Why Breastfed Babies Require Vitamin D Supplementsby Sabrina Hackett-Saikul
Humans of all ages need Vitamin D in their bodies for a variety of reasons, but this important Vitamin is very difficult to acquire. You can absorb Vitamin D by eating fortified foods such as Cereals, Orange Juice, some fortified Dairy Products, Soy Products and Alternative Milks, as well as some Fatty Fish such as Tuna, Salmon and Mackerel. Other ways to eat Vitamin D are Cheeses, Egg Yolks and Red Meats but especially Liver.
But if you cannot always eat some of these products due to your age, your lifestyle or food allergies, there are other ways to absorb Vitamin D, one of which is to spend some time in natural sunlight. But you must be aware of the amount of time you stay in the sun and wear a protective cream with SPF even in the winter. Alternatively, and as many Doctors now recommend, you can take a supplement.
Vitamin D is needed in humans to help the body to absorb calcium and phosphate from the food that we eat. Without these important minerals our bones, muscles and teeth can suffer the consequences. Severe lack of Vitamin D can result in bone softening known as Rickets in children, or loss of bone density in adults which can easily cause fractures to occur or even osteoporosis.
So why do breastfed babies need Vitamin D more? It's because the recommended daily amount to avoid something like bone softening is not achievable simply through breastfeeding. A supplement is advised to all women who are planning to breastfeed their baby (you should be told about this either toward the end of your pregnancy or shortly after the birth if you express the desire to breastfeed your baby immediately whilst in hospital. Usually, a breastfeeding coordinator and midwife will advise you after the birth of your child when they help you with the latch and feeding positions, make sure you ask them questions if you are due soon).
To quote the NHS website here in the United Kingdom, they state that “People at high risk of not getting enough Vitamin D are all children aged 1 to 4 and all babies (unless they’re having more than 500ml of infant formula a day) should take a daily supplement throughout the year. Every person of all ages (in the UK) should consider taking a Vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter.”
When my son was born he had several health issues including Jaundice which led to us being under the care of a paediatrician. It was here that I discussed my wanting to exclusively breastfeed for at least one year and onward if it were possible for us. I was informed that I should give my son a Vitamin D droplet for every day that he is exclusively breastfed. I did this every day and as we continued breastfeeding into his second and then third year of life, I was ensuring he got what he needed from myself and also a multivitamin liquid.
It is a little different for parents who choose to combination feed (a mixture of expressed breast milk and top-ups of formula) and they don’t need to worry about this as much, that is providing their baby drinks 32 ounces of formula a day. This is because formula is fortified with vitamins such as D. If a child is Breastfed and Formula-fed the parents should discuss with their GP to see if they do need to provide an additional amount of Vitamin D, it depends on how much of each milk they are consuming.
Vitamin D is so important, along with lots of other vitamins that humans require daily, however it does pass from mother to baby in her breast milk, but the amounts vary upon a person’s own health and diet. So it is essential that parents consider giving their breastfed baby the Vitamin D droplet from birth. Mothers should also consider taking a Multivitamin designed for breastfeeding to top up their own Vitamin and mineral reserves.
I personally took Pregnacare Breastfeeding Vitamin Supplements since my son was born, and my son had a Vitamin D droplet once a day at the start of a morning feed. He is now three years old and since he turned twelve months old I gave him the next liquid up in the range. It is called Well-baby Multivitamin Liquid which is designed for ages 6 months to 4 years. This ensures that along with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables his body gets what he needs on a daily basis. There are lots of brands out there but I trust the Vitabiotics range.
Breastfeeding contributes to energy requirements, protein requirements, calcium requirements, Vitamin requirements and folate requirements. A mother’s breast milk also changes its properties to create what baby needs at that time, be it for growth, illness and even sleep, the human body is amazing, and if we give it all of the minerals and nutrients that it needs it shall help us to sustain the next generation of humans to come.
If you have any concerns about your baby or you were not aware of the need for a Vitamin D supplement for your little one, then please contact your Health Visitor or GP to ask for their advice.