Health Alert! Breastfed babies may be deficient in this essential vitamin

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While it definitely has more benefits than disadvantages, more and more studies are saying that exclusively breastfed babies might be at a risk of developing a few nutritional and vitamin deficiencies

There is a lot of debate going on in the medical community and otherwise as well on the pros and cons of breastfeeding. While it definitely has more benefits than disadvantages, more and more studies are saying that exclusively breastfed babies might be at a risk of developing a few nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, especially if the mother’s diet is deficient of the essential nutrients.

Previously, a research by the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI) said that breastfeeding is not any better than formula when it comes to protecting your baby from developing allergies later on in life. This study contradicted most mothers’ long-held belief that breastfeeding practically makes your child’s immune system impenetrable.

What the new research says

A new research by the Canadian Paediatric society says that breastfed babies might be deficient in Vitamin D and recommends that breastfed babies take supplements containing 400 International Units of vitamin D for the first year of life.

“We’re not saying that breastfeeding is not a really great source of nutrition, but up here in the northern parts of the world not much vitamin D passes through breast milk,” said study coauthor Dr Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, as he spoke to a leading International news agency. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding through the first six months of life.

The study observed the vitamin D levels of breastfed babies using data from about 2,500 healthy children aged 1 to 5 years in Toronto. Mothers were asked the duration for which the kids had been breastfed and if there kids were taking any Vitamin D supplements. 50 percent of the kids had been breastfed for 10 months or more and half of them were receiving vitamin D supplements.

16 percent of kids under 2 were deficient in vitamin D

Blood samples were collected to test their vitamin D levels and the end of the study it was found that as breastfeeding duration increased, blood vitamin D levels decreased for children who did not take supplements.

  • For every one month additional breastfeeding time, the odds of abnormally low vitamin D levels increased by 6%, the researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health, online February 18.
  • The scientists predicted that 16 percent of 2-year-olds breastfeeding who were not on any  supplements would be seriously deficient, and by age 3, that would rise to 29 percent.
  • For children who did take supplements, breastfeeding duration was not tied to vitamin D levels.

These results support the American Academy of Paediatrics recommendation of vitamin D supplements during breastfeeding, regardless of duration, Maguire said. However, the study had one shortcoming as it was only conducted in Canada, it could be more valid for people staying away from the equator and those who get less sunlight.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

While the best way to ensure that your baby gets all the vitamin D he needs is by taking him out in the sun, especially in the mornings, there are quite a few foods that also contain vitamin D. Here’s what you can give your child.

  • Fortified milk: Many milk brands in the market these days are fortified with vitamin D. You can also try other vitamin D fortified products such as yoghurt and other dairy products.
  • Eggs: Eggs, especially egg yolks, are loaded with vitamin D.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are loaded with vitamin D and can be easily added to your baby’s soups or just stir-fried.
  • Infant cereals: Many infant cereals are also fortified with vitamin D to meet the daily requirements of an infant. Check the label to be exactly sure of the content.
  • Tofu: Tofu is another excellent source of vitamin D and a great source of this essential vitamin for vegetarians.

Health advisory: Please consult a doctor before giving anything to your baby, especially under the age of 1, for the first time.

(Image courtesy: Google)

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