Vitamin D is important for healthy bone growth and to prevent certain diseases. It helps lay down calcium in your bones and control calcium levels in your body. Babies must get enough vitamin D in the first year of life when there is rapid bone growth. Babies with very low vitamin D levels can develop rickets – a disease where the bones become soft and weak. Children with rickets have bowed legs and arms as well as other bony changes. Adults with low vitamin D levels can also develop weak bones. Vitamin D may also have a role in preventing some chronic (long-term) illnesses.
Vitamin D comes from the reaction of sunlight on your skin during the spring and summer months. However, you should not expose babies under six months of age to the sun, in an attempt to boost their vitamin D levels or for any other reason, because their new skin can burn easily. Furthermore, babies will not be eating the vitamin D rich foods (oily fish-salmon, mackerel, sardines; whole eggs, liver and some fortified milks and breakfast cereals) in large enough amounts to meet their needs for vitamin D during the first year of life.
For these reasons, all babies, both breastfed and formula fed, should be given vitamin D drops containing 200 IU (5 μg) of vitamin D from the first week of life until they are at least 12 months old. Once your baby is over 12 months you should offer them a variety of foods and drinks containing vitamin D or continue giving them vitamin D drops.
Vitamin D drops for infants are available at most pharmacies. Remember, it is as harmful to take too much of any vitamin as it is to not take enough. Always read the instructions before using any supplements. If you have any questions please ask your doctor, midwife, public health nurse, dietitian or pharmacist.
The names and doses of vitamin D drops available in your local pharmacy are listed in the table below. For the most up to date information on vitamin D, please see the HSE website: http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/child/vitaminD/
More information on feeding your baby can be found on this website: www.indi.ie/fact-sheets/fact-sheets-on-nutrition-for-babies-children.html
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