Essential for newborns right up until their first birthday, it is imperative that your baby has enough Vitamin D.
Naturally, our bodies make vitamin D from the sun, but unfortunately for babies, their delicate skin should not be in direct sunlight. Therefore it is recommended that they need supplements to help build and maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in Ireland, and there are several risk factors of low levels of the vitamin in your blood. Babies with severe cases the deficiency are at high risk of developing rickets - a condition that leads to soft bones and can cause bone deformities such as spine curve and bowed legs.
For adults, osteomalacia can occur, which can cause frequent bone fractures, bone pain and muscle weakness. Also, various studies have proven links with conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In line with the national health policy in Ireland, the HSE recommends "All babies who are being breastfed should continue to get a vitamin D supplement after birth, even if you took vitamin D during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
You do not need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement if they are fed more than 300mls or 10 fluid oz (ounces) of infant formula a day. This is because there has been an increase in the amount of vitamin D added to infant formula. This is due to a change in EU law as of February 2020."
Found in a small range of food, it is present in egg yolks, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna as well as fortified foods like breakfast cereal, infant formula and cow's milk.
These supplements for babies can be purchased over the counter in pharmacies nationwide and some supermarkets. A prescription is not required. However, it is vital you only buy supplements suitable for babies containing Vitamin D3 only.
You must read the label for the required amount of oral drops or liquid needed - many brands differ. And remember, it is as harmful to take too much of any vitamin.
If you are in any way unsure what to give your little one, ask your local pharmacist, public health nurse, practice nurse or family doctor for advice.