As if new and prospective mothers didn't have enough research to comb through to justify how they choose to feed their infant, a new study has found that breastfed babies need more vitamin D than many of them are getting. Before you start your pros and cons list about formula and breastfeeding all over again into the wee hours of the night, remember that this is nothing totally new. Most health officials have already recommended that mothers who breastfeed give their infants vitamin D supplements since breast milk on its own doesn't provide enough of the essential vitamin. This study was more about seeing how those recommendations play out in real life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends that breastfeeding mothers give their breastfed child drops of 400 IU vitamin D or take vitamin D supplements themselves (anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 IU daily) to ensure that babies are getting enough of the vitamin that, at least in the early days, ensures healthy bone development.
The new study looked at 184 breastfeeding mothers, which included 44 women who also added formula to the feeding schedule, and found that most infants had a vitamin D deficiency. Just over half of the mothers put vitamin D drops into their breast milk and of those, only 44 percent knew to add the recommended 400 IU. Then again, when it comes to breastfeeding, human error is to be expected at some point.
Many infants can get vitamin D from exposure to natural sunlight, but that's not always the easiest option, especially since many pediatricians don't advise direct sunlight for infants during their first six months. I know — another thing to worry about.
Long story short: This most recent research about breast milk and vitamin D really just revealed that there's not enough education when it comes to what kinds of supplements an infant needs.
Senior study author Dr. Tom Thacher, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota said in a statement, “Many mothers were not aware of the need for vitamin D supplementation or their physician had not recommended supplementation." This is a no-judgement zone, so let's all just agree that it's hard to remember (or administer) vitamin D when there are so many more pressing issues at hand.
But it's not necessarily the doctors' fault. A lot of moms are doing their own research when it comes to breast milk and missing the importance of vitamin D, the study authors say. Thatcher told Reuters that other moms "believed that breast milk had all the needed nutrition, and some mentioned the inconvenience of giving a supplement or their poor experience of giving a supplement to previous children."
Many of the mothers in their study cited health concerns when it came to giving supplements, while some said they believed that they were getting enough vitamin D on their own to provide for their breastfed child.
So don't freak out or scratch your plans to breastfeed just yet. Just make sure to talk to your doctor about vitamin D when it comes to your own health and your infant ahead of time, and you should be just fine.