give your little one their daily amount easily. It’s simple enough to get your little one to ingest the vitamin by either putting a drop in a bottle of breastmilk or on your nipple before they latch.
Vitamin D and Formula-Fed Babies
Formula these days is usually fortified with vitamin D (check the package label and you’ll see it listed). There’s enough vitamin D in the formula that if your baby consumes about 32 ounces of formula per day (or more), they’re getting all the vitamin D they need. In some instances, a supplement may be necessary if your little one eats less than 32 ounces of formula a day—if this is the case, contact your doctor to see how much additional vitamin D to give your little bub.
When to Stop Giving Vitamin D Supplements to Your Baby
You give your baby vitamin D supplements because they’re not getting the required amount they need from food. Once your baby is old enough to start eating solid foods you can help them meet their daily requirement with foods that contain vitamin D. You have to continue giving them vitamin D supplements until they can get enough of the vitamin from their diet, which is usually around twelve months old.
Foods with Vitamin D
In order for vitamin D to be absorbed properly, it needs to be consumed with fat. Some foods that contain vitamin D are:
Vitamin D from the Sun
Vitamin D doesn’t just come from food. When our skin is exposed to direct sunlight (through the window doesn’t count), we produce vitamin D. Many people meet some of their vitamin D needs this way.
Our little buddies (especially babies) shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight. Their sensitive skin needs to be covered up in protective clothing and sunscreen to keep them safe. Sorry, little friends, but your vitamin D should really come from your food at this stage in life.
Switching to solid foods has a bit of a learning curve, but as a parent, you always make sure your baby gets everything they need, including the right nutrients. If you want some more guidance on starting solids with your little one, Caroline Weeks, RDN, LD has an eBook available with more information on this topic.
Happy eating, everyone!