The average liter of breast milk contains insufficient vitamin D and so mothers need to boost this. Sunlight is the ideal way to go with half an hour's exposure especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm on a daily basis. Sunlight (UV-B) is a primary and effective way to fulfill the requirement of Vitamin D. This is why many experts recommend getting an exposure of sunlight for at least 15-20 minutes daily but remember the darker your skin, the longer you need. Using soap if showering or bathing a few hours before or after this sun exposure and/or putting on sunscreen will negate the benefit of the vitamin D.
If sunlight exposure is impossible, especially in winter, then a vitamin D3 supplement is necessary.
Some research findings
According to Professor Bruce Hollis (a former director of the Vitamin D Council) the optimum blood level of vitamin D in pregnant and nursing mothers is 40 to 50 ng/ml. He came to this important conclusion when he was testing the levels of vitamin D in babies and found that when the nursing mothers had those levels, their breast milk in turn had enough vitamin D to support their babies. He further found that at levels below 40, the vitamin D content of breast milk became unpredictable.
For obvious reasons, this provides a good bench mark for the rest of us and if pregnant women can reach that level, there is no need to provide additional vitamin D supplements to babies all the time they are being breast fed. It is therefore so important both for moms-to-be and their babies to receive plenty and sufficient vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D so important to both moms and babies?
- The most common problem caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D is rickets. At first it was thought that calcium was the only component that affected the bones. Now it is known that vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium from the blood stream.
- A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to asthma and even lung infections.
- Studies have revealed that low vitamin D in new born babies can double the risk of schizophrenia and other brain related disorders in later years.
- So mothers-to-be can ensure they have adequate levels of vitamin D when they start breastfeeding by either getting enough sun exposure or taking enough vitamin D (usually 4,000–6,000 IU per day) to produce breast milk that is rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin D in foods
Additional vitamin D also occurs in foods like fortified milk, egg yolk, cheese, cereals and oily fish.
As babies grow older, they also need to be exposed to gradual and regular sunlight.
Children over the age of 1 year should take 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 supplements per every 25 pounds of body weight each day but if they spend the summer months outside they do not need to take any until the winter months come round again.