Breast milk can provide the best nutrients for the baby to prevent infections and cut the risk of future chronic diseases, like diabetes and obesity. However, due to the lack of exposure to sunlight and the nature of vitamin D concentration in human milk, children in exclusive breastfeeding have a higher possibility of being vitamin D deficiency.
Human gets vitamin D from sunlight and food. Vitamin D is vital for infants especially in the process of fast bone growth. Sufficient amount of vitamin D in blood helps the body absorb and use calcium from food, which builds up the bones. Though rare in US, children in severe deficient of vitamin D may develop rickets, in which children get soften bone and skeletal misshape such as bowed legs.
Due to the northern latitude of New England, our exposure to sunlight is limited, especially in winter when the day time is short. Even for those in lower latitude, if you don’t usually bring your baby outside, he or she still can’t get the vitamin D from sunlight. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends a daily intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day for all infants. Since human milk’s concentration of vitamin D is less than 25 IU per liter, so infants who are exclusively breastfed need to get the compensation from vitamin D supplement drop.
Take home messages for parents and caregivers:
1. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, make sure he or she gets vitamin D from supplement;
2. Go outside with your baby to get some sunlight and touch the nature;
3. Both parents and babies need vitamin D to keep healthy!