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Monday, January 7, 2008

Gimme a D! (aka the great vitamin D debate)

So vitamin D. What's it for, anyway? Sit back and let me spin you a yarn...

So long ago and in a land very far away, there was once this little disease called rickets. It was not a very pretty disease and it caused kids to have deformities of their bones and a tendency to have easy fractures. Scientists eventually found out that rickets is caused by vitamin D deficiency. You can get vitamin D from both dietary sources and also from the sun (your body converts a chemical into vitmain D upon exposure).

We started giving babies cod liver oil and made them play in the sunshine and POOF, no more rickets (a gross oversimplification, but you get my point). So we didn't see rickets in babies very often for a long time until recently. Why is this?

-people have crappy diets now and very rarely eat anything with vitamin D in it (milk, oily fishes, egg yolks, liver, etc.)
-we spend a lot more time indoors, thereby limiting the sun exposure
-increased amounts of breastfeeding (gasp: there is a drawback to breastfeeding?)

Well, breast milk is the perfect food except for the one tiny fact that it has very little vitamin D in it. So the AAP has recommended giving vitamin D to all exclusively BF infants until approximately 12 months or until they start cow's milk (vitamin A&D fortified).

Things that can increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency:
-northern latitude
-dark skinned complexion
-exclusively breastfeeding
-lack of sun exposure
-winter months
-mothers with low vitamin D diet (check out kellymom.com for more details on this)
(so basically my kid is screwed)

So, in general, exclusively BF babies need their vitamins. If taste is an issue, the kind without the iron tastes a little better. Or there's always cod liver oil.


Jenn said...

Thanks for the info Tobi! Looks like I better stop depriving my son by only giving him breast milk!

Beth Sprague said...

Can mom take supplements that would get passed onto baby, or do the supplements have to go to baby direct? Thanks as always!

DrMama said...

In theory, I have heard that mom can eat a vitamin D rich diet and she is good. We never had to deal with this since we are doing both formula and breastmilk at the present. The AAP doesn't ever really comment on this. The kellymom.com site has more info on it.

Michelle said...

I actually thought I read that the mom's diet doesn't pass the vitamin D. We did give her the Tri Vi Sol which has the D without iron and is much more tasty to the babes!

DrMama said...

Like I said before, read the kellymom.com article. The WHO site states this "...although there is abundant evidence suggesting that breastfed infants often receive less vitamin D than is required, most studies fail to find rickets in breastfed infants less than 6 months of age... infants who are exclusively or predominantly breastfed for 6 months or longer can be at an increased risk of rickets if their mothers are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and the infants receive limited sun exposure and no vitamin D supplements."

And I already said that the kind without iron tastes better. Please read the entire post.

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