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Vitamin D and Breastfeeding

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The New York Times has a story about the possibility that some breastfed babies are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Here’s a bit from the story:
Physicians have known for more than a century that exclusive breast-feeding may be associated with vitamin D deficiency and rickets, and that the condition is easily prevented and treated with inexpensive vitamin drops or cod liver oil. But doctors are reluctant to say anything that might discourage breast-feeding.
Now some researchers are also linking vitamin D deficiency with other chronic diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders and even cancer, and there have been calls to include blood tests of vitamin D levels in routine checkups.
“I completely support breast-feeding, and I think breast milk is the perfect food, and the healthiest way to nourish an infant,” said Dr. Catherine M. Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children’s Hospital Boston and an author of several studies on vitamin D deficiency…
“However,” Dr. Gordon continued, “we’re finding so many mothers are vitamin D deficient themselves that the milk is therefore deficient, so many babies can’t keep their levels up. They may start their lives vitamin D deficient, and then all they’re getting is vitamin D deficient breast milk.”
Some doctors and public health officials say conditions may be ripe for rickets to re-emerge: more infants are being breast-fed for extended periods, children are drinking more juice or soda and less milk, and they are spending less time exposed to sunlight, which enables the skin to synthesize vitamin D…
The solution, Dr. Gordon said, is not to quit breast-feeding but to supplement breast-fed infants with vitamin drops, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy issued guidelines in 2003 recommending that infants be given 200 international units of vitamin D daily, and it may be increasing the recommended level soon.

Here’s info from Kellymom. Your best bet, check with your pediatrician about whether to give your baby vitamins.

5 Responses to “Vitamin D and Breastfeeding”

Do you know why it is that very few doctors recommend increasing the mother’s vitamin d intake? In the last paragraph of the kellymom article, it says that a mother may increase her vitamin d in order to have more in her milk.

This is a hot-button issue with me. Simply taking your baby out in the sun can provide them with vitamin D. However, that’s free, and no one makes any money off of it. I think it’s quite a coincidence that ENFAMIL is the maker of the most popular vitamin drops. The same Enfamil who woos doctor’s offices and hospitals with free stuff. The SAME Enfamil who cuts breastfeeding off at the knees by distributing bags of “resources” (ie, formula) for nursing moms before they even have their babies! Call me crazy, but it looks like they’re thinking “we’re going to make money off EVERY MOTHER or bust!”
I gave my daughter those nasty vitamins because the doctor told me to and she puked them up. They are disgusting. If I ever have a baby with a vitamin D deficiency (as I don’t think she ever did) I will be drinking extra vitamin D milk myself and exposing the baby to indirect sunlight for a few minutes a day.

I agree with you, Jessica, but there are a couple issues with making the decision that simple. There are some places where it is simply not an option to have a baby outside soaking in the sun on a daily basis. I had a November baby and lived in North Dakota. I tried to take him out occasionally, but on the days when there was a windchill, I didn’t. Also, people’s lifestyles have changed. People no longer spend time outside on a regular basis. Whether it’s because of safety, work, tv, or something else, I think that we need to address what *is* and not what we think should/could be happening.

Also, the article mentioned the deficiency is more frequent in black, Latino and other dark-skinned children who are exclusively breastfed because we don’t absorb Vit D as well through the skin as Caucasians do.

That can be easily treated with some sunlight and the mom herself working on bringing up her vitamin D.

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