By Dr. Mercola
Arguably thousands of parents don't realize that not only is getting adequate vitamin D for themselves and their children important, it's important for the health of their unborn children, as well. According to GrassrootsHealth director Carole Baggerly:
"If you know that most women of childbearing age are vitamin D deficient, it starts to make sense that they wouldn't have the vitamin D available to pass on in their breast milk …
Only 2 [to]19 [percent] of the infants are given a supplement. This suggests that over 80 percent of babies are not getting the recommended amount of vitamin D."1
What makes it worse, Baggerly asserts, is that while new moms could expose babies to sunshine for short times throughout the day, most doctors tell them to keep their babies in the shade for the first six months, and to make sure they're covered with either clothes or sunscreen when they do go outside. Baggerly's answer to that:
"This is a problem! Not enough D in breast milk, no supplementation and no sun puts far too many babies at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and at increased risk of many future diseases that could be avoided."
Breastfeeding Babies Are Getting Essentially Zero Vitamin D
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a dietary reference intake (DRI, formerly RDA) of 400 IU of vitamin D for infants, daily, for their first two months.2
However, research shows that if a pregnant mother takes the current government-recommended (aka paltry) amount of vitamin D per day, the baby's levels are deficient.3 Studies also show that only 2 percent to 19 percent of parents comply with infant supplementation.
While the recommended 400 IU of vitamin D is now shown to be inadequate for the 4 million babies born every year in the U.S., only 20 percent of the population is getting even that much.
If nothing changes, a sobering statistic reveals that 54.4 million babies will start life with a vitamin D deficiency, meaning they will face probable growth, developmental and immune function challenges, not to mention dramatically increase their prevalence of disease, according to Change.org,4 which explained:
"In infants, vitamin D deficiency can result in seizures, growth failure, lethargy, irritability and a predisposition to respiratory infections.
Between 3 and 18 months of age the vitamin D deficient baby may develop signs of rickets, the skeletal disorder resulting in brittle bones, prevalent in the early 1900s, which led to fortifying milk with vitamin D."
Research conducted by Bruce W. Hollis, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina Pediatrics noted that vitamin D deficiency in breastfeeding infants is also significantly affected by race.
Black moms get an average of 28 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) of vitamin D per day; Hispanic moms an average of 30 ng/ml and white moms an average of 40. Meanwhile, black babies have an average of 10 ng/ml; Hispanic babies an average of 11 and white babies an average of 17.5
Hollis' conclusion was that mothers supplementing with 6,400 IU per day of vitamin D would safely supply their breast milk with vitamin D to meet, if not exceed, her own and her nursing infant's vitamin D requirements and be a safer alternative to supplementing the baby's diet directly.
How Does a Baby's Birth Month Affect How Healthy He'll Be?
Scientists now say that babies who are born between October and December have a greater likelihood of being autistic or dyslexic. In fact, in the U.S. about 1 in 68 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.6 The U.K.'s Daily Mail notes:
"After studying more than 800,000 children, researchers at Cambridge and Glasgow universities found that 8.9 percent of those conceived in the first quarter had learning disabilities compared with 7.6 percent of those conceived between July and September."7
A baby's health may depend on her birth month? How does that happen? Glasgow University examined more than 800,000 Scottish children and discovered that those conceived somewhere between January and March had a higher incidence of autism and dyslexia than babies conceived in the summer. According to Professor Jill Pell, the lead study author:
"The results of this study show that if we could get rid of the seasonal variation, we could prevent 11 percent of cases of learning disabilities.
It is important that pregnant women follow the advice to take vitamin D supplements and also that they start supplements as early in pregnancy as possible; ideally when they are trying to get pregnant."8
High-Dose Vitamin D for Pregnant Women?
Even Down Under in New Zealand, researchers divided 90 pregnant moms into two groups, giving half of the supplementation group high-dose vitamin D doses amounting to 50,000 IU once a month for four months, and the other half a 100,000 IU dose.9 The other half of the women were given a placebo.
Babies were assessed according to pertinent factors, including the month they were conceived. According to Science Daily:
"Compared to the placebo group, they found a significant and clinically meaningful increase in vitamin D levels in the blood of infants whose mothers took the highest dose."10
As a result of all the statistics, scientists and health professionals are urging mothers to begin taking higher doses of vitamin D supplementation, if they haven't started already. Cambridge University professor and head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gordon Smith, Ph.D., agreed, observing in The Scotsman that:
"Widespread compliance with the advice would lead to loss of this variation, and would have a downward effect on overall rates of special educational needs …
These findings underline the importance of health professionals recommending vitamin D, and the importance of women complying with the treatment to optimi[z]e their chances of a healthy child."11
Multiple Diseases May Be Explained by Low Vitamin D Levels
Like the U.K., the upper half of the U.S. experiences diminished sunlight hours during the winter months, so the chances for absorbing vitamin D from the sun is not as great as in the summer.
In fact, in 2015 the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association12 reported a study involving 2 million people that found a link between birth month and 55 different diseases. Babies born in May had the lowest risk of disease, and those born in October and November had the highest.
Some of the most prevalent diseases include respiratory infections, short sightedness, tonsillitis and a neurological predisposition for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Speculation regarding the reasons for this phenomenon has ranged from weather changes, the mother's diet and level of physical activity, to elevated infectious disease incidences in the winter. One study showed a mom's low levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk of atopic dermatitis (AD) in early childhood.13
However, as vitamin D deficiency in pregnant mothers has become the focus, one of the problems is that it lowers their ability to absorb calcium and phosphate from the foods they eat.
Adequate intake is crucial for a healthy immune system, muscle function and to help lower the risk of later in life developing some of the most prevalent and deadly diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. A deficiency may also be a forerunner of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Interestingly, while asthma is one of the diseases studies have linked with low vitamin D levels, scientists at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Children's Hospital are studying the effectiveness of vitamin D as an inexpensive over-the-counter alternative to the inhalers asthmatics use. Participants will be tracked for a year, CBS New York says.14
While it's projected to take four years to determine whether vitamin D can lower the number of asthma attacks people have, asthma patients are hopeful for a positive result.
Rickets Back on the List of Resurging Diseases in Developed Countries
Rickets is a disease you may remember learning about in health class. It causes bone softening and subsequent breaks, tenderness in large bones, muscle cramps and skeletal deformities. This supposedly dormant disease was quite common in the 1900s (and conceivably before that). It was largely eradicated in the 1930s, according to the National Institutes of Health:
"In the 1930s, a milk fortification program was implemented in the United States to combat rickets, then a major public health problem. Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are generally not fortified. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and other food products."15
Unfortunately, rickets is becoming prevalent once again. In the U.K., there were an estimated 833 hospital admissions for rickets in 2012 — quadruple the number of just 10 years earlier.16 Here in the States, parents of children with multiple broken bones who can't explain why are sometimes suspected of child abuse. It should be noted that while diseases like cancer are more prevalent in people with low "D" levels, adequate intake lowers cancer risk along with your risk of other diseases.
Strategies for 'Upping' Your Vitamin D Intake
Yes, sunlight is good for you. If you live in an area where sunlight is at a minimum, especially in the winter (making you a candidate for Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD syndrome) here are three ways to top up your vitamin D before your levels go down, derived from NewsMax.com:17
1. Get out in the sun when it's high in the sky, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. While that's typically frowned on by some doctors, that's the best way to get the most benefit, but for periods of five to 15 minutes and without sunscreen. The more of your skin exposed, the better.
2. The foods with the most vitamin D include wild-caught Alaskan salmon, eggs from organic, pastured chickens, whole raw milk from organic, grass-fed cows, organic liver from grass-fed cows and mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight.18
3. Supplement with vitamin D, but first, find out how much you need. Find out more by clicking here to read my article on supplementing to maintain vitamin D levels.
Sign the Petition to Raise the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)
You can sign the petition now to raise the DRI and help stop vitamin D deficiency in breastfeeding mothers and babies.