Does my baby need extra vitamin D while breastfeeding?

Does my baby need extra vitamin D? – Transcript

There’s often quite a lot of confusion around vitamin D and whether you as a breastfeeding mother need to take it, and whether your baby needs to take it. And Public Health England have recently updated recommendations in the UK in 2016 and they recommend that all adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a supplement of vitamin D of 10 micrograms. And this supplement is particularly important in the autumn and winter months. And if you’re at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency it would be important to think about taking that supplement all year round.

Healthy start maternal vitamins has a mixture of vitamins but it includes the 10 micrograms of vitamin D which pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can take. But Public Health England also recommend now that all breast fed babies from birth have a supplement eight point five to ten micrograms per day of vitamin D and from 2018 there will be a new product that will be available for that purpose.

I do need to point out however that the current healthy start supplement only contains seven point five micrograms and it’s licensed as a medicine from four weeks plus and not from birth. So seek out guidance from your local health visitor, your GP or pharmacist about this.

Breastfeeding mother sat in bed with babySo what is this vitamin D issue all about? We know that vitamin D is a really important vitamin in that it controls the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body and these are necessary for strong bones and teeth and muscles. But we know Vitamin D also has implications for various different parts of our bodies too and the functioning of systems. Although you can obtain vitamin D from foods like oily fish and red meat, egg yolks and fortified cereals as well and some other foods, but it isn’t enough to get all the vitamin D that you need. The real main source comes from the action of sunlight on our skin, and this is where the problem lies.

The truth is that the whole of the UK population and along with other northern hemisphere countries has a risk of low Vitamin D because of the lack of sunlight particularly in the autumn and winter months and also many of us live indoors quite a lot of the time. And this of course will be an issue for babies too. Even more so. We tend to cover babies so we don’t expose them to the sun very much – use sunscreens and stay indoors quite a lot.

And if you and your baby have darker skin it’s even less likely that the sunlight is going to be able to generate that amount of vitamin D that you need. It’s harder for that to happen. So you are at a higher risk. It’s also possible that as a breast feeding mother you are deficient in vitamin D. It might be that while you were pregnant you didn’t eat enough foods containing vitamin D, you didn’t get enough sunlight. If you didn’t take a supplement, you may be depleted and that in turn has effect on the stores of vitamin D in your baby’s body as well as vitamin D levels in your breastmilk.

newborn baby hand pointing with the fingerAnd because the primary source of vitamin D, other than some light comes from the stores that are laid down on your baby’s body prior to both as well as through the breast milk, and not knowing what your vitamin D status really was during pregnancy, Public Health England have recommended that that additional vitamin D is given to all breastfed babies from birth to cover everybody.

And just to reiterate those at risk groups do include pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well as breastfed babies from birth and babies and mothers who have darker skin. And it also includes those ladies who have a body mass index of over 30. And those who have gestational diabetes, for instance, and all of these at risk groups should consider taking a supplement all year round not just in the autumn and winter months.

I can understand that you may be asking why I haven’t mentioned babies who are having formula. And the truth is that formula has vitamin D added. So if your baby is having 500ml of formula per day then there isn’t a need for that added supplement. However it could be that you’re breastfeeding and offering your baby formula. If there’s less than 500ml being offered then that supplement is still necessary.

And so it really is necessary to understand that this vitamin D issue is about lack of sunlight in the UK, more than anything else, and the government has taken these added precautions to protect everybody.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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