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

February 7, 2012

Body

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.

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