Breastfeeding and Vitamin D

Mom_nursingA new study from the Medical University of South Carolina shows that breastfed babies may not need to get supplemental drops of Vitamin D if their mothers consume high doses of it in their diet or dietary supplements.  Because breast milk is typically lacking in the nutrient, until now, the clinical recommendation for breastfed babies has been to give them 400 IU of Vitamin D drops.  However this new research marks a shift in practices behind breastfeeding and Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps strengthen bones and supports every cellular function in the body by aiding in the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is hard to find in food, but it can be absorbed through UVB exposure.  Although overexposure to the sun is not good, some sunlight is important due to its Vitamin D value.  Vitamin D is also associated with mental health and wellbeing, and deficiencies often cause emotional disorders including seasonal affective disorder.

Medical experts disagree about how much Vitamin D human bodies need.  Some believe over 50% of the population is Vitamin D deficient, while others think that 600-800 IU is enough to reap the disease-fighting and bone strengthening benefits of the vitamin.

However, when mothers were given supplemental doses of Vitamin D in a recent study, they were able to pass along the nutrient to their babies through breast milk.  This makes the dosage for newborns who are exclusively breastfed unnecessary.  Babies of mothers who took the maximum amount, 6400 IU, reaped the most benefits.  That is, they ended up receiving approximately the same dosage as the 400 IU recommendation for breastfed newborns.

The study, published in Pediatrics earlier this month, was conducted on 334 mothers and infants over a six month span.  Dosages of Vitamin D were recorded in mothers but Vitamin D levels were check through infant blood and urine tests.

There are some additional factors to consider before the recommendation can officially change.  The side effects of an over-dose of Vitamin D include a build-up of calcium in the body, which may cause urine or kidney problems or an upset stomach.  Those in favor of increased Vitamin D passing through breast milk claim that only approximately 25% of babies take the recommended Vitamin D drops so perhaps babies would benefit more if it came through a supplement to the mother.  Also, the Vitamin D drops do not taste pleasant and many babies reject them.