May 31, 2024
Vitamins and supplements
May 31, 2024
Vitamins and supplements

Your questions answered: Vitamin D drops for babies

When you head to those first few pediatricians appointments, chances are your doctor will mention vitamin D drops for your baby. But what exactly are vitamin D drops and why do babies need them? For the inside scoop, we’re turning to Summer Health’s pediatric registered dietitian Nicole Silber RD, CSP, CLC who will break down everything you need to know about vitamin D for your baby.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC
Medically reviewed by
Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, certain foods, and in supplements.

Which foods have vitamin D?

Very few foods have vitamin D, but some can be found in cod liver oil, fatty fish (like salmon, eggs, or fortified cereals), dairy products, or dairy free milks or beverages.

What are the health benefits of vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays a role in many body functions but most importantly it helps with bone growth and development, muscle function, calcium absorption, and immunity.

Why are vitamin D supplements important for babies?

Nicole explains that babies need vitamin D to support growth, especially during this time of rapid growth. It's challenging for babies to get sufficient vitamin D from food or sunlight because:

  • Generally, foods don’t have enough vitamin D to meet their needs.
  • Even if babies ate food rich in vitamin D, they eat such small amounts.
  • Babies aren’t usually exposed to direct sunlight, which requires about 30 minutes of bare skin contact for vitamin D synthesis.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be kept out of direct sunlight, especially babies under 6 months.
  • Factors such as skin pigmentation, air pollution, and dense clouds can influence sun exposure.

How much vitamin D does my baby need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) tells us, on average, how much of a certain nutrient a person needs based on their age. The RDA for Vitamin D:

  • Babies 0 to 12 months: 400 international units (IU) each day
  • 1 to 13 years: 600 IU each day

Do babies get enough vitamin D from breast milk (human milk) and/or formula?

Nicole points out that while breast milk, or human milk, doesn't naturally have enough vitamin D, formula generally does — though it depends on how much infant formula the baby is drinking. For example, about 32 ounces of formula has 400 IU of vitamin D, which meets the RDA of vitamin D for babies under 1 year.

The AAP recommends that exclusively or partially breastfed babies should receive a vitamin D supplement. If your baby drinks less than 32 ounces of infant formula, talk to your pediatrician about adding a vitamin D supplement.

When buying vitamin D supplements, what should I look for?

Vitamin D supplements for babies are available in liquid form. Nicole recommends selecting one without added sugars and choosing a concentrated formula. That way, each dose is only 1 drop, making it easier to administer.

Once my baby starts eating solid food, should I still be offering a vitamin D supplement?

When babies begin eating solid food, they're still relying on breast milk and/or formula for most of their nutrition. Because solid foods don't contain enough vitamin D, babies who are breastfed or consume less than 32 ounces of infant formula should continue to receive a vitamin D supplement.

If a mother who breastfeeds takes vitamin D supplements, should she still give her baby vitamin D supplements too?

Yes, all breastfed babies should receive a vitamin D supplement.

What are complications of vitamin D deficiency?

Nicole explains that if your baby has vitamin D deficiency, they are at risk for rickets (weakened bones) and bone pain.

Are breastfed infants more at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency?

Yes, breastfed infants are more at risk for a vitamin D deficiency because breast milk contains very little vitamin D.

How do I administer vitamin D to my baby?

Gently open their mouth and release the drops inside. Be careful not to let the dropper touch their mouth directly to prevent spreading germs. You can also squeeze a drop on your clean finger and let your baby suck on it. If you breastfeed, you can put a drop of vitamin D on your nipple before nursing.

What’s the difference between the different forms of vitamin D?

The active (and preferred) forms of vitamin D have a few names: cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, and 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D].

What other vitamin supplements do babies need?

Preterm babies may need an iron supplement. Nicole explains that preterm babies may need additional iron because they may be missing a key iron absorption period, which happens in the last trimester of pregnancy.

She says, “Preterm babies are often born before they have gained their iron stores, so they often require supplementation.”  Keep in mind that preemie and preterm infant formulas usually have higher amounts of iron. If your baby was born early, speak to your pediatrician about iron supplementation.

Some babies (6+ months) need an iron supplement if they aren’t getting sufficient amounts in their diet. Reach out to your pediatrician for further guidance regarding supplementation.

Does my baby need a vitamin D supplement if they have regular sun exposure?

Yes. Even if your baby has regular sun exposure, they should still take a vitamin D supplement.

Should I put sunscreen on my baby?

Babies over six months can safely wear sunscreen. Regardless of age, try to keep your baby in the shade and avoid direct sun exposure.

How can I make sure I don’t forget to give my baby their vitamin D drops?

Nicole recommends adding vitamin D drops into your routine, like adding it to their bedtime routine. If you add it to your routine, at the same time of day, it’s likely you’ll remember it more. “Leave the bottle out near their changing station so you can easily remember after their bath. Or, set a timer on your phone. But don't panic if you miss a day or two,” advises Nicole.


NIH. Vitamin D

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Vitamin D and Sun Exposure

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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