Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vitamin D and Babies

Vitamin D is the amazing nutrient we get from the sun! It helps us build strong bones and absorb calcium. Cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D. In days gone by, we always saw babies out in their prams (perambulator = old style "buggy" like you see in central park or London, pushed by the nannies). The fresh air is good for the baby and it gives both the adult and the baby a good old fashioned vitamin boost. There's nothing old fashioned about a walk (or jog) in the park and it's good for the baby too. Getting back in shape after your delivery requires some exercise. There are plenty of good reasons for going outside.

We've become an "inside" generation, spending hours in front of computer screens and TVs, in buildings, indoor gyms and cars. Our lifestyle may be short-changing our babies too as we all miss out on the emotional health as well as physical benefits of walking outside. We're even sometimes afraid of the sun because of skin cancer concerns, but sunshine is still important - it's the sunburn we need to worry about; not the sunshine.

The benefits of exercise - even a daily walk around the block - are many. Boosting mom's supply of vitamin D is one of those which will also help her to have a good supply in her milk as well. There have been revised recommendations about supplementing breastfed babies with vitamin D. If the mother's stores are adequate this is probably unnecessary. Mom can take a supplement to increase the levels of vitamin D in her milk. It takes about two weeks of supplementation (60 mcg) to substantially raise the level of this vitamin in your milk . Read the article here by a breastfeeding expert at KellyMom.

The recommendation came because it can be difficult to determine if the baby (or mom) is getting adequate exposure to sunlight, even though it doesn't take a lot. Your baby needs 30 minutes of sunlight a week (without sunscreen - not needed in these small doses), beginning at two weeks of age. For people living in cold, northern areas where sunlight is minimal, this may be difficult, so supplementation is encouraged.
In an April, 17, 2003 Press Release La Leche League International responded to the recommendation saying, "Exclusively breastfed healthy, full-term infants from birth to six months who have adequate exposure to sunlight are not at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency or rickets. Rickets occurs because of a deficiency in sunlight exposure, not because of a deficiency in human milk."
This is important because some may believe formula is better than breast milk based on the recommendation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The many important components of breast milk which are not available in artificial baby milk far outweigh any decrease in vitamin D even if the mother's milk is weak in this vitamin, because sunlight gives the baby all the nutrient he or she needs. Babies LOVE to go outside too - in any weather. So, grab a stroller and enjoy walking with your little one. In cold weather, just make sure you have a blanket, hat and sweater. Your neighbors want a peek at the baby too. The benefits are enormous!

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