Moms – Are Your Babies at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?

You cannot read anything these days without a mention of Vitamin D. Estimates show that 12% of our youngest children may be Vitamin D deficient, while another 28% are at risk, according to the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Breast-feeding without extra Vitamin D supplementation is thought to be a contributing factor. Mother’s milk lacks sufficient Vitamin D, making it common for doctors to recommend vitamin D supplements for breast-fed infants. The problem is worsened by the use of sunscreens, necessary for skin cancer prevention. Toddlers who do not drink enough Vitamin D fortified milk are also at risk. Few foods supply Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for calcium absorption and strong bones, immune function, and prevention of certain types of cancer.

The findings come from a study of 380 children, age 8 to 24 months, who were found to have low bone density and clinically low levels of serum vitamin D, though standards are not well defined. The current study authors previously found high incidences of vitamin D deficiency in teens, making them curious about the levels in younger children. Study author Dr. Catherine Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children's Hospital in Boston, recommends vitamin D supplements for breast-feeding infants and lactating mothers. She also recommends a multivitamin containing vitamin D for older children. However, Dr. James Taylor, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, said, “I think that more research is needed before routine vitamin D supplementation is recommended for all children," in an editorial comment regarding the study.

Remember that it’s important for everyone to get a bit of sunshine, no matter what time of year. Infants and toddlers can avoid vitamin D deficiency by drinking fortified milk. Dr. Gordon also adds that mothers who are breast-feeding often need vitamin D supplements as well. Consider the importance of Vitamin D when making nutritional and recreational choices for your family.