baby news

Is it right that breastfed babies need Vitamin D?

Understanding the importance of Vitamin D for your little one

What you need to know about babies and Vitamin D

Why do breastfed babies need a Vitamin D supplement, but bottle-fed babies only need it when they have less than 500ml of infant formula a day?

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The simple fact is that nowadays the whole UK population is at risk of having low Vitamin D levels and are therefore recommended to take a Vitamin D supplement.  This is because from September to April none of us tend to get enough Vitamin D from sunlight, which is the body’s usual way of creating Vitamin D (from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors).

If a breastfeeding mother takes a vitamin D supplement, why does her baby also need to take vitamin D?

Researchers have looked at this very question and here are their findings:[1]

Mothers who took vitamin D supplements at typical doses of 10mcg or 400 IU per day while breastfeeding do not seem to pass enough active vitamin D metabolite in their breastmilk. Past studies show that breastmilk of normal healthy mothers contains only 5-80 IU/L. But a baby needs 400 IU per day!

Researchers found that a dose of 160mcg (or 6400 IU) per day for mum would provide enough circulating vitamin D to be able to supply her baby with the required amount. Yet, this dose is much higher than recommended, so as a precaution, health authorities recommend a daily vitamin D supplement for breastfed infants from birth. In addition, breastfeeding mums should also take vitamin supplements to ensure that they remain healthy.

[1] Hollis, B., et al. Maternal Versus Infant Vitamin D Supplementation During Lactation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 2015;136;625 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-1669

And why is Vitamin D important?

It’s simple science – Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
As it’s difficult for us to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D during the autumn and winter. Vitamin D levels are important at all ages, but particularly through stages of rapid growth – such as during pregnancy, infancy and childhood.  During these critical life stages, regardless of the time of year, a daily vitamin D supplement is recommended.
All children aged 1-4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D, yet in the case of newborn and young babies, the recommendations are a little bit different.  
This is because artificial milk (infant formula) has Vitamin D already added to it, which is why the Department of Health recommends that until a baby is having less than 500ml of infant formula a day, they don’t need a daily supplement.
The reason it’s recommended for breastfed babies from birth is as a precautionary measure. This is because a newborn baby’s Vitamin D level will depend on their mother’s Vitamin D status, as the amount of Vitamin D in their mother’s breastmilk relies on her Vitamin D intake and Vitamin D stores. Therefore, as a precaution and for added protection, it is now suggested that breastfed babies be given an additional 8.5-10mcg Vitamin D supplementation per day, as well as their mothers.  
It’s not because there is a ‘problem’ with breastmilk. Indeed, it’s well recognised and evidenced that breastfeeding has a positive impact on the short, medium and long-term health of children and an important and lasting impact on women’s health. 
Infant formula is not superior to breastmilk because supplementation is not required – it’s simply a case of that the infant formula already has Vitamin D added meaning that further supplementation is not needed (until baby has less than 500ml of infant formula a day, from which point they will need a daily Vitamin D supplement).

Why does breast milk not have enough vitamin D?

With more research about breastmilk, multiple studies show that breast milk of today’s modern women usually lacks the amount of vitamin D required by a growing baby.[i], [ii] Many believe that this is not specifically a problem with breastmilk, but more of a reflection of the way we live in a modern world. 

[i] Food and Nutrition Board. Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2010
[ii] World Health Organization. Nutrient Adquacy of Exclusive Breastfeeding for the Term Infant During the First Six Months of Life. 2002.

What Ddrops® are available?

There are several vitamin D products available, including Baby Ddrops®, an easy one drop administration developed for infants and children, which is a purified vitamin D3 supplement for babies, specifically designed for breastfed infants in the UK. Ddrops® One is suitable for all children over the age of 6 months, as well as teens and adults, with a daily 10 µg per drop dose and is designed to match the UK vitamin D recommended dose dose for everyone. There is also Ddrops® for adults with a need for higher doses of liquid vitamin D, without the need to swallow vitamin D pills or capsules. This Ddrops® vitamin D drops product provides an easy way to get 25 µg of vitamin D3 in just one drop, without any chemicals or additives.

Is it right that breastfed babies need Vitamin D?