Does your kid need a vitamin D supplement?

Vitamin D is crucial for the growth of strong bones and healthy teeth in children and infants as it helps in the absorption of calcium. Often called “the sun vitamin,” vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various health issues such as mental illness, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, tumours, and diabetes.

Although the body can produce vitamin D in response to sunlight, most Canadians do not get enough sun exposure, particularly during the winter months, to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Hence, Health Canada recommends that children receive adequate vitamin D through a combination of diet and supplements.

Are foods a good food source for vitamin D, especially for babies and children?

Certain foods, such as canned tuna, salmon, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, and spinach, naturally contain vitamin D, while other foods like milk and alternatives are often fortified with it. Research has shown that children who consume more milk are likely to have higher levels of vitamin D. The Canadian Paediatric Society confirms that vitamin D-fortified beverages can be a sufficient source of vitamin D for children if they consume enough daily. If children are drinking vitamin D-fortified drinks at least every day, their vitamin D levels are more likely to be within an acceptable range.

For babies, infant formula is a rich source of vitamin D. However, the levels of vitamin D in breastmilk depend on the mother’s level of vitamin D. The majority of breastfed babies will not receive enough vitamin D from breastmilk alone. “While breastmilk is an excellent source of nutrition, it is very low in vitamin D,” says Ahuva Magder-Hershkop, a registered dietitian at Midtown Pediatrics in Toronto. Therefore, it is crucial to supplement breastfed babies with vitamin D drops as recommended by healthcare providers.

What’s the best dosage of vitamin D for children and babies?

While it is possible to obtain vitamin D naturally and through fortified foods, the reality is that most people do not get enough and require vitamin D supplements.

Health Canada recommends 400 IU per day for babies under 12 months of age and 600 IU daily for adults and children aged 1 to 70. These levels are well below the tolerable upper intake levels for each age group.

Infants who are fed formula do not need an additional vitamin D supplement since baby formula already contains vitamin D. However, it’s essential to consult with a doctor because giving an infant who is fed formula an extra vitamin D supplement could cause toxic levels of vitamin D.

“Lots of parents just hear a blanket statement about supplementing their infants with vitamin D without considering how they are planning on feeding, and as with any vitamin, more isn’t always better,” explains Magder-Hershkop. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider about what you need to know about vitamin D for children and infants in your family.

What is the best method to boost vitamin D levels for kids and infants?

There are various forms of vitamin D supplements available, including tablets, gummies, and drops, which parents can choose from.

According to Magder-Hershkop, drops are the most convenient way to administer vitamin D to children. It is a small drop that is formulated for a specific age range, making it easier for children to consume.

Gummies are a good alternative for toddlers or older children who enjoy them.

“For infants, I recommend parents to put a drop on a pacifier and allow their child to suck it for at least 30 seconds,” Magder-Hershkop explained. If the child does not use a pacifier, the drop could be added onto the breast while breastfeeding or on the nipple of the bottle when feeding.

For children over the age of one, it’s as simple as placing drops under the tongue. It’s a quick and easy way to help your child maintain their health.

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