Breastfed infants may get the level of vitamin D that they need from breast milk if their moms receive a vitamin D supplement, according to a US study. It has to be high-dose supplements to replace the vitamin drops that are prescribed to be administered to nursing babies.

Pediatricians advise mothers to breastfeed their infants for at least six months to lower the risk of their babies suffering from allergies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory and ear infections, diabetes and childhood obesity.

However, exclusive breastfeeding may not give the babies enough vitamin D, which is critical in bone health.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies need 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D daily.

Instead of getting vitamin D drops, a research studied what happens after they administered 400 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D supplement daily. The study showed that mothers who received the highest dose of the supplement, the breastfed infants were able to obtain the same amount of vitamin D found in infant drops.

One of the research authors, Dr. Carol Wagner, a Medical University of South Carolina’s pediatrics researcher, said that the high dosage of supplement the mother received is enough to provide the baby the vitamin D that they need.

The study had 334 mother-infant pairs in the course of six months. It also kept track of urine and blood tests.

As for the respondents, it should be noted that many of the tested mothers have completely stopped breastfeeding or have introduced their babies to formula or solid foods while breastfeeding. The research team did not test the vitamin D levels found in breast milk, either, focusing instead on the vitamin D levels found in babies.

Vitamin D is essential for the body as it helps it absorb calcium, which is necessary for healthy bone development.

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The US National Institutes of Health recommends that most women, including breastfeeding mothers, take 600 IU of vitamin D, although this has to be increased to 800 IU once women they reach 70.

However, even if this single study showed that nursing women may choose to take vitamin D supplements instead of giving vitamin drops to their babies, this may not cause the practice to change, as per pediatrician Dr. Richard So of Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

Parents should remember, though, that too much vitamin D is also harmful to the body. It leads to calcium buildup in the blood, which in turn can cause nausea, appetite, weakness, kidney problems, and frequent urination. During the study, there were no noted reports of serious side effects of excessive vitamin D among the mothers who took higher doses of the supplement.

According to experts, moms taking a vitamin D supplement may increase the number of receiving enough amount of this vitamin D, since only one in five babies are being given vitamin D drops daily while consuming breast milk.

Dr. Lydia Furman, a UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital pediatrician in Cleveland, said that there are no risks to babies if they obtain vitamin D from their mother’s milk instead of through daily drops. It even seems more natural that way, compared to giving them drops that might make them gag.