The amount of vitamin D needed for babies

It is important that babies get enough vitamin D during the first 12 months of their lives when their bones are growing rapidly.

May 3, 2013

It is important that babies get enough vitamin D during the first 12 months of their lives when their bones are growing rapidly. Up until now, it wasn’t clear how much vitamin D babies needed. Now, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that 400 IU of vitamin D daily is sufficient for infant health.

“There’s sometimes a feeling that more is better,” says Hope Weiler, Professor at the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University. “But until now, no one had compared the popularly recommended daily doses of vitamin D to see what will result in optimal health for infants, so we were very glad to be able to do this.”

Current recommendations about how much vitamin D a baby needs daily in order to build healthy bones and prevent rickets vary widely. In France and Finland, the recommended daily dose is of 1,000 IU for infants. At the lower end of the scale, Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend a daily dose of 400 IU. The Canadian Pediatric Society distinguishes between winter and summer months and recommends that infants be given 800 IU per day during the winter when babies get less exposure to sunshine.

The researchers followed a group of 132 infants in Montreal, Canada, who were randomly assigned to receive different daily doses of vitamin D (400 IU per day, 800 IU, 1200 IU, and 1600 IU) over a period of 12 months. After their initial intake in the study, the researchers then measured the babies’ weight, length, and head circumference, as well as the levels of vitamin D in their blood at three months, six months, nine months, and one year of age. They also looked at how much mineral was added to the babies’ bones as they grew.

The researchers found that, as early as the three-month mark, that there was no advantage to the higher doses of vitamin D and that 400 IU per day was sufficient. The researchers acknowledge that their infant group had fairly good amounts of vitamin D at the beginning of the study. Therefore, whether higher amounts are needed in infants with lower vitamin D at birth still needs to be clarified.

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