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Vitamin D for Infants
When it comes to key nutrients and their importance in pregnancy, breastfeeding and for optimal growth and development in infants and toddlers we often hear about iron, calcium and omega 3 fats. Less frequently mentioned is the importance of mums and bubs getting enough Vitamin D, a nutrient that a significant number of Aussie adults, children and infants are lacking despite living in the ‘sunny’ country.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it needs fat to be absorbed in the body, and is involved in the absorption of calcium in the body and as such low Vitamin D levels in the body can cause issues with bone development. Low levels of Vitamin D are also linked to delays in motor development, muscle soreness, fatigue and long term the development of a number of diseases including some cancers, heart disease and neurological dysfunction as we age.
Adults get 80% of their Vitamin D from sunlight. In recent years, Vitamin D deficiency has become more common in Australia as we proactively spend less time in the sun; cover up with sunscreen and clothing, and work longer hours in office environments. Up to 25% of Australian adults have low Vitamin D levels.
The issue for pregnant women, new mums and infants is that when an adult female starts a pregnancy with low Vitamin D levels, and then goes on to breastfeed an infant, there is less and less Vitamin D available for a new baby. As such health professionals are seeing more and more infants and children will low Vitamin D levels.
While you can get some Vitamin D from foods including egg yolks, oily fish such as salmon and some types of mushrooms, in general our intake of such foods is relatively low. Indeed, some types of spreads, milks and even orange juice may be fortified with Vitamin D, but again these are not foods likely consumed by infants and small children.
It is for this reason that supplementation with Vitamin D is recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mums to ensure both mum and baby have access to the amount of Vitamin D needed to maintain both optimal stores for themselves and for bone development. In addition to supplements many toddler milks, including Bellamy’s Organic range, are fortified with Vitamin D. If you are unsure of your own Vitamin D status, it is a good idea to have it checked by your GP so you can manage your own supplementation accordingly.
Susie is a consultant to Bellamy’s Organic. Bellamy’s do manufacture toddler milk. These are her own views on the use of toddler milk as both a paediatric dietitian and as a mum. After working with Bellamy’s and through her own research, she has come to appreciate the benefits of toddler milk drinks and the role they can play in a toddler’s diet, particularly toddlers who are fussy eaters. This is not to say that toddler milk is for everyone, it is simply one nutrient rich option that can play a role in the diets of toddlers.