Only one in five formula-fed babies and one in 20 breastfed babies are not getting enough vitamin D in their diets warns the CDC. More infants should be receiving vitamin D supplements is the recommendation coming from this finding.
The human body naturally makes enough vitamin D each day by converting sunshine into this important vitamin. Only a few minutes each day in direct sunlight is enough to keep infants’ vitamin levels adequate. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants should avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, using sunscreen and protective clothing when possible. This fear of sunburn means that many infants are not able to create enough vitamin D naturally, and need to be supplemented.
The CDC analyzed the feeding habits of infants from 2005 to 2007 and found that many infants were lacking in their vitamin D intake from diet. In their first year of life, the majority of infants were not meeting their vitamin D needs through diet and supplements alone. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled the recommended levels of vitamin D for infants from 200 IU to 400 IU. Increasing the recommended amounts makes it even more difficult for parents to meet their children’s needs.
Formula fed infants have a slight advantage as most infant formulas are enriched. However, an infant would need to drink 34 ounces, or 1 liter, each day to get their daily recommended intake. Few infants can consume this much formula in a single day. Breast milk contains no vitamin D, making breastfed babies at an increased risk. Both groups of infants need additional supplements daily.
Deficiency of vitamin D is linked to respiratory infection and type 1 diabetes in young children. When the body received enough of this vitamin it is better able to fight off some cancers and diseases. Professionals agree that it is very important for infants to receive vitamin D supplements each day to maintain healthy levels.
Pediatrician Frank R. Greer, MD headed the committee to increase the recommended amount of vitamin D in infants and hopes to see more doctors recommending supplements for babies. “I am frankly surprised that more pediatricians are not recommending supplementation, especially to new moms who are breastfeeding,” Greer says. – Summer, staff writer
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