Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium efficiently so that it can grow and maintain strong bones and teeth. Too little vitamin D can lead to decreased levels of calcium and phosphorus, which can cause rickets in children. Too much can cause an overload of calcium to be deposited into the body, resulting in calcification of the kidneys and other soft tissues over time.
Our bodies are meant to get most of the vitamin D we need from the sun. But caution around too much sun exposure, urban living and having darker skin can contribute to vitamin D deficiency in many people.
How many International Units of vitamin D does Health Canada recommend daily for babies? newborn to six months – 400 to 1,000 seven to 12 months – 400 to 1,500 one to three years – 600 to 2,500
How do babies get vitamin D? Besides through sun exposure, babies get vitamin D through what they eat. Breast milk does not contain enough vitamin D to compensate for lack of sunlight, so Health Canada recommends “all breastfed, healthy term babies receive a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU, beginning at birth and continuing until one year of age.” This does not apply to babies who are fed formula, since it is vitamin D-fortified.
Can I increase the vitamin D in my breast milk? Several studies show that increasing vitamin D levels in moms, through sun exposure or supplements, increased levels of vitamin D in their breast milk.
What A Difference a 'D' Makes
Vitamin D works with calcium to improve bone health. You get it primarily through exposure to the sun (hence the “sunshine vitamin” nickname). But a new Canadian study suggests that vitamin D also lowers children’s risk of developing cavities. Dr. Robert Schroth of the University of Manitoba’s College of Dentistry says it’s believed that vitamin D introduces cavity-fighting antimicrobial peptides, such as defensins and cathelicidins.
“Achieving the minimum recommended vitamin D levels of 50 nanomoles/L makes a big difference in reducing risk of cavities (by 47 percent),” he says, noting that reduction of risk of cavities is less (39 percent) with higher levels of vitamin D (≥ 75 nm/L). Dr. Schroth adds it’s important for kids who don’t or can’t drink milk (which is fortified with vitamin D) to take a vitamin D supplement.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April/May 2016.