Vitamin D helps our bodies use calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Low levels of vitamin D in babies/children can cause rickets which can result in weak bones, delayed walking, bowed legs, and swollen wrists or ankles. If untreated, rickets can lead to failure to grow, deformed or broken bones, pneumonia, and seizures.
Sources of vitamin D
Our skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun — the reason vitamin D is called the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
However, babies can’t safely get the vitamin D they need from the sun. Their skin is very sensitive and should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Breast milk is the ideal food for your baby, but it is not a good source of vitamin D.
Babies at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency
- Babies who are breastfed and have naturally dark skin may become vitamin D deficient
- Babies whose mothers are low in vitamin D may be vitamin D deficient
- Babies whose one or more siblings have had rickets or seizures resulting from low blood calcium levels are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency
- Babies who are born preterm with low body weight may be vitamin D deficient
- Babies who are breastfed over winter months in cold regions may also be vitamin D deficient by late winter/spring
Supplements for babies at risk
If your baby is at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor who can prescribe a vitamin D supplement that comes in drops. Drops can either be put on your nipple before your baby latches on or, given directly into your baby’s mouth with a dropper.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (1 July 2020)