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What is the Importance of Vitamin D for Babies?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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Vitamin D for babies is often recommended by pediatricians and nutrition advocates because the vitamin is important in aiding the baby’s bone development and can allegedly protect the baby from diseases. While adults generally make their own vitamin D after exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays, babies get relatively low levels of sunlight, which are insufficient for producing vitamin D. Many studies show that between 5 and 15 percent of children between the ages of one month and two years lack sufficient vitamin D. Such statistics strengthen advocates’ cries for vitamin D supplementation or milk formulas fortified with vitamin D for babies.

Diseases staved off by vitamin D include cancer and diabetes. Heart problems later in life are thought to be reduced by sufficient vitamin D during the infant stage of life as well. Autoimmune illnesses and abnormal physical development can be prevented in children by ample amounts of vitamin D, according to some studies.

Many parents might consider daily sunshine to remedy low levels of vitamin D for babies. Doctors, however, typically warn against exposing babies less than six months of age to the sun. Whenever babies of any age are exposed, doctors recommend the use of sunscreen and protective garments, thus making effective natural production of vitamin D for babies unlikely.

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Lactating mothers who take vitamin tablets with vitamin D or who naturally make the vitamin by basking regularly in the sun can sometimes produce enough vitamin D for babies in their breast milk. Conflicting studies exist, however, over whether or not the amounts of the nutrient in breast milk are enough. Some research suggests breast milk is superior in all ways, while a greater quantity of research suggests that vitamin D is more plentiful in commercial baby milk formulas. Babies whose diets are anchored primarily on formula allegedly get 7 to 15 percent more vitamin D than babies who are breast-fed. A liter of formula a day reportedly can provide the recommended daily amount of vitamin D babies require.

Nutritionists often advise mothers who do not want to switch to formula over breast milk to boost the sources of vitamin D in their own diets so that breast milk can provide sufficient levels of daily vitamin D for their nursing babies. They caution that most pre-natal vitamins do not have enough of this nutrient. Vitamin D sources for breast-feeding moms include eggs, fish, and cow’s milk fortified with vitamin D. Lactating moms, according to doctors, should not only take vitamin D supplements for themselves, but should also give their babies special vitamin D supplements with at least a daily amount of 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D.

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