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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D for infants

I have yet to see a survey on what percentage of infants get adequate vitamin D supplementation. While I believe that the Food and Nutrition Board’s recommendation of 400 IU is inadequate, the Canadian Pediatric Association’s recommendation of 800 IU/day is much closer to what infants probably need, although no one is sure, since few researchers have measured vitamin D levels in infants and correlated them with total vitamin D intake.

In an attempt to see exactly how much vitamin D infants need, Dr. Pawel Pludowski of the Children’s Memorial Health Institute in Poland and nine colleagues studied 98 infants for 12 months, calculating their total vitamin D intake and measuring their vitamin D levels at age 6 and 12 months.

Pludowski P, Socha P, Karczmarewicz E, Zagorecka E, Lukaszkiewicz J, Stolarczyk A, Piotrowska-Jastrzebska J, Kryskiewicz E, Lorenc RS, Socha J. Vitamin D supplementation and status in infants: a prospective cohort observational study. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2011 Jul;53(1):93-9.

Dr. Pludowski’s group produced several interesting findings:

  • First, very few mothers (4%) exclusively breastfeed (thank heavens, as breast milk contains no vitamin D unless the mother takes 5,000 IU or more per day), so 96% of these infants were getting some vitamin D in their formula.
  • Second, many Polish mothers give their infants supplemental vitamin D (around 90%) but the dose they usually give — 400 IU — even when combined with formula, left around 30% of infants deficient (< 30 ng/ml) at 6 months and almost 60% deficient at age 12 months.
  • Finally, Pludowski’s group confirmed that infant’s no longer sunbathe, as infantile vitamin D levels did not change with the season.

The study emphasizes that vitamin D supplementation must increase as the child grows to maintain sufficiency. They found that in order to maintain vitamin D sufficiency, infants need 100 IU per kg of weight. To quote the authors:

“Vitamin D supplementation in infants should take into account their rapid growth and weight increment as well as the necessity to adjust vitamin D dose in relation to kilogram of body weight. Based on the (vitamin D levels), we postulate that in infants up to age 12 months the vitamin D dose close to 100 IU/kg should be considered favorable.”

They added, “Furthermore, Cannell et al proposed a vitamin D daily dose close to 90 IU/kg as suitable for healthy children, which is in agreement with our findings.” The “et al” in this reference included 16 vitamin D experts who made this recommendation four years ago, in a paper warning about the hazards of vitamin A and cod liver oil.

For those in the United States, these findings mean 45 IU per pound. The Vitamin D Council has always simplified this, recommending 1,000 IU for every 25 lbs body weight. This applies to children up until they have hit 125 lbs, and then the 5,000 IU/day for the average adult applies.

Do not forget, however, Carol Wagner et al’s stud y regarding breast fed infants.

Wagner CL, Hulsey TC, Fanning D, Ebeling M, Hollis BW. High-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in a cohort of breastfeeding mothers and their infants: a 6-month follow-up pilot study. Breastfeed Med. 2006 Summer;1(2):59-70.

They found that if the breastfeeding mother’s vitamin D level was around 45 ng/ml or higher, she would supply enough vitamin D to the infant for the infant to be sufficient in vitamin D. Thus the recommendation should be two-part:

  • If the breastfeeding mother is sufficient in vitamin D (higher than 45 ng/ml), the infant does not need a vitamin D supplement. It is worth checking the mother and/or infants levels to be sure, however. According to the CDC report, only 1% of people had levels over 40 ng/ml.
  • If the breastfeeding mother is deficient in vitamin D (less than 45 ng/ml), the infant needs to supplement. This is where Pludowski, other experts, and the Vitamin D Council’s recommendations are important. These infants need 100 IU of vitamin D per kg per day.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

3 Responses to Vitamin D for infants

  1. 100 IU vitamin D /kilogram = the exact same formula that vets have for cows.
    The following reference includes the abstract of the 2011 paper discussed above, a chart showing how little vitamin D infants actually get, and a graph showing that 100 IU/kg is very near to the upper limit of what the Institute of Medicine said should be given to health white individuals. http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=1757 Note that Finland gave 2,000 IU to a great many infants: the main result was healthier infants who later in life were far less less likely to get diabetes.

  2. anniecmars@yahoo.com.au says:

    I’d love to know what other problems those Finnish children DIDN’T develop along with diabetes…….Henry do you know if other studies of these children’s health were done?

  3. anniecmars@yahoo.com.au says:

    Surely vitamin D serum levels, using the heel prick/blood drop such as the ZRT Labs test MUST be added to the tests carried out on newborns immediately. Imagine how much suffering would be prevented by this simple test at birth and monitoring of vitamin D serum levels in babies through infancy. Am I being a simpleton here, or is it really as easy as I think it is to prevent vitamin D deficiency in newborns, infants and children?