During medical school, I learned that babies require vitamin D supplementation for healthy bone development. However, other than bone health I was unaware of what the other benefits of vitamin D were until I had Madi. 

Postpartum, I wanted to understand why vitamin D was so important and why pediatricians recommended it. The information I found was on the Canadian Paediatric Society’s position statement on vitamin D for moms and babies published in October 2007.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D is most well known for bone health, but more research is showing that it has multiple other functions. We need it for the cells in our body to work properly. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, asthma and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes. There is still much more to discover about vitamin D.  Investigating the reasoning behind the recommendation made me more diligent in remembering to give it to both of my children.

Who needs vitamin D?

Vitamin D can be obtained through the sunlight, foods and supplementation. The amount of vitamin D in breast milk varies depends on the vitamin D status of the mother. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends breastfed babies receive 400 International Units (IU) daily. However, babies in northern communities or who have other risk factors (such as dark skin) should get 800 International Units per day between October and April, when there is less sunlight.

Infant formula is fortified with vitamin D.  Ask your physician if you should give additional supplementation to your baby. Vitamin D supplementation should continue into childhood and adulthood. The recommended dose is 400IU, some people may need more.

How do you give vitamin D?

Vitamin D can be supplemented to babies via liquid vitamin D drops.  Liquid vitamin D comes in many different concentrations – pay close attention to labels and ask your pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.  I recommend vitamin D 400 International Units per DROP, especially for young babies.

Vitamin D drops can be administered directly into the mouth or they can be dropped onto things that the baby puts in their mouth, such as a pacifier, bottle, or breast. The easiest method for me was to wash my hands thoroughly and put the drops on my finger to pop them into Madi’s mouth when she was a baby. 

Remembering to administer the drops everyday was another issue I faced. I found that the easiest way for me to remember was to put the bottle next to the rocking chair where I sat to breastfeed her. Putting the drops where you can see them is helpful, as well as incorporating the drops into a routine by giving them at the same time each day (e.g. during the first feed of the day).

Now that Madi is older, I give her vitamin D gummies. She loves gummy’s so even if I forget in the morning she always reminds me!

This post was co-authored by  Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.

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