Does my child get enough vitamin D?

Living and working in the Pacific Northwest, we often hear questions about vitamin D, especially during the long, dark winters. Most vitamin D is obtained naturally through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D research has also been in the news recently. Here is some basic information about vitamin D, which hopefully will answer any questions you may have.

What is vitamin D?

This important vitamin aids bone growth and development by regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.

What are sources of vitamin D?

Vitamin D is not found in many foods, except for foods such as fatty fish and organ meats; therefore, milk is fortified with vitamin D in the United States. Vitamin D is also synthesized in the skin after exposure to sunlight.

What happens if your child doesn’t get enough vitamin D?

In severe cases of vitamin D deficiency, children can develop rickets. Rickets is a disease characterized by thin, brittle bones, which can lead to fractures and deformities.

What is the recommendation for vitamin D intake by children?

Because the amount of vitamin D in human breast milk is insufficient for infant nutrition, supplements are recommended for breast-fed babies. Infant formula is fortified with vitamin D; however, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a supplementation of 400 IU/day of liquid vitamin D be given to infants daily if they do not consume more than 27 to 32 ounces of formula a day. Liquid vitamin D is often sold in a formulation that also has vitamins A and C, which are safe for infants to consume.

For children older than one year, a dosage of approximately 600 IU/day of vitamin D is recommended. Eight ounces of milk contains about 100 IU of vitamin D, and four ounces of wild caught salmon contains about 600 IU of vitamin D. Vitamin supplementation via liquid or pill is recommended if children do not consume adequate quantities of vitamin D via milk or food.

What if my child is exposed to sunlight? Will he/she need supplementation?

Sunlight exposure varies in different parts of the country, with the northern part of the country having less sunlight. Synthesis of vitamin D from sunlight exposure also depends on use of sunscreen and skin pigmentation. Therefore, sunlight exposure is often not enough to provide adequate vitamin D.