They grow so quickly.” We’ve heard it said and how true it is. The moment babies are born, they enter the fastest physical growth phase of their little lives—often doubling in size and weight by year one. This is where vitamin D comes in. It’s vital to baby’s healthy growth and development, helping little bodies absorb calcium needed for strong bones and teeth.* Vitamin D is also needed for brain development and the immune system.* It’s important to know that if vitamin D levels are low, babies are at risk of a D deficiency.* But the good news is, this can be prevented with appropriate vitamin D intake through supplements.
Risks of vitamin D deficiency in infants
Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is widespread —one in 10 U.S. children are estimated to be deficient — and that 60 percent of children may have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.*
Because babies with low vitamin D levels may not show symptoms for a long time, how do you know if your baby is getting enough? The experts weigh in:
Who is at risk?
Breastfed babies. While full of many nutrients, breastmilk does not contain an adequate amount of vitamin D. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a daily liquid supplement of 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D is required from birth.
Formula-fed infants. Until they receive 32 ounces of vitamin D fortified formula daily, they will need a supplement.
Babies with no exposure to sunlight. It’s a paradox—while sun is a major source of vitamin D, infants less than 6 months old must be protected from UV rays and should preferably be kept away from sunlight.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that "Use of deliberate sun exposure to maintain Vitamin D sufficiency is not recommended” and “infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible." 2
Darker-skinned babies. The melanin in darker skin blocks sunlight absorption—a key source of vitamin D production.
What can vitamin D deficiency cause?
Irritability and tiredness
Developmental delays or seizures
Cavities and problems with teeth structure
Rickets—a childhood condition of softening of the bones causing them to break easily. Rickets can cause a delay in crawling or walking
Overall poor growth
Should you consider a vitamin D supplement for your baby?
As always, talk to your pediatrician to see if vitamin D supplements are recommended for your baby. There are many products on the market today and it’s important to feel confident in your choice.
Vitamin D dosing guidelines
If you're breast-feeding or partially breast-feeding your baby, give your baby 400 international units (IU) of liquid vitamin D a day — starting soon after birth. Continue giving your baby vitamin D until you wean your baby and he or she drinks 32 ounces (about 1 liter) a day of vitamin D-fortified formula or, after age 12 months, whole cow's milk.
If you're feeding your baby less than 32 ounces (about 1 liter) a day of vitamin D-fortified formula, give your baby 400 IU of liquid vitamin D a day — starting in the first few days after birth. Continue giving your baby vitamin D until he or she drinks at least 32 ounces (about 1 liter) a day.
Carefully read the instructions that come with the supplement and use only the dropper that's provided.
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1. Balk SJ. the Council on Environmental Health, Section on Dermatology. Technical report–ultraviolet radiation: A hazard to children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011:2010–3502
2. Jindal AK, Gupta A, Vinay K, Bishnoi A. Sun Exposure in Children: Balancing the Benefits and Harms. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2020;11 (1):94-98. Published 2020 Jan 13. doi:10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_206_19
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