Almost half of women in the US are deficient in Vitamin D, which plays an important role in bone, nerve, respiratory and immune health. This article will help you and your breastfed baby achieve optimal levels of the Sunshine Vitamin during the winter.
Vitamin D is made by the body when exposed to sunlight for 5-30 minutes a day, a few times a week.
Many women do not achieve this, especially during the winter when sunlight hours are limited and temperatures outside require exposed skin to be covered up. Mothers who live in northern latitudes and cloudy climates, have certain restricted diets, or have dark-colored skin are also at an increased risk for deficiency.
This directly affects infants.
Not only are infants encouraged to stay out of direct sunlight, but breast milk is also commonly low in Vitamin D. This is a result of the mother’s low level of Vitamin D, it is not a deficiency in breast milk composition.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends lactating mothers consume at least 600 IU of Vitamin D daily, with an upper safety limit of 4,000 IU for mothers that need that extra boost due to climate, lifestyle practices, or dietary preferences. Breast milk fed babies should consume 400 IU daily, according to the NIH and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Here are a few ways to improve your level of Vitamin D
If the weather allows, a cruise outside for 5-30 minutes with exposed skin will suffice. Sunshine through the window doesn’t count as UVB rays do not penetrate glass.
Many families find they can get these Vitamin D levels through supplementation of D2 or D3. Prenatal and multivitamins often contain adequate minimal levels as well, so set that Alexa reminder to ping you to take it!
You can also serve up some sunshine on your dinner plate. Mushrooms, beef liver, fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon), egg yolks, and cheese contain this vital nutrient. Many foods are also supplemented with Vitamin D, such as cereals, plant-based milk, orange juice, and yogurts. The labels will alert you to this.
As always, speak with your family’s physician before starting anything new for you and your baby.
Article by Maren Gogna. Maren is a Registered Nurse (RN) and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who is also pursuing her Ph.D. to advance the study of human milk. She has held a private lactation practice, started the NICU Lactation Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, and champions for corporate support of breast milk feeding mothers. She has three children who are 8 and 10 years old and back in the breastfeeding seat with a 7-month-old.