Children, as well as adults, need to make sure they are getting enough of this “Sunshine Vitamin” and actually, babies and young children are one of the population groups who are at an increased risk of deficiency of this vitamin.
The reason for this is that, as our foods contain relatively low levels of vitamin D (see “Vitamin D: the big D-bate”) our main source comes from the sun. Due to understandable concerns over babies and children’s prolonged exposure to the sun, many parents choose to keep their young children out of direct sunlight. Children are often padded up with plenty of clothing or covered from head to toe in sun cream and therefore this reduces their skins ability to produce the hormone vitamin D.
Additionally, young children in the UK are now spending less and less time outside and more time on indoor activities, again, reducing their skins sun exposure.
However vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin in the growth and development of bones and low levels of vitamin D production can lead to reduced calcium absorption and poor bone health. Additionally, it is well known amongst experts that low levels of vitamin D can result in the development of rickets in young children. For other potential risks from lack of vitamin D please see “Vitamin D – the facts”
UK recommendations –
It is therefore recommended that this “at risk” group’s diet is supplemented with vitamin D to reduce the risk of any deficiency.
Breastfed babies, over the age of 6 months and any formula fed babies who are taking less than 500mls of formula milk/24hours need around 7mcgs of vitamin D daily. Vitamin D supplements are not widely available in the UK and it is important to make sure you are giving your little one the right amount and therefore it is a good idea to talk to your Health Visitor, Midwife or GP about which vitamin D supplements are suitable for your baby.
Vitamin drops (such as the healthy start vitamins) contain vitamins D, as well as vitamin A and C (also vitamins that babies and toddlers are at risk of being deficient in) and are a great way to top up your little ones with all the right nutrients. Vitamin drops are often a better choice than supplements or syrups because they contain no added bulking ingredients or sweeteners but as mentioned, it is best to discuss this initially with your preferred health professional.
For more information on vitamin D facts please see our blog “Vitamin D: the big D-Bate”