While breast milk is the most nutritious and complete source of nutrients for a baby, it is usually lacking in one vitamin that many babies need for growth and development. Breast milk does not give babies ample vitamin D. If mom is not supplementing with formula a tall, babies should receive vitamin D supplementation from another source.
Vitamin D from Sunlight
Most physicians suggest that babies get some vitamin D from natural sunlight . Since babies have sensitive skin, however, it is not recommended that they be exposed to sun for long periods of time. Moms should expose baby to sunlight without sunscreen and wearing only a diaper. This should be for no more than 30 minutes per week or 5 minutes per day. If baby is fully clothed, exposure should be increased to about 2 hours per week or20 minutes per day. Families that reside in a cold climate or prefer to supplement vitamin D in addition to sunlight can add Polyvisol orTrivisol to the baby's diet. These are liquid vitamins commonly sold at drug stores and grocery stores.
Vitamin D from Daily Diet
VitaminD is also found in many foods. Since infants and babies do not eat solids until 4-6 months of age, however, this is usually only an option for the mother's vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is found in fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, cereals and yogurt. Some fatty fish,including salmon, tuna, herring and sardines, also have vitamin D and fish oils. Cheese, egg yolks, margarine and liver are also good sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency differs amongst ethnicities and populations living in colder regions. Moms and babies that have darker skin or moms deficient in vitamin D will need additional supplementation themselves. Since some vitamin D will travel through the breast milk,the amount the baby is getting from mom depends on mom's diet.
Vitamin D supplementation is also recommended more so for those living in colder regions or in northern areas such as Canada and Alaska. These regions don't receive much sunlight during the year making it difficult for mom and baby to get sufficient vitamin D.
If you are not sure whether your child needs additional vitamin D supplementation, you can get him or her tested. Babies can get blood test to determine the vitamin D in their system as can mom in hers.
US Recommendations for Vitamin D Intake
In the US, the recommended intake of vitamin D for babies and lactating mothers is 200 IU (5 micrograms) per day, the same as for anyone else under the age of 50. Infants 0-12 months should not exceed 1,000 IU (25 µg) per day. Anyone aged1-50 years should not exceed 2,000 IU (50 µg) per day.
In an April 7, 2003 Policy Statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that "all infants,including those who are exclusively breastfed, have a minimum intake of200 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day beginning during the first two months of life since adequate sunlight exposure is not easily determined for a given individual."