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Vitamin D for babies: Are supplements needed?

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 7, 2022.

It depends on whether you breastfeed your baby or how much vitamin D-fortified formula or cow's milk your baby is drinking.

Consider these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for vitamin D for babies:

  • Breastfed or partially breastfed babies need 400 international units (IU) of liquid vitamin D a day — starting soon after birth. Babies should continue to receive this amount of vitamin D until weaned or until they drink 32 ounces (about 1 liter) a day of vitamin D-fortified formula or, after age 12 months, whole milk.
  • Babies getting less than 32 ounces (about 1 liter) a day of vitamin D-fortified formula need 400 IU of liquid vitamin D a day — starting in the first few days after birth. Babies should continue receiving the vitamin D supplement until they drink at least 32 ounces (about 1 liter) of vitamin D-fortified formula a day.

When giving your baby liquid vitamin D, make sure not to give more than the recommended amount. Read the instructions that come with the supplement and use only the dropper that's provided.

While breast milk is the best source of nutrients for babies, it likely won't provide enough vitamin D. Babies need vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus.

Too little vitamin D can cause rickets, a softening and weakening of bones. Since sun exposure — an important source of vitamin D — isn't recommended for babies, supplements are the best way to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

As your baby gets older and you add solid foods to your baby's diet, you can help meet the daily vitamin D requirement by providing foods that contain vitamin D — such as salmon, egg yolks and fortified foods.

If you have questions about your baby's need for vitamin D supplements, talk to your baby's health care provider.

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