Courtesy of Cat Bowen

How Much Time Should Babies Spend Outside For Vitamin D? It Depends

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If you live anywhere north of Los Angeles, getting sun in the winter is akin to filling up a barrel shot full of holes — it's really difficult to do as there just isn't a lot of light to go around. This is quite the pickle because our bodies rely on the sun to synthesize vitamin D in our systems, unless we're trying to get rickets or various cardiovascular diseases. Conversely, too much time in the sun is also dangerous. There's a sweet spot, but what is it? How much time should babies spend outside for vitamin D to reach adequate levels?

The thing about vitamin D synthesis is that if you live in a northern city like most of the continental United States, getting enough sunlight to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D in your blood is almost impossible if you weren't in the sun during spring and summer, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Your body lives on what it produces in warmer months all throughout the colder months. The AAP suggests the use of vitamin D supplementation for all breastfed babies, and vitamin D-fortified formula for all other babies. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, babies and children should be exposed to sunlight during the summer for about 10 minutes per day before getting sunscreen protection or heading inside. However, most of the data is skewed towards white children. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that African American children and adults living in North America cannot get enough vitamin D from the sun, and require supplementation always.

And honestly, there are so few studies on Asian Americans or Europeans and vitamin D, but Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Diseases found that it was much the same for darker-skinned Asian children as is the case for African American children.

A big problem with vitamin D research is that it, like most everything in American history, is so racially biased that it takes hours of research just to find the answers. The top searches in the scholarly literature either bring you to studies that only explore how white kids take in vitamin D, or how brown-skinned people take in vitamin D in Africa or Asia — not in the diaspora. But for white people? No matter if they're in North America or our native Europe, they are always going to wonder about vitamin D because we are from the north, and since we're no longer running around nearly naked all summer with no SPF, it's become a concern.

When it comes to African American and Asian children and their parents who wonder how much time babies should spend outside, the research isn't there in any decent quantity. Darker skinned people have a much harder time synthesizing the vitamin, so there should be more research, but there's less. Shocking no one. The paucity of research on the subject of brown skinned babies and vitamin D is reprehensible. There is some, as I stated, but compared to the data for people like me? Angrily threadbare.

However, for all babies, the AAP suggests babies get at least 400 international units per day of a vitamin D supplement. This should go a long way in combating any ill effects of a vitamin D deficiency. For kids over one year, they advised a dosage of 600 international units or more per day. My kids take a vitamin D gummy. They're shaped like dinosaurs. The kids love them, so remember to keep them out of reach so you don't risk a megadose when they want candy.

Other sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, tofu, milk, cheese, breakfast cereal, and the ever delicious shiitake mushrooms. Just make sure you're getting all you can, and taking your kids out in the summer. Other than that? Target has great deals on supplements.

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