Vitamin D is one of those things most people don't think about until they're pregnant or breastfeeding. When I went to my first doctor appointment, they found out that my vitamin D levels were incredibly low and told me to start taking supplements. It helped in more ways than one (hello, energy), but it turns out, babies need vitamin D, too. Although breast milk is packed with nutrients, a lot of information has been shared about vitamin supplements for your baby. So should you give your baby vitamin D if you're breastfeeding, or does your milk provide everything they need?
"For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended babies be supplemented with vitamin D at 400 IU per day," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kristin Gourley of Lactation Link tells Romper, explaining this this is due to low levels in maternal milk. Gourley adds that this supplement was put in place in order to prevent things like rickets, which is the softening and weakening of bones. The Mayo Clinic noted that vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus and while natural vitamin D, like the kind your baby soaks up from the sun, can work, it's not recommended for babies younger than 6 months old.
But why is breast milk so low in vitamin D?
Gourley says it's probably because people don't get as much natural vitamin D as their ancestors. "Breast milk may be low in vitamin D due to maternal vitamin D levels being low," she says. "This is likely the case at this time because we do not go outside as much or are in the sun as much as our primitive ancestors."
In short? Your baby could probably benefit from a vitamin D supplement. But if you're worried about giving them some kind of supplement, it might be easier for you to increase your own vitamin D levels. According to Gourley, a study was released in 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics on vitamin D supplements for breastfeeding moms and how it could affect babies. According to the study, if moms are supplemented with 6400 IU of vitamin D, it can raise the levels of vitamin D in their breast milk enough that a baby would not need supplementation — your breast milk would provide all they need.
According to Kelly Mom, babies who need supplementation need them because they aren't getting enough sunlight, like babies who live in an area with little exposure to sun, babies and mothers who have darker skin and require more sun exposure than others, as well as babies of mothers who have a vitamin D deficiency. But like babies, Kelly Mom noted that the best way for moms to increase their vitamin D is to head out into the sun. If your vitamin D levels are sufficient, then your breast milk is, too.
If you're concerned about your own vitamin D levels and/or your baby's, talk to your doctor and your little one's pediatrician to find out how you can best supplement.