Adequate levels of Vitamin D is important for both breastfeeding moms and babies.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in fatty fish, cod liver oil and eggs, but the easiest way to get enough is through sun exposure. Supplementation may be necessary for those with limited sun exposure, ones who are always completely covered by clothing or who have dark skin. Obese people also tend to have lower levels due to increased body requirements and greater distribution into fatty tissue.
Low levels can cause rickets in children but this has become quite rare since the introduction of Vitamin D fortified milk in the 1930s. It performs many functions in the body, including enhancing calcium absorption and aiding in bone mineralization. Low levels can increase the risk of fractures, colon cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and death. Osteomalacia, which is a softening of the bones, can occur in adults who are deficient.
Infant’s requirements usually cannot be met by breastmilk alone
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding infants receive 400 IU/day supplement soon after birth. Recent studies have shown that maternal Vitamin D supplementation with 6400 IU/day supplies breastmilk with adequate levels to satisfy her nursing infant’s requirement. This can be a useful alternative to supplementing babies.
The primary source of Vitamin D for babies, especially their first 2 to 3 months, is the stores acquired during pregnancy. Since mom’s Vitamin D level during pregnancy directly affects baby’s Vitamin D stores at birth, pregnant women need to make sure they are getting enough. One study suggested Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy may prevent early onset sepsis. These patients had a lower risk of group B streptococcus and respiratory infections such as RSV. If a mom tests positive for group B strep during pregnancy and does not receive IV antibiotics before delivery, her baby has a risk of sepsis and meningitis.
An Australian research team published findings on the relationship between maternal Vitamin D deficiency and impact on fetal development. They found maternal deficiency during pregnancy was associated with impaired lung development, neurocognitive difficulties, increased risk of eating disorders and lower peak bone mass.
Some other very interesting recent research studies are showing a relationship between low Vitamin D levels and the need for more pain medication during labor. Another related study showed an increase in epidural use during labor with deficient moms. Having adequate levels during pregnancy would be a very simple way to help decrease labor pain in millions of women every year.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email.
Diane Erdmann RN BSN IBCLC
Breastfeeding Support & Supplies