Vitamin D as we all know is also called the sunshine vitamin. It is nutrient that is hard to come by in one’s normal diet, but can be obtained from sun exposure. Vitamin D is a group of nutrients that helps the body absorb other vital nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and phosphate. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause rickets in children.
So how do you ensure that your child gets enough vitamin D? Who needs to take a vitamin D supplements and why?
Vitamin D for breast fed infants
It is a widely held belief in the medical community that infants who are exclusively breast fed should be given vitamin D supplements. This is because breast milk contains very little of the vitamin and it could mean that the baby is not getting enough. On the other hand, since infant formula is created for the express purpose of nourishing infants it usually contains sufficient amounts of vitamin D additive.
The recommended dosage of Vitamin D (generally in drop form) is 200 IU – this should be started during the first 2 months of life. The baby’s pediatrician can be consulted if you’re not sure about the dosage for your breast fed baby or if you have doubts about the brand of baby formula you’re using. If you’re in colder latitudes you should consult with the pediatrician about dosages, particularly for the summer months, when sun exposure is less and ineffective.
Vitamin D supplements for older kids
Medical professionals are still discovering more about this essential nutrient, its mechanism and the problems that its deficiency causes. More and more evidence is emerging to support the claim that children, adolescents and adults may actually have a vitamin D deficiency that they may not know about. The deficiency doesn’t give rise to visible or palpable symptoms, but may result in problems later in life. There is some evidence to suggest that the vitamin supplement could boost immunity, and even help in preventing cancer.
Vitamin D could be a particular problem in very cold climates or areas that are typically shrouded in cloud for a significant portion of the year.
If you and your family have enough exposure to sunlight (all you need is about 15 minutes of sun exposure a day) and particularly if you consume sufficient amounts of dairy products fortified with vitamin D, there may be no need for supplements as such.