The One Nutrient You Need To Supplement Your Breastfed Baby
- May 29, 2019
While breastmilk is the best choice for babies, there is one nutrient that breast milk may not be supplying baby with enough quantities. Vitamin D is an important vitamin, and unfortunately most mothers do not produce breastmilk that provide enough of this nutrient to give baby what she needs. The great news is that Vitamin D supplements for breastfed babies are readily available.
WHY DOES BABY NEED VITAMIN D?
Vitamin D is needed to support healthy bone development and growth, and to prevent rickets, a condition that causes soft, weak, or deformed bones. Children who don’t have enough Vitamin D may develop soft skulls and bowed legs. Although Vitamin D deficiency in babies is rare, it’s prevalence is on the rise (2, 3). It is something that moms should stay ahead of by supplying her baby with enough Vitamin D starting on day 1 of birth.
Vitamin D can be taken in through foods or supplementation, or it can be converted through skin from direct sunlight. This is why going for those long strolls with your baby isn’t only good for your mental-sanity, but it is a healthy way to expose her (and you!) to some natural Vitamin D through sunlight! Even if mom took supplemental Vitamin D while she was pregnant, baby still needs to be supplied with this nutrient while she is breastfeeding.
Some risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency include:
Living close to the polar regions of the earth (like the Northeast) during winter months, when sun exposure is limited
Living somewhere with a lot of skyscrapers, which block direct sunlight
Using sunscreen, which blocks the sun rays from the skin and therefore limits the ability to convert active Vitamin D
Darker skin tones
Limited outdoor time
Consistently wearing clothes or being covered with a blanket that cover the majority of skin while outside
Note that supplementation is not needed with most infant formulas unless your doctor specifically orders it for your baby. Formula is already fortified with adequate Vitamin D, so adding more supplementation is not recommended in general.
WHAT SHOULD A PARENT LOOK FOR WHEN CONSIDERING VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTATION FOR BABY?
Vitamin D supplements are readily available at the drugstore, online, and even in some lactation clinics. Many share similar characteristics, but some are better choices than others. Below is some guidance for selecting the best Vitamin D supplement for your baby:
Ensure the Vitamin D supplement provides baby with 40 IU Vitamin D (4). She should not be supplemented with less than this unless your health care provider suggests otherwise
Ensure the Vitamin D supplement is made with a version of the vitamin called cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is the preferred version of this vitamin for humans. You may find supplements that provide Vitamin D2 and may not be the best choice for your baby’s needs.
Choose an option that is organic, non-GMO, and does not contain no synthetic ingredients or preservatives. Some vitamin D drops will be made with a type of oil. This is generally safe and will not trigger any allergic reaction since allergies are triggered by proteins and not by fats. Conversely, choosing a Vitamin D powder that can be mixed with breastmilk will ensure that no unnecessary ingredients are being provided to your baby.
Choose an option that is third-party verified and tested, and preferably manufactured in the USA
Consider a supplement that offers more features and benefits for your baby, like the addition of live probiotics.