Vitamin D supplements for babies

Key points about vitamin D supplements for babies

  • Vitamin D helps your baby use calcium to build strong bones.
  • The funded vitamin D supplement for babies and children in Aotearoa New Zealand is Clinicians Vitamin D drops.
  • Find out how to give it safely and possible side effects.
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Vitamin D helps your baby use calcium to build strong bones.

  • Vitamin D is known as the 'sunshine vitamin' because our bodies can make it from the sun. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun are used to make vitamin D.
  • Babies and children need vitamins to help with growth and development. Vitamin D helps your baby build strong bones.
  • Low levels of vitamin D in babies can cause rickets and weak bones, delayed walking, bowed legs and swollen wrists or ankles. If left untreated, rickets can caused reduced growth, deformed or broken bones, pneumonia and seizures.

Babies can't safely get the vitamin D they need from the sun because their skin is very sensitive and they shouldn't be exposed to direct sunlight.

  • Breastfed babies: Breast milk is the recommended food for your baby but it's not a good source of vitamin D. Breast milk doesn't have enough vitamin D for growing babies. Research shows that ALL breastfed babies, even babies who have both formula and breastmilk, should take a vitamin D supplement until they're 1 year of age.
  • Formula fed babies: Babies who are only formula fed or who get 500 mL or more of formula per day don't need extra vitamin D as infant formula includes enough vitamin D.

It's especially important that babies who are born small or prematurely get vitamin D supplements because they have a higher chance of rickets.

Vitamin D supplements are especially important for babies with darker skin too. This is because the dark colour of their skin (melanin pigment) acts as a natural sunscreen so they make less vitamin D in their skin.

Vitamin D is sometimes called colecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (calciferol, vitamin D2).

The liquid drops are usually used for babies.

  • In Aotearoa New Zealand the funded brand of vitamin D drops is Clinicians Vitamin D drops®.
  • It has 400 units vitamin D3 in each drop, or 10 micrograms per drop. The usual dose is 1 drop once a day.
  • The bottle contains an in-built dropper that dispenses a single drop when the bottle is tipped up on a 45° angle.  Allow a few seconds for the drop to form.
  • Drops can either be put on your nipple before your baby latches on or given directly into your baby's mouth using a dropper.
  • Usually, the dose doesn't need to increase as your baby grows.
  • You should start giving Vitamin D within your baby's first month until your baby's first birthday or until your doctor asks you to stop.
  • Clinicians Vitamin D drops® can be kept at room temperature

Note: There are other brands of vitamin D drops available. Always check with your pharmacist which is suitable for your baby and the dose you should give.

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

Last reviewed: