News & Perspectives

Infants and the Sunshine Vitamin
Breast milk contains a wide variety of nutrients and immune-bolstering components that help infants thrive. But if your child is getting breast milk alone, it may be wise to add the Vitamin D supplement according to a report from the Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina report that babies fed breast milk exclusively may not be getting enough of the vitamin, putting them at risk for a bone-weakening condition called rickets. Doctors have noted a resurgence of rickets in recent years, corresponding to the growing popularity of breast-feeding. Fewer mothers now use infant formulas, which are fortified with extra vitamin D.

The body makes vitamin D sometimes called "the sunshine vitamin," when exposed to bright sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones.

An earlier trial in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that vitamin D may also provide a head start on preventing osteoporosis later in life. Girls aged seven to nine who were given extra vitamin D during their first year had denser bones than those who did not receive the vitamin.

Let the Sunshine In

Most babies get enough vitamin D from spending a little time out-of-doors. If your baby is fair-skinned, 15 minutes of sunshine a week should be adequate. Darker-skinned babies need a bit more sun. If you can't get outdoors with your child or your baby relies exclusively on breat milk, vitamin D may be called for. The vitamin comes in easy-to-use drops. Discuss proper dosages with your pediatrician: too much of the supplement can be hazardous.

Date Published: 06/27/2002
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