Importance Of Vitamin D Supplements For Breastfed Infants: Are Hispanics At Risk In Texas?

Breast milk does not usually contain much vitamin D, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all breastfed infants receive 400 IU/day of vitamin D via drops that contain that amount in each dropper. We were concerned that Hispanic infants might be especially at risk of low vitamin D levels. So, in a study conducted at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center and Texas Children’s Hospital, we studied their vitamin D levels at birth and after 3 months of age. We used cord blood to determine what the baby’s vitamin D level was at birth. Infants returned to Texas Children's at 1 week of age for a bone scan to evaluate their bone density. We provided the mothers with vitamin D drops to give their babies daily. After 3 months, infants returned to Texas Children's for a final blood draw and bone scan. We found low vitamin D levels at birth in many infants, especially the Hispanic infants, possibly due to low intakes of vitamin D-rich foods during pregnancy. Levels were improved after giving vitamin D for 3 months, with all infants having vitamin D levels in the normal range. The importance of the low vitamin D levels at birth is uncertain as we did not find any problem with bone mineralization in these infants. Daily vitamin D intake of 400 IU during the first months of life appears adequate. Parents should be sure that their breastfed infant receives vitamin D drops. Giving vitamin D drops is a relatively easy and cheap way to make sure that a breastfed infant receives sufficient vitamin D.