Babies between the age of birth to 12 months grow at a rapid pace and have a greater need for vitamin D to form strong bones. Studies have shown that here in Ireland many people have a deficiency of vitamin D in Irish children so it’s likely that many Irish children have less than healthy levels.
Why vitamin D is important
Due to our dismal weather in Ireland – especially in recent months – we are seriously lacking sunshine on these shores. We all know of the dangers of spending too much time in the sun, but some people don’t know that it’s important to have a little exposure in order to keep our levels of vitamin D topped up.
Not surprisingly, studies have shown that here in Ireland many people have a deficiency of vitamin D in Irish children, so it’s likely that many Irish children have less than healthy levels. Our bodies essentially make vitamin D from the sun, so growing families in Ireland are serious lacking what is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
As vitamin D is vital as it helps our bodies to absorb calcium, which in turn helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, it is important to find suitable supplementation especially for infants in Ireland. In particular, growing babies between the age of birth to 12 months have a greater need for Vitamin D.
Research conducted by the Health Service Executive in Ireland (HSE) shows that in general mothers and babies in Ireland have very low levels of vitamin D. In severe case low levels can cause rickets in children and there has been an increase in the number of cases of this being diagnosed in Ireland in recent years. When sunlight hits our skin, the ultra-violet B (UVB) sun rays are used to make vitamin D. However, it is not possible for babies to safely get the vitamin D they need from the sun as they should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Babies need vitamin D
From birth, babies will need to take vitamin D everyday to make up for the low level in their food. To ensure that all babies get enough vitamin D they should be given a vitamin D supplement. In general, it is recommended that you give your baby one dose of vitamin D every day from birth to 12 months, whether breastfed or formula fed or taking solid foods. If at any stage you forget to give your baby vitamin D, you may start again the following day.
It is important to note, that very high amounts of vitamin D are harmful to your baby so do not exceed one dose per day. However, always read the product instructions carefully and ask your pharmacist, doctor, dietitian or nurse for advice if you are unsure the correct dosage as each product varies.
Research also shows that vitamin D plays an important role in helping the immune system. It may also help prevent illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis as well as some forms of cancer.
The importance of Vitamin D
Midwife and Gentlebirth practitioner, Tracy Donegan is well used to giving new mothers advice about the importance of Vitamin D. Here she lists why it is necessary to ensure the next generation doesn’t suffer from a deficiency.
• The negative side effects from a Vitamin D deficiency include weakened immune system, hormonal imbalance, emotional health issues, weak bones and teeth.
• A serious deficiency can also increase the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.
• Breastfed babies need additional vitamin D because mums generally don’t have high enough levels themselves to pass to their baby and we don’t usually get it from food so there is extra added to formula.
• Irish weather makes it difficult to get enough vitamin D, and of course when the weather is great we wear sunscreen, which blocks about 95% of our vitamin D production.
• The best place to get vitamin D is from sunlight, but if you’ve just had a baby you might not be getting any sunlight on your skin. Ideally 20-30 minutes a day (or an hour for darker skin) is recommended.
• Vitamin D is found in a small range of foods including oily fish, egg yolks and fortified foods such as milk, breakfast cereals and infant formula.
• Darker skinned people living in Ireland are particularly at risk as they require more sunlight to produce vitamin D.
• Mum’s might consider taking extra Vitamin D if they are breastfeeding and the baby gets it as well as mum rather than just giving baby the Vitamin D levels.
• Talk to your GP about the different options.
More info www.hse.ie/eng/health/ child/vitaminD www.gentlebirth.ie
What to buy, where to get it and how much dosage is necessary?
The HSE recommends that all babies are given a vitamin D supplement and a spokeswoman for the department explains what to buy, where to get it and how much dosage is necessary.
1. Research shows that vitamin D plays an important role in helping the immune system. It may also help prevent illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis as well as some forms of cancer.
2. To ensure that all babies get enough vitamin D they should be given 5 micrograms of vitamin D every day from birth to 12 months, whether breastfed or formula fed or taking solid foods.
3. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred form of vitamin D for infants. The vitamin D3 product you use should be in a liquid form suitable for infants and contain only vitamin D3. Products that contain other vitamins as well as vitamin D (such as multivitamin products) should not be used.
4. There are a number of suitable infant vitamin D products available to buy in Ireland which provide the correct kind of vitamin D.
5. Very large doses of vitamin D may make your baby ill. Only one dose per day should be given.
6. If you forget to give your baby their daily Vitamin D, then start again the next day but do not give more than one dose per day.
7. Vitamin D products suitable for babies are food supplements so you don’t need a prescription to buy them. These products are not available on the medical card or any other state drug scheme.
8. You can buy the products in pharmacies, some supermarkets and other outlets. It is important that you buy products that are suitable for babies and contain vitamin D only.
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