Pediatricians recommend vitamin D supplementation for infants who are fully or partially breastfed. But are parents unknowingly giving their babies too much? In an alert issued by June 15, 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned parents and caregivers that some liquid vitamin D supplement products on the market come with droppers that could allow parents and caregivers to accidentally give harmful amounts of the vitamin to an infant. Some droppers may be poorly marked or hold a greater amount of liquid vitamin D than an infant should receive.
"It is important that infants not get more than the recommended daily amount of vitamin D," says Dr. Linda M. Katz, interim chief medical officer in FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends fully or partially breastfed babies receive a daily supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D.
As the FDA explained in its warning, vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and plays a key role in the development of strong bones. Vitamin D supplements are recommended for some infants—especially those that are breastfed—because deficiency of this vitamin can lead to bone problems such as thinning, soft, and misshaped bones, as is seen with the condition known as rickets.
However, too much vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constipation, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, muscle and joint aches, confusion, and fatigue, as well as more serious consequences like kidney damage.
To make sure Baby is getting the right amount of vitamin D, the FDA recommends parents take the following steps:
- Keep the vitamin D supplement product with its original package so that you and other caregivers can follow the instructions. Follow these instructions carefully so that you use the dropper correctly and give the right dose.
- Use only the dropper that comes with the product—it is manufactured specifically for that product. Do not use a dropper from another product.
- Ensure the dropper is marked so that the units of measure are clear and easy to understand. Also make sure that the units of measure correspond to those mentioned in the instructions.
- If you cannot clearly determine the dose of vitamin D delivered by the dropper, talk to a healthcare professional before giving the supplement to the infant.
Additionally, if your infant is being fully or partially fed with infant formula, check with your pediatrician before giving the child vitamin D supplements. Depending on the amount of vitamin D already in the formula (and Baby's intake), vitamin D supplementation may not be needed.