We all know that breast is best when it comes to feeding your baby in the first 6 months (don’t stop reading if you’re mixed or formula feeding!). That message is very well promoted and rightly so but less talked about is the fact that from 6 months breast milk does not provide all of the nutrients that a growing baby needs to develop.
Controversial you may say..? Well not really there’s lots of evidence to support this. In fact WHO guidance states this and UK guidelines (NHS choices) recommend that alongside the introduction of solids a baby specific multi vitamin is given. If you didn’t take a pregnancy multi vitamin then Vitamin D drops are recommended for your baby/ies from 1 month of age.
If you’re mixed or formula feeding this becomes important when you reduce the amount of formula given. Formula is fortified with vitamins and minerals but once a baby has less than 500ml per day they will not be getting the recommended amount of vitamins and so vitamin drops are required to meet this.
Why do we need Vitamin D? You can eat as much calcium as you like but without Vitamin D your body cannot absorb it to use it in your bones and cells. Calcium is an essential mineral for not only our teeth and bones but also functions in every cell.
A lack of Vitamin D can cause rickets in babies and children. Rickets can weaken muscles, cause permanent bone deformities and reduced growth. It’s also a problem for adult bone health and can cause a condition called osteomalacia, where the bones become soft and cause bone pain and muscle weakness.
Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D may put men at increased risk of colorectal cancer and women at increased risk of developing breast cancer. There are other conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Diabetes that have been linked to low levels too but more research is needed before recommendations can be given in these conditions.
We go out in the sun and sun on skin is an excellent source of Vitamin D production. However it is important to make sure your baby doesn’t burn or overheat so even in the beautiful summer here in Cornwall I am still giving the multi vits! This is inline with current guidance (NHS choices).
You can get some Vitamin D from your diet too. Oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, trout, kippers and fresh tuna) is a good source. Eggs, meat and milk contain small amounts too, but this varies during the seasons! Fortified foods are another source such as some margarines, some breakfast cereals and some yoghurts. To know which ones check the labels.
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