Vitamin D Deficiency in Babies and Children

Patient information: Vitamin D for babies and children (The Basics)
Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate

Why is vitamin D important for babies and children?
— Babies and children need vitamin D to grow normally and develop healthy bones.

What can happen if babies and children don’t get enough vitamin D?
— Babies and children who don’t get enough vitamin D can get a condition called “rickets.” Rickets can make bones thin and weak. Some children with rickets have legs that bend to the side, called “bow-legs” (picture 1).

Is my baby or child at risk of getting too little vitamin D?
— Maybe. If your baby only gets breast milk, or breast milk and some formula, he or she needs extra vitamin D. Breast milk has most of the nutrients a baby needs, but it does not have enough vitamin D in it.
Babies and children can also be at risk if they:
●Have dark skin
●Do not drink enough milk or eat other foods with vitamin D in them
●Take certain medicines
●Were born premature
●Have a medical condition that makes it hard to get enough vitamin D, such as cystic fibrosis or celiac disease
●Spend most of their time inside or live in a place with little sun

How can I make sure my baby or child gets enough vitamin D?
— Vitamin D supplements are the best way to make sure your baby or child gets enough vitamin D for healthy bones. Supplements are pills, capsules, or liquids that have nutrients in them.

How much vitamin D does my baby or child need?
— Experts recommend that all babies and children take 400 to 600 international units of vitamin D a day starting a few days after birth. If your child has a condition that makes it hard to get enough vitamin D, he or she might need to take more.
Talk to your child’s doctor about which type of vitamin D to give your baby or child, how much, and when to give the supplements. The right dose will depend on your child’s diet, whether he or she has any medical conditions, and other factors.
It is important not to give your child too much vitamin D. Giving too much vitamin D can make your child sick.

Is there a test for vitamin D?
— Yes. Your child’s doctor can do a blood test to check your child’s vitamin D levels.

Can my baby or child get vitamin D from foods and drinks?
— Yes. Foods and drinks that have a lot of vitamin D include (figure 2):
●Baby formula, milk, orange juice, or yogurt with vitamin D added
●Cooked salmon or mackerel
●Canned tuna fish
●Cereals with vitamin D added
●Cod liver oil

Your baby or child can also get vitamin D from the sun. The body uses sunlight that shines on the skin to make vitamin D. Playing outside can help your child exercise and get vitamin D at the same time. But it is important to ask your child’s doctor how much sun is enough. Your child should wear sunscreen at least part of the time to prevent sunburn and other conditions caused by too much sun.

All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jul 30, 2016.
©2016 UpToDate®
Figure 1
Bow-legs in children with rickets

Babies and children who don’t get enough vitamin D can get a condition called “rickets” that makes legs bend to the side.
Graphic 86459 Version 1.0©2016 UpToDate®
Foods and drinks with vitamin D

Foods rich in vitamin D include milk, canned tuna fish, cod liver oil, yogurt, ready-to-eat-cereals, cooked salmon, canned sardines, mackerel, and eggs.
Graphic 78586 Version 1.0
Figure 2

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