The Vitamin D Association has identified what we believe is a serious error in the guidelines on vitamin D supplementation of breastfed infants in the UK and in the avoidance of vitamin D deficiency in the South Asian and African community. The UK guidelines do not recommend vitamin D supplementation of breastfed infants during the first six months of life as standard.
Early supplementation is needed, and is standard practice in most other comparable countries. For more background information about this, see our FAQ for parents.
We recommend 400IU of D3 drops/day for your baby from a few days after birth until they reach 6 months, but always check with your GP first. From 6 months we recommend following the US guidelines.
The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. Yet studies have shown that most breastfed babies are vitamin D deficient. The reason for this is twofold:
- The majority of UK mothers have inadequate levels of vitamin D due to insufficient sun exposure and diets low in the vitamin.
- Human breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D, containing only about 25 IU per litre even when the mother is taking a supplement.
Despite this, the UK guidelines do not recommend universal vitamin D supplementation for breastfed infants during the first six months of life. Early supplementation is standard practice in most other comparable countries in Europe and in the US:
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) updated its guidelines to recommend a vitamin D supplement for infants beginning a few days after birth. This advice is now followed by the National Institute for Health (NIH) in the US and Canada.
The Vitamin D Association feels that this is a sensible measure which urgently needs to be adopted in the UK. The main health consequences to be concerned about with infant vitamin D deficiency are a risk of impaired bone development (in extreme cases rickets) and reduced ability to avoid or manage infections.