Vitamin D: How Does Sunshine Support My Baby’s Health?

Vitamin D: How Does Sunshine Support My Baby’s Health?

Posted by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services on Jun 23rd 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent stay at home orders have really changed the way in which children may play outside and be in the sunshine. With the lack of natural vitamin D from sunshine, a focus on getting enough vitamin D becomes even more important during these tough times. So, why is getting adequate Vitamin D so important for your baby's health?

Vitamin D, also known as calciferol, is often called the sunshine vitamin because of the body’s ability to make it from the interaction of the sun on the skin. Vitamin D made by the body is referred to as Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is also available from animal sources like fortified milk, cheese, eggs, some fish such as sardines and salmon, and fish oils. Even with some outside activities, it’s always a good idea to make sure your child is getting enough Vitamin D from foods or supplements. Vitamin D derived from plant sources is known as Vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol. Research has confirmed that Vitamin D3 is more effective than Vitamin D2 in humans in improving the bodies Vitamin D status. So if your family prefers a vegetarian or plant-based diet and is trying to get out into the sunshine more often, a Vitamin D supplement may still be needed.

Even if you are making sure you and your children are outside and getting some sun, there are some situations where sun exposure will not work. Sun protective practices like using sunscreens and wearing clothes or hats to cover the skin; environmental factors like smog or cloudy days; and genetic factors such as dark skin pigmentation will hinder the body’s production of Vitamin D.

So, how much Vitamin D per day is needed? The current recommendation for infants is 400 International Units (IUs) or 10 micrograms per day. Newer federal labeling regulations now require Vitamin D to be shown on labels as micrograms rather than International Units. For totally or partially breast fed infants, a Vitamin D supplement should be given daily and the dosage should be 400 IUs or 10 micrograms For formula fed infants, all infant formulas contain Vitamin D. The U.S. Infant Formula Act requires no less than 40 IUs and no more than 100 IUs in 100 Calories (5 ounces of standard 20 Calories per ounce formula). It’s always a good decision to check with your baby’s healthcare provider to determine whether or not a Vitamin D supplement is needed based on the amount of formula your baby is consuming and also the amount of Vitamin D in the formula.

For toddlers and children up to 8 years of age, 600 IUs or 15 micrograms of Vitamin D per day is recommended. If your child is not consuming a toddler formula or Vitamin D fortified milk but rather a plant-based “milk” like soy, rice or almond milk, check to see how much Vitamin D, if any, is in these plant-based drinks. Whenever you have a concern about whether or not your child is getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D, you can check with your child’s healthcare provider who can do blood work to check on your child’s Vitamin D status. Also, you could consult with a registered dietitian for help in determining the overall usual daily Vitamin D intake from foods and beverages. Your child’s healthcare provider can refer you to a registered dietitian in your area.

All the best,