Vitamin D is often referred to as the Sunshine Vitamin as it is created in the body when exposed to direct sunlight. When sunlight hits our skin, ultraviolet B (UVB) sun rays are used to make the vitamin. Many people in Ireland have low levels or are deficient in vitamin D as a result of the lack of natural sunlight, especially during the winter months. For this reason, it is well worth considering Vitamin D supplementation for the whole family from October through March.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal bones
- Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function
Sources of Vitamin
Vitamin D can be found in the following:
- oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel
- red meat
- egg yolks
- fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a superstar Vitamin for the population as a whole but particularly for young babies and children due to rapid growth and development in former years. It helps our bodies use calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Children (and adults) in Ireland have low levels of vitamin D which can lead to weak bones. In severe cases, low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets in children.
Vitamin D and your baby – What you need to know
Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula-feed your baby you should give your baby vitamin D. The HSE recommends Vitamin D supplementation for babies as it is not possible for babies to safely get the vitamin D they need from the sun.
Why does my baby need Vitamin D?
Your baby needs vitamin D because:
- their skin is very sensitive to the sun and should not be exposed to direct sunlight;
- their food (breastmilk, formula milk o,r solid foods) may not have enough Vitamin D in it;
- and between 0-12 months babies grow very quickly and have a greater need for vitamin D to form strong bones.
Babies with African, Afro-Caribbean, Middle- Eastern or Indian ethnic backgrounds are at even higher risk of having low levels of vitamin D. Their stores of vitamin D may be particularly low when born as their mothers’ skin may not be as efficient at making vitamin D from the amount and type of sunlight in Ireland.
What dosage should I give my baby?
The current recommendation is 5 micrograms (5μg) once a day – from birth to 12 months. There are a number of suitable infant vitamin D3 products available to buy in Ireland. These provide the correct kind of vitamin D3.
For more information on Vitamin D, including food sources, deficiencies, and dosages in adults & children, click here.