La Leche League International encourages all mothers to recognize the importance of vitamin D to the health of their children. Recent research shows that due to current lifestyles, breastfeeding mothers may not have enough vitamin D in their own bodies to pass to their infants through breastmilk.
In October 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants receive 400 IU a day of vitamin D, beginning in the first few days of life. Children who do not receive enough vitamin D are at risk for rickets and increased risk for infections, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is mainly acquired through exposure to sunlight and secondarily through food. Research shows that the adoption of indoor lifestyles and the use of sunscreen have seriously depleted vitamin D in most women. The ability to acquire adequate amounts of vitamin D through sunlight depends on skin color and geographic location.
Dark-skinned people can require up to six times the amount of sunlight as light-skinned people. People living near the equator can obtain vitamin D for 12 months of the year while those living in northern and southern climates may only absorb vitamin D for six or fewer months of the year.
For many years, La Leche League International has offered the research-based recommendation that exclusively breastfed babies received all the vitamin D necessary through mother’s milk. Health care professionals now have a better understanding of the function of vitamin D and the amounts required, and the newest research shows this is only true when mothers themselves have enough vitamin D. Statistics indicate that a large percentage of women do not have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their bodies.
La Leche League International acknowledges that breastfeeding mothers who have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their bodies can successfully provide enough vitamin D to their children through breastmilk. It is recommended that pregnant and nursing mothers obtain adequate vitamin D or supplement as necessary. Health care providers may recommend that women who are unsure of their vitamin D status undergo a simple blood test before choosing not to supplement.
Parents or health care providers who want more information on rickets, vitamin D in human milk, or other information on breastfeeding issues visit: La Leche League International