There is only 1 thing that breastfed babies are recommended to be ROUTINELY supplemented with
and that, my dear mama, is vitamin D. This can be quite confusing considering that breastmilk is supposed to "liquid gold!" and the only thing needed to nourish your sweet one for their first 6 months of life! Why then are you so likely to be told that "breastmilk doesn't have vitamin D" by your girlfriend and handed a little glass bottle by your doctor with instructions to give your baby 400 IU everyday from the day they are born?!
Vitamin D is Important
Lets start with what vitamin D is and why anyone is concerned about whether or not your baby is getting enough. Many of us know that our bodies use sunlight absorbed through our skin to produce Vitamin D. It aids in the absorption of calcium and supports healthy bones. It's only been recently that scientists and doctors have discovered that vitamin D has bigger implications beyond bone development and that insufficiencies in children can result in more than just Rickets (a softening of the bones in children)! Research is still being done, but low vitamin D levels have been correlated with:
Cancers like colon & prostate cancer
Why Isn't Vitamin D in Breastmilk?!
Breastmilk is often lacking vitamin D because the person making the breastmilk is often lacking vitamin D! If you live above the the 35th parallel on the globe you are actually unable to get enough sunlight to make vitamin D for many months of year due to the angle of the sun on the planet! We have also heeded advice to dover up and use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer well and this has resulted in even less sunlight exposure. A 2003 study showed that 81% of women who were within the age range of being able to have children were deficient of vitamin D in the US. Even with a varied diet and prenatal vitamins, your levels are unlikely to be in an ideal range! So, it's not that the human body is unable to put vitamin D into breastmilk, it's that the human body cannot put vitamin D into breastmilk when there isn't enough vitamin D in that human body!
WOW! How Can I Make Sure My Breastfed Baby Gets Enough Vitamin D?!
As we explored above, going outside a lot and eating right isn't enough to give you the vitamin D you need and that alone isn't enough for your baby either. The WHO recommends that all breastfed babies are supplemented with 400 IU of vitamin D daily during the first year of life. Doing this will ensure your baby has enough vitamin D. But... what about you?! It's important for YOUR health to ensure that you have enough vitamin D as well!
Should Both My Baby and I Take Vitamin D?
This may be the right choice for you! You can get your levels tested and discuss supplementation with your doctor! A recent study found that mothers who supplemented with 6400 iu daily had adequate vitamin D levels in their breastmilk and did not need to supplement their baby directly! This could be alternative for you as well!
Summary of Vitamin D Options for Breastfed Moms & Babies:
Ultimately the choice is yours:
Supplement your baby with 400 IU daily as per recommendations
Supplement yourself with vitamin D and your little one
Get your levels tested - if you have adequate levels, discuss with your care provider the pros/cons of supplementing at all!
If your levels are inadequate discuss supplementing with 6400IU with your care provider and consider if you are comfortable with your baby receiving vitamin D from your breastmilk alone.
If you have any questions about breastfeeding, please reach out!