Why Does my Baby Need Vitamin D?

September 30, 2019

blog watch me bloom, recipes for growing me ~6 months, why does my baby need a vitamin d supplement, close up of bottle dropper

Having a baby can be a whirlwind—especially for first-time parents! The first few months are often a blur, with sleepless nights and constant worry whether you’re doing things right for your baby. Shortly after giving birth, one of your healthcare professionals will tell you to give your breastfed baby a vitamin D supplement. You will nod your head in agreement, and be lucky if you can remember this recommendation with the many other pieces of advice given to you at this time. But why is vitamin D so important? And why are we supposed to give vitamin D to babies who are breastfed and not to those who aren’t?

The Importance of vitamin D
A summary from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)—which includes nutrition monitoring from birth to 24 months over the last five years on infant feeding and dietary intake—notes that vitamin D is involved in several functions for infants, including: 

  • Bone Health
  • Helps to maintain an optimal immune response
  • Decreases the risk of chronic illnesses
  • Helpful in preventing Rickets [i]

The recommendation for vitamin D supplements is 400 IU/d (10 μg/d) per day unless infants are fed vitamin D fortified-formula. Breast milk is considered the gold standard when mothers can breastfeed their babies; however, breast milk does not contain enough vitamin D to meet the recommended guidelines. Infants provided with commercial infant formula do not require the supplement since vitamin D is included in the manufacturing process. At around 12 months, parents and caregivers can transition from commercial infant formula to homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk, which is fortified with vitamin D, so older infants and children will not require a vitamin D supplement. [ii]

Some parents might wonder…“Is it possible to give my baby too much vitamin D?”, but Health Canada notes excessive intake is not a concern, as it’s highly unlikely an infant will approach a maximum level of 2,500 IU per day. After two years of age, a vitamin D supplement is no longer required and it is recommended that children's eating patterns follow Canada's Food Guide to obtain vitamin D from natural food sources. [iii] Also, parents can safely provide access to natural sunlight for children to enhance vitamin D production in the skin. 

Tidbit for your Tiny One
Living north of 55° latitude means less sunlight! Infants from northern communities should receive a higher supplement level of vitamin D–800 IU/day, rather than 400 IU/day, between October and April, when there is less sunlight. [iv]

baby vitamin d supplement, happy baby girl with a sunshine sweatshirt, sitting upHere’s a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Vitamin D is an important vitamin for infants which helps with bone formation, immune responses, decreasing chronic illnesses, as well as preventing Rickets
  • A vitamin D supplement is recommended from birth for all breastfed infants until the introduction of formula fortified with vitamin D or homogenized cow milk (3.25% M.F.)
  • Most infant formulas will contain vitamin D 
  • Vegetarian and vegan babies might benefit from a consultation with a dietician to ensure they are receiving enough vitamin D daily

The following recipe poem is an excerpt from our first book Recipes for Growing Me ~6 months:sample page from recipes for growing me ~6 months, baby's first cookbook, "D is for...vitamin D", happy face yellow sun character illustration on bright blue background with puff clouds and black lettering poem

D is for vitamin D
Even though I am 6 months old
Vitamin D is recommended
Forever I’m told 
With limited sunlight 
It’s important not to forget me
As my bones need to develop
So this vitamin is key

Beyond infancy: A special note for the reader

Vitamin D is important for children and older adults too! According to Statistics Canada 1/3 of all Canadians are deficient in vitamin D. Make sure you are getting enough of this important vitamin which is produced by the body from the sun or through food and is beneficial for:

  • A healthy immune system, brain, and nervous system
  • Regulating insulin levels and aids in the management of diabetes
  • Mood swings and depression [v]

We hope we’ve contributed something beneficial to your baby’s diet, and remember…don’t hog the blog! Share it with new moms today! Want to learn more from our baby’s first cookbook? Order now and enjoy 15% OFF baby’s first cookbook. Use code: BLOGHOG

Have a blooming’ day!
Sarah & Karen


[i] Ahluwalia, N (2019). Nutrition Monitoring of Children Aged Birth to 24 Mo (B-24): Data Collection and Findings from the NHANES Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition 2019. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US. Adv Nutr2019; 00:1–15; doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz077

Ahluwalia, N (2019). Nutrition Monitoring of Children Aged Birth to 24 Mo (B-24): Data Collection and Findings from the NHANES Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition 2019. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US. Adv Nutr2019; 00:1–15; doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz07

[iii] https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guide/resources/infant-feeding/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-recommendations-birth-six-months/6-24-months.html

[iv] https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/vitamin_d

[v] www.150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11727-eng.htm

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