Parents often ask us about vitamin D.  In this post by our Nurse Practitioner, Erin Gennocro, you’ll find answers to why little ones need extra vitamin D and how to supplement to make sure your child is getting the recommended amounts.

Vitamin D is a special nutrient that helps our bodies build strong bones. This nutrient is especially important during infancy, childhood and adolescence because these young bodies are growing at such a rapid rate.

If vitamin D intake is inadequate in the diet of infants and children, softening of the bones may occur which can lead to permanent bowing of the legs, dental deformities, short stature, and many other health concerns. This is called rickets, and affects children mostly between 6-24 months of age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend specific guidelines for supplementing vitamin D. Breastfed babies need to be supplemented with 400 IU (international units) daily. Vitamin D is available for purchase over the counter, and is given with an infant dropper. This should be started shortly after birth. Babies with mixed feedings of breast milk and formula will need vitamin D supplementation to reach the recommended 400 IU per day. Formula fed babies receive most of the recommended amount through the infant formula. However, infants drinking less than 32 ounces of formula per day may also need extra vitamin D. Talk to your provider about the recommendations.

Children 12 months to 18 years of age need at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Very few foods contain natural sources of vitamin D: fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel; fish liver oil; and small amounts are found in cheese and eggs. Vitamin D fortified foods make of most of the vitamin D in our diets. Milk, for example, is typically fortified with 100 IU per cup. Most non-dairy forms of milk (almond, soy) are also fortified with similar amounts. Yogurt, breakfast cereals and certain brands of orange juice are also fortified with vitamin D. It is important to read nutrition labels to know the amount of vitamin D your infant, child, or adolescent is receiving daily, and supplement with an over the counter vitamin D product if the recommended level is not being met. Most multivitamins contain 300-600 IU per serving.

Resources used: American Academy of Pediatrics: Vitamin D Recommendations, CDC: Infant and Toddler Nutrition/Vitamins, National Institutes of Health: Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Providers