It’s common for exclusively breast-fed infants to be vitamin D deficient, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that these infants be given 400 IU of oral vitamin D daily soon after birth. However, recent research may offer an alternative to giving infants a vitamin D supplement—if nursing mothers supplement with high doses of vitamin D3, infants may get the D they need. The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, randomly divided 334 mothers and their four to six week old, nursing infants into three groups: in the first group, both the mothers and the infants received 400 IU of vitamin D3 daily; in the second and third groups, the mothers received 2,400 IU or 6,400 IU, respectively, of vitamin D3 daily, while their infants received a placebo. All of the groups followed the supplement plan for six months. Maternal vitamin D levels were measured at the beginning of the study, and then monthly; infant vitamin D levels were measured at the beginning of the study, and then at months four and seven. Here is what researchers found when they compared the effectiveness of maternal vitamin D3 supplementation to maternal and infant supplementation:
Breastfeeding infants receiving a placebo whose mothers were taking 6,400 IU daily had vitamin D levels similar to breastfeeding infants in the group where both the mother and infant were receiving 400 IU daily.
Mothers receiving 6,400 IU daily safely increased their vitamin D to adequate levels compared with mothers receiving other amounts of vitamin D3.
These findings suggest that if you’re a nursing mother, supplementing with 6,400 IU of vitamin D3 daily may be an alternative strategy to current vitamin D recommendations for exclusively breast-fed infants. This research is important because vitamin D plays such an essential role in childhood health; not only is it linked to children’s muscle development, but vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to a variety of illnesses, including rickets, a childhood disease that causes bone malformations.