Vitamin D for Breastfed Babies: Why and How Much Do They Need?

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that everyone needs, but is your baby getting enough? Learn why Vitamin D is important, how much your little one needs, and more.

All people need vitamin D, but it’s especially important for babies. Your little one needs it to flourish, develop healthy bones and teeth, and prevent the risk of diseases like rickets – a condition that causes weak or deformed bones. While sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, the American Academy of Pediatrics feels strongly that children should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible and wear sunscreen while in the sun. While breast milk is rich in nutrients and vitamins, it likely doesn’t contain enough vitamin D for your baby’s evolving needs. So, what’s a new mama like yourself to do?

Why Vitamin D is Important for Breastfed Babies

You likely already know that vitamin D is critical to your baby’s growth and development. Other factors that could put your breastfed baby at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Living at high altitudes, especially during the winter
  • Darker skin tones
  • Unhealthy levels of air pollution
  • Living in an area with dense cloud cover
  • Spending a lot of time indoors

To ensure your baby receives an adequate amount of vitamin D, you may want to talk with your pediatrician about vitamin D supplements to see if those are right for your situation and growing little one.

How Much Vitamin D Does a Baby Need?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully and partially breastfed babies should receive 400 IU of vitamin D per day, starting in the first few days after birth and continuing up to 12 months. If your little one is between 12 and 24 months of age, health experts recommend that they receive 600 IU of vitamin D each day. 

It’s important to speak with your pediatrician to determine the proper amount that you should give your baby, with consideration for your unique situation, and to discuss any concerns you may have with a healthcare professional to decide upon the best - and healthiest - resolution for him or her!

How Do Babies Get Vitamin D?

Don’t stress, mama! One positive thing to know is that your baby does receive some vitamin D from your breast milk, as well as from limited exposure to sunlight. However, there’s no way to know for sure that they’re receiving an adequate amount for their growing needs. While taking a vitamin D supplement yourself can provide a lot of benefits for you personally, there just isn’t enough evidence to support or prove that sufficient amounts of vitamin D you ingest will pass through your breast milk to your little one.

Vitamin D Deficiency in Babies

Vitamin D deficiency in breastfed babies can be serious if left unaddressed and, in some cases, lead to things like:

  • Increased risk of developing Rickets
  • Bowed legs as baby grows
  • Crawling and walking delays
  • Soft skull
  • Aches and pains
  • Fractures
  • Tooth decay
  • Poor growth
  • Respiratory problems
  • Irritability

Vitamin D is also crucial to maintaining your baby’s developing immune system by regulating infection and inflammatory pathways – So, it’s safe to say that it’s pretty important to your growing little one!

We get it, mama. As a new parent, it can seem like there’s an endless list of things to worry about. From making sure that your baby is eating enough, growing enough, sleeping enough, and more, we understand that you want to do everything you can to support the health and development of your little one. Talking to your pediatrician about vitamin D supplements for your baby will do just that. Together, you and your doctor can discuss vitamin D supplementation and what that looks like for your baby to address any questions or concerns.

Finally, mama, remember that just because breast milk alone may not give baby enough vitamin D for their needs doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. The fact that you’ve chosen to breastfeed your precious baby demonstrates how much you care about their health, wellness, and ensuring they start strong with the best possible nutrition. It’s rare, but sometimes even Mother Nature needs a little help!

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