I’ve written previously about vitamin D. You’ve likely heard of vitamin D and its importance. But a conversation that I have all the time with parents inspired me to write today about a very specific topic related to vitamin D. Particularly, that you should provide your older baby with vitamin D supplements as he/she begins to eat solid foods.
It’s quite an interesting situation really. Almost every parent whom I speak to knows that their baby needs vitamin D if they’re breastfed or fed a combination of breastmilk and formula. Many of the adults take vitamin D themselves. But somewhere along the way as their little one started to eat more solid foods, they stopped giving their little one vitamin D. When you step back and look at it from that perspective – that babies and adults both need vitamin D supplements, it’s not surprising that older babies and kids need vitamin D too. Yet almost no parents I speak to are giving it to their older babies and kids.
Here’s the current recommendations in both Canada and the USA*:
|Age||Recommended Intake||Safe Upper Level|
|Birth to 6 months||400 IU||1000|
|6 to 12 months||400 IU||1500|
|1 – 3 years||600 IU||2500|
|4 – 8 years||600 IU||3000|
|9 – 70 years||600 IU||4000|
|Over 70 years||800 IU||4000|
|Pregnant + Breastfeeding||600 IU||4000|
What about natural sources of vitamin D? Vitamin D is found in very few foods. One serving of salmon has an awesome 600 IU. Other fatty fish are excellent sources too. If you experienced taking cod liver oil when you were a child, you were getting an amazing 1360 IU of vitamin D in each tablespoon. The problem is that few of us eat fatty fish every day (or expose ourselves to the torture of cod live oil). People often think of milk when I talk about vitamin D. A glass of milk only has 100 IU. If a child is drinking 6 glasses of milk a day to get their vitamin D, they’re drinking so much milk that it’s crowding out other healthy foods (like vegetables and fruits) that provide other important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. If you feed your baby formula, check the label to see how much vitamin D your baby is getting each day. As they eat more solid foods, and consume less formula, they likely aren’t meeting the vitamin D recommendations.
The other natural source of vitamin D of course is sunlight. You likely know vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin. The problem is that in Canada and the northern States we don’t make vitamin D from October through March (even on sunny days) because the light’s wavelengths aren’t right. The further south you live, the more months you can make vitamin D from sunshine. But by December, only those of you living on the Florida panhandle are getting the right wavelengths of light to make vitamin D. In the summer months, clothes, sunscreen, shade, smog, and window glass all block our ability to make vitamin D from the sun.
Because vitamin D exists in few foods, and because of our indoor/sun-safe lifestyles, supplements play an important role. Vitamin D drops are tiny and have no flavour so they’re a simple way to give your child vitamin D regardless of their age. As kids get older you have more options. Children’s multivitamins (including gummies) contain various amounts of vitamin D. Check the label to see how much a given brand contains. Some fish oil liquids contain vitamin D. Again, check the bottle’s label to see if it contains vitamin D.
In summary, few kids meet their vitamin D needs through natural sources alone. There’s a number of ways to give your child enough vitamin D through supplements. Choose amongst the options of multivitamins/gummies, fish oils and/or vitamin D drops that are appropriate for your child’s age.
* Research is happening into whether the vitamin D recommendations should be higher. Until lots of large studies have been completed, as well as studies of the safety of higher doses, I recommend keeping within the range listed here.
Child-Feeding Expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps moms and dads support your picky kids to get good nutrition today…and instill a life-long love of healthy eating. Find out more at www.KristenYarker.com