Vitamin D For Children And Babies: Meeting Needs And Recognizing Deficiencies

Vitamin D plays an important role for children and babies: it strengthens the immune system, strengthens teeth and bones, and protects the nerve cells of the brain. What are the recommendations for dosing vitamin D? And what are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in children?

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in children?

In the first years of life, the supply of nutrients is crucial for child development, because a deficiency can lead to permanent mental and physical damage. This is especially true of vitamin D, which is essential for children and babies.

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be produced by the body itself. All you need is sunlight and a so-called vitamin D precursor, which is formed from cholesterol. In this way, 80 to 90 percent of the vitamin D requirement is produced.

A vitamin D deficiency primarily affects the calcium and phosphate balance and leads to deformations in babies and children due to the rapid growth of the bone skeleton. Typical signs of such rickets are

  • short stature
  • bent and shortened bones
  • O-legs and
  • Distended cartilage-bone borders of the ribs on the sternum (rachitic rosary).

Pronounced rickets can also be seen on the spine when it forms more and more into a hump. The children also suffer from weak muscles, have joint and bone pain, and are late in teething.

Babies need vitamin D

Babies are considered a risk group for vitamin D deficiency because they should not be exposed to direct sunlight. In addition, both breast milk and infant formula are low in vitamin D. Therefore, all babies need a vitamin D supplement during the first 12 months of life. This protects them from the deformation of the bones (rickets) by promoting the incorporation of calcium into the bones and thus bone mineralization.

Recommendation for dosage of vitamin D for children and babies

The recommendation regarding vitamin D for children from the German Society for Child and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ) is that both breastfed and non-breastfed babies should be given vitamin D daily until the end of the first year of life to prevent rickets.

Babies from the end of the first week of life until the end of the first year of life receive one tablet with 10 to 12.5 micrograms of vitamin D every day.

The dosage of the vitamin for children is often given in so-called international units (IU). One microgram corresponds to 40 IU. A baby in its first year of life, therefore, receives 400 to 500 IU of vitamin D every day. Babies born in winter get vitamin D for a year and a half, while those born in summer only get the whole first year of life.

Various diseases, especially those of the skeleton, require vitamin D supplements in children beyond the age of one or two. In all other cases, a dietary supplement is no longer necessary – not even if the child sees less daylight at times.

Pediatricians recommend ensuring the dosage of vitamin D for children via tablets. Although vitamin D is also available in the form of drops, these can be dosed less precisely because the droplet size can vary depending on the ambient temperature. In addition, one drop to be administered quickly turns into two.

A sufficient supply of vitamin D for children should therefore be ensured above all in the first year of life – preferably in consultation with the treating pediatrician.

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