Building Blocks Series – Vitamin D for babies
Vitamin D is needed for bone growth, development, and strength as well as for regulating the immune system. This process begins during gestation and continues through baby’s first 1000 days and into childhood, with peak bone mass establishing in early adulthood.
Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency
Lack of sun exposure: for example, lots of time spent indoors or clothing that does not allow sunlight to penetrate the skin.
- Dark skin (dark skin contains more melanin than pale skin, which reduces vitamin D absorption from sunlight).
- Certain medical conditions affecting the metabolism of vitamin D (e.g., malabsorption, obesity, or liver/renal failure).
What do vitamin D drops do for babies?
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus to build strong bones. Serious vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, a condition that causes deformity and weakness of the bones. Weakened bones in infants and young children can result in bowed legs, soft skulls, and delays in crawling and walking.
For infants that are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D drops for babies help to facilitate normal bone growth and strength. Vitamin D is also an essential nutrient for the immune system, and, by ensuring sufficient vitamin D in early infancy, helps to regulate immune function.
Why are premature babies at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Babies acquire vitamin D passed on from their mother during gestation. As premature babies have less time in the womb to gather sufficient vitamin D stores, the risk for vitamin D deficiency at birth is increased. Prescribing vitamin D for premature babies is considered routine by the clinical practice guidelines in Australia.
Vitamin D for newborns
If the mother has low vitamin D during pregnancy, there is an increased risk for the baby to have vitamin D deficiency at birth. The mother’s own vitamin D levels will be screened during pregnancy, and if doctors think there is a risk for the newborn to have insufficient vitamin D stores at birth, infant vitamin D drops will be prescribed.
Does breastmilk provide vitamin D?
Breastmilk contains very low levels of vitamin D, which is why infants that are exclusively breastfed AND that have one or more risk factors for vitamin D deficiency are advised to take baby vitamin d drops.
Where to buy vitamin D drops for babies
Vitamin D drops for newborns are available to purchase without prescription at any local pharmacy or health food store. However, before giving infant vitamin D drops, you should always check with your paediatrician about how much to give, and for how long. You can even purchase vitamin D3 baby supplements online, by searching vitamin D drops for babies Australia, or input the relevant country you are in.
What about vitamin D drops for babies’ side effects?
Side effects may occur if baby is taking too much vitamin D for too long. As vitamin D is stored in the body there is risk of toxicity if the dose exceeds what is needed over a long period of time. Too much vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, muscle weakness and fatigue. It can also lead to more serious problems such as kidney damage, so it is important to give the exact amount of vitamin D prescribed by the paediatrician.
- Battersby AJ. Et al. Clin Dev Immunol. 2012;2012:430972
- Raisingchildren.net.au [Internet]. Nutrients. Vitamin D: what you need to know. 2020 September 23 [cited 2021 April 28]. Available from https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/nutrients/vitamin-d
- The Royal Children’s Hospital [Internet]. Parkville, Melbourne, Australia. Clinical Practice Guidelines. Vitamin D deficiency. 2020 September [cited 2021 April 28]. Available from https://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Vitamin_D_deficiency/