(NaturalNews) The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine are now recommending that all babies be given 400 IU (international units) of oral, liquid supplemental vitamin D, shortly after birth, whether the baby is exclusively breast fed, partially breast fed or formula fed.
While breast milk remains the gold standard of nutrition for babies, the Academy cautions that it's unlikely that breast milk alone will provide enough vitamin D.
The Academy also advises that, as solid foods are gradually introduced to the baby's diet, it's essential that vitamin D rich foods, such as oily fish, eggs (yolks) and vitamin D-fortified foods be included.
Vitamin D has a plethora of health benefits beyond the prevention of rickets, including fortifying the immune system, protecting against cancer and diabetes and much more. It's essential for the absorption of calcium from food, which is necessary for building strong bones, which is especially important for babies.
What's not mentioned in this advisory is that it's vital for oral vitamin D supplementation to be in the form of D3, which both breast milk and raw cow's milk are. Pasteurization destroys D3 in cow's milk. Vitamin D3 is the kind that your body produces from the sun. Cod liver oil is another viable option for some.
Vitamin D oral supplements come in two forms: ergocalciferol, or vitamin D2; and cholecalciferol, or D3. Recent research indicates that D3 is 87% more potent in raising and maintaining blood levels of vitamin D.
It also allows for two to three times more storage of vitamin D for future use than D2 does. In fact, studies have shown that only a few hours of summer sun exposure produces several months of D3 storage.
Both vitamin D3 and D2 require a conversion to an active, bio-available form by the body. Studies have shown D3's conversion rate be 500% faster than D2's.
While most experts agree that the best source of vitamin D is directly from the sun via the skin, because of an infant's fragile and delicate skin which can easily burn, mainstream doctors routinely recommend sunscreen in conjunction with oral vitamin D supplementation for vitamin D deficiencies.
Variables affecting production of vitamin D3 from the sun: the season, altitude, pollution level, latitude, skin pigmentation, exposure times and time of day may modify the availability of vitamin D production by sun exposure.
The vitamin D deficiency epidemic
According to PubMed, vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in America.
Vitamin D deficiency has been scientifically linked to "increased risk of type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular heart disease, and many common deadly cancers."
"Vigilance of one's vitamin D status by the yearly measurement of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] should be part of an annual physical examination."
The Bottom line
All babies should get enough safe sun exposure to produce at least some of their own vitamin D. For breast-fed babies, any vitamin D gap should then be supplied by their mother's breast milk.
The amount of vitamin D in breast milk is determined by the mother's vitamin D status. If Mom's breast milk is low in vitamin D, then she needs to safely increase her level by sun exposure, supplementing with vitamin D3, and/or adding vitamin D rich foods to her diet.
A Finnish study demonstrated that supplementing the mother with 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day was equivalent to supplementing the baby with 400 IU per day.
Oral D3 supplementation of mothers could be the preferred method of ensuring adequate vitamin D 3 levels in breast-fed babies. For formula-fed babies, liquid D3 formula is the preferred choice.
Most commercial baby formulas are made with pasteurized cow's milk, even if it is organic. As previously mentioned, pasteurization destroys vitamin D. That's why most formulas are fortified with the less desirable form of vitamin D2. Not to mention that many baby formulas are laced with toxic ingredients.
Another option is to try one of Weston A. Price Foundation co-founder Sally Fallow's nutrient-dense homemade baby formulas. One is made with raw cow or goat's milk, and another is a liver-based formula (http://www.realmilk.com).