Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

As winter time approaches the suns position to Ireland means we won’t get the benefit of Vitamin D from the suns rays. For this reason it is well worth considering Vitamin D supplementation for the whole family from October through till March. Why is Vitamin D considered such an important Vitamin?.

Vitamin D is a superstar Vitamin for the population as a whole but particularly for young babies and children due to rapid growth and development in former years. The HSE now recommends Vitamin D supplementation for babies. Below is information supplied by the HSE.

Vitamin D and your baby – What you need to know

Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed your baby you should give your baby 5 micrograms (5µg) of vitamin D3 every day.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is important because it helps our bodies use calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Children (and adults) in Ireland have low levels of vitamin D which can lead to weak bones. In severe cases low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets(1) in children. There has been an increase in the number of cases of rickets in Ireland in recent years.

Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because our bodies can make vitamin D from the sun. When sunlight hits our skin, the ultra-violet B (UVB) sun rays are used to make vitamin D. However, it is not possible for babies to safely get the vitamin D they need from the sun.

Why does my baby need Vitamin D?

Your baby needs vitamin D because:

  • their skin is very sensitive to the sun and should not be exposed to direct sunlight;
  • their food (breastmilk, formula milk or solid foods) may not have enough Vitamin D in it;
  • and between 0-12 months babies grow very quickly and have a greater need for vitamin D to form strong bones.

Babies with African, Afro-Caribbean, Middle- Eastern or Indian ethnic backgrounds are at even higher risk of having low levels of vitamin D. Their stores of vitamin D may be particularly low when born as their mothers’ skin may not be as efficient at making vitamin D from the amount and type of sunlight in Ireland.

I am pregnant and taking Vitamin D – will my baby still need to take Vitamin D after birth?

Yes. All babies need vitamin D because they do not get enough from their food. This includes babies of mothers who took vitamin D while pregnant. Like all babies they will need to take vitamin D everyday to make up for the low level in their food.

What type of Vitamin D should I give my baby?

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred form of vitamin D for infants. The vitamin D3 product you use should be in a liquid form suitable for infants and contain only vitamin D3. Products that contain other vitamins as well as vitamin D (such as multivitamin products) should not be used.

Why are we being asked to give our babies Vitamin D now?

The evidence is that children and mothers in Ireland have low levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D leads to weak bones. In severe cases low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia(2) in adults. There have been a growing number of cases of rickets diagnosed in Ireland in recent years.

Research is also showing that vitamin D plays an important role in helping the immune system. It may also help prevent illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis as well as some forms of cancer.

Recommendation: To ensure that ALL babies get enough vitamin D they should be given 5 micrograms (5μg) of vitamin D3 every day from birth to 12months, whether breastfed or formula fed or taking solid foods.

The vitamin D product used should contain only Vitamin D3and be in a liquid form suitable for infants.

If your doctor has already prescribed vitamins for your baby you should ask their advice before giving your baby any additional vitamin products.

What dosage should I give my baby?

The current recommendation is 5 micrograms (5μg) once a day – from birth to 12 months. There are a number of suitable infant vitamin D3 products available to buy in Ireland. These provide the correct kind of vitamin D3.