I'm not exactly a rebel. I don't run through stoplights. I never double-dip. And if ever I so much as bend a rule, I’ll be the first to apologize.
When I started having kids, this didn’t really change. When I was in labor, I was apologizing to the nurses for being an inconvenience. And when I became a new mom, I was anxious to follow the doctor’s instructions as best as I could, even if I didn’t understand the reasoning behind them.
Of course, in a world of warring mommies, where everyone has differing opinions on everything from vaccines to diapers to whether or not I'm ruining my kids' lives by drinking coffee while breastfeeding, it's easy to get lost in a sea of rules; you need to have a strong backbone and a sense of self-confidence in your own intuition. I had to learn quickly, or drown in a sea of unmet expectations and tasks.
That is partially why I never gave my breastfed babies vitamin D, despite doctors' recommendations, and I am happy to report they turned out OK.
With my first child, the people pleaser in me really wanted to administer the daily dose of vitamin D drops my doctor recommended. I listened attentively when she told me that research by the AAP has led to the recommendation that all breastfed infants be given a daily dose of vitamin D. I put the supplement out on my kitchen counter with a pink Post-It outlining dosage instructions, and I made a valiant effort to give it to my baby when I fed her first thing in the morning.
But here's the thing: when you're a new mom, most days you feel victorious if you get your teeth brushed before 10 a.m. Keeping up with one more task felt really overwhelming, especially because I hated the process of using a syringe to squeeze the Vitamin D supplement into her mouth. I gave it to her consistently for a few weeks until one day, I forgot, which turned into two days, then three. Eventually I gave it up altogether.
At first, I felt guilty. I was worried that there might be long-term consequences to not giving my daughter her Vitamin D supplement. I obsessed that she might become permanently irritable or have soft bones or stop growing because I couldn’t get my act together enough to remember one simple task each day.
I have three children, so I've come to expect my doctor making suggestions that I don't feel are a good fit for my family. Every time she suggests I, say, let my babies cry it out, I smile and nod and then forget everything she said as soon as I walk out the door, because I have done enough research to know that those choices aren’t applicable to my own kids.
That said, motherhood can be incredibly time-consuming. When you're busy cutting grapes into microscopic pieces while alternating which side of his head your newborn is lying on, and your two-year-old just took off her clothes and peed on the floor again, it's hard to make time to give your kids daily vitamin D supplements — especially if you're not even sure they're doing anything for their health.
When you're a new mom, most days you feel victorious if you get your teeth brushed before 10 a.m. Keeping up with one more task felt really overwhelming.
Looking for some hope that I wasn’t totally ruining my daughter’s life, I did a little research. As it turns out, daily vitamin D only became standard protocol because babies weren’t spending time in the sun like they used to, due to moms either keeping their babies indoors or keeping them covered up to avoid the harmful effects that sun can have on their skin. Some experts believe that if an infant gets a small amount of sunlight each day without being overexposed to the sun, then their parents are probably OK with skipping the supplement altogether.
Now, I know that my experience is purely anecdotal, but time has shown that my kids are OK without extra vitamin D. We spend a lot of time outdoors and of course, I take the proper steps to protect them from the sun by placing them in the shade, dressing them in protective clothing or slathering them in lotion. I also allowed them to get about 15 minutes of sunshine when they were infants so they could get some vitamin D.
Obviously, I would never recommend that parents explicitly go against their doctors' orders, based on my own failure to keep up with daily vitamin D drops. But if you're freaking out that you’ve done permanent damage to your kid by forgetting Vitamin D supplements, don’t freak out. Instead talk to your doctor about the possibility of swapping out a supplement for some time in the sun or alternative methods for administering the vitamin that aren’t so hard to remember.