Vitamin D…is your child getting enough?
Vitamin D…also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is important for your child! Most children need a supplement of 400 IU a day, is your child getting it?
There are few weeks that go by that a parent does not ask me about vitamins and vitamin D in particular. It definitely has been the vitamin of the moment the last few years, and for good reason. In 2008 after several extensive studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled the recommendation for vitamin D supplementation for children from 200 international units (IU) per day to 400 IU per day. Most of us thought the worry of vitamin D deficiency was gone forever. Years ago milk was fortified with vitamin D and that solved the problem of deficiency and the disease rickets. However, with lifestyle changes and the increased use of sunscreen (which is a good thing!) we are seeing children with severe deficiencies in the sunshine vitamin…vitamin D.
What is so important about vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps a body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are both needed for building healthy bone. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to a disease called rickets which causes softening of the bone and bowing of legs in addition to other problems. We are continuing to see reports of this disease in the United States. We also see an increase in stress type fractures in teens that are playing sports when there is a deficiency in vitamin D. The research also is showing that vitamin D also may prevent other diseases later in life including immune system diseases and cardiovascular system disease.
400 IU a day for all!
Based on the evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2008 that all children receive 400 IU of vitamin D beginning in the first days of life. “We are doubling the recommended amount of vitamin D children need each day because evidence has shown this could have life-long health benefits,” says Dr. Greer, chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and co-author of the AAP’s clinical report on vitamin D. “Supplementation is important because most children will not get enough vitamin D through diet alone.” www.healthychildren.org
This means that all infants and children should receive vitamin D supplementation whether they are breastfed or formula fed. Babies who are formula fed should receive vitamin D supplementation unless they are drinking at least 32 ounces of formula a day. They should continue to receive supplementation through childhood and adolescence too if they are not drinking 32 ounces of vitamin D fortified milk a day.
Where do you find the vitamin D supplements?
There are several liquid vitamin D supplements that can be bought over the counter. As long as there are 400 IU of vitamin D in the supplement…you are good to go! Once your child is able to take a chewable vitamin, any chewable multivitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D is fine…just read the label. Just like all medications, vitamins should be kept out of reach and never treated like candy. Some of the gummy vitamins on the market look and taste just like a gummy bear candy, so be cautious with your toddler especially.
Vitamin D and food
Remember that 400 IU a day is the minimal recommendation for vitamin D intake. We all should be including vitamin D rich foods in our diet. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D such as milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt and other dairy. Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. These foods would include fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, and other oily fish, beef liver (yuck!), cheese, and egg yolks.
Many parents assume that if their child is a good milk drinker, then they receive all of their vitamin D. A child would have to drink at least 32 ounces of milk per day to receive the minimum requirement of vitamin D. If a toddler drank that much milk, he would be drinking nearly all of his daily requirement of calories and not eating much solid food!
What about the sun?
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin. Our bodies will manufacture vitamin D with the help of sun exposure. Darker skinned individuals, people living in northern climates or areas where there is limited sunlight, and individuals that spend most of their day inside are definitely at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. In recent years, the recommendation to protect our skin from too much sun has resulted in the use of sunscreen/block routinely by many adults and children. We definitely do not want to send our children outside without sun protection, but because of less sun exposure, we all are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Better and safer than a sunburn….vitamin D supplementation!
Here are the guidelines that the American Academy of Pediatrics has set:
Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU a day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life.
All non-breastfed infants, as well as older children, who are consuming less than 32 ounces per day of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk, should receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU a day.
Adolescents who do not get 400 IU of vitamin D per day through foods should receive a supplement containing that amount.
So…be sure that your child is receiving a daily supplementation of 400 IU of vitamin D every day. It is a simple thing to do and the benefits are huge. While you are at it…take a multi vitamin yourself with vitamin D…it seems that adults also are deficient in D. We all could use a little of the sunshine vitamin…let the sunshine in! 🙂
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.