Getting enough Vitamin D?

by Christina on October 11, 2014

I’ve been struggling with the question of whether or not to give vitamin D drops to our little guy.

Breast milk usually does not contain enough because nursing mothers are often vitamin D deficient. I know my Vitamin D level is low – I live in San Francisco and am rarely in the sun – when I last checked it was around 20.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfed infants receive 400 IU of Vitamin D supplementation daily.

But the Vitamin D drops I found in Whole Foods are sweet and berry flavored. I don’t like the idea of giving him anything besides breast milk when he’s so young, particularly not something so sweet.

Vitamin D is very important! For bones, immune function, heart disease, and more. So what’s a mom to do?

Babies could get Vitamin D from the sun, but we don’t want our babies to get too much sun exposure.

I recently learned that it is possible for nursing mothers to pass it to their babies through breast milk — see this article in Science Daily.

“How much vitamin D does the mother need so as to ensure an adequate amount in her milk? As with everything else related to vitamin D, there is a lot of individual variation, but it appears that the daily intake must be in the range of 5,000-6,000 IUs. As no surprise, that’s just about the amount needed to reproduce the vitamin D blood levels in persons living ancestral lifestyles today. And while 5,000-6,000 IU may initially seem high, it is important to remember how much the sun produces for us. A single 15 minute whole body exposure to sun at mid-day in summer produces well over 10,000 IU.”

I would need to get 5,000-6,000 IU daily in me in order to get enough in my breast milk for him. That’s relatively easy with a daily walk in the sun or taking a supplement.

So for now I’m avoiding the sweet drops. And a little late afternoon sun seems safe enough so our little man can make some of his own vitamin D… he seems to like it.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily October 12, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Hello! I have popped by before, but I am a second year medical student in Michigan, I just recently found out my mom (42 yo) is 11 wks pregnant with my 4th sibling!! Very exciting, but as a medical student I now feel I know “too much” about reproduction, gestation, advanced maternal age, and everything else to be totally relaxed and happy about this. Any advice? Ignorance is bliss when it comes to things like this, I feel!


Christina October 12, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Hi Emily, wow congratulations to your mom! How exciting. Yeah being in medicine we tend to medicalize everything and it can be hard to be in our other roles in life without bringing in our doctor-side. But maybe your mom wants the doctor-side of you to help give her advice on her pregnancy? Or, maybe she just wants her daughter to just be her daughter. You probably have a sense of what she wants from you. I’m sure she has a wonderful OB or midwife caring for her and that she will have all the screening and education needed to make sure she has a healthy pregnancy.

I hope med school is going well!


Jenny October 12, 2014 at 7:44 pm

My multivitamin only has 400 IU Vitamin D3, but it says that’s 100%? Are those numbers in the 1000s just for breastfeeding?! And good call not feeding him sugar – I can’t believe they sell that.


Christina October 12, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Hi Jen,

There is not a clear answer on how much Vitamin D to take. It would depend on your current level (do you know what it is?), your age, your skin tone and sunlight exposure, etc.

It patients are on the low/normal range I usually recommend 1000-2000 IU daily. If my patients are very Vitamin D deficient, I will often recommend they take a high dose (50,000 IU) weekly for 12 weeks.If you get some sun exposure, you may not need a supplement. You can also get some in food (eggs, fish).

Before being pregnant/breast feeding I was taking about 2000 IU daily, and now a little bit more so I make sure I get enough in my breast milk for the baby.

I like this Dr. Weil article with more info on it:


Jenny October 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Thank you!! Yes, I just found my Vitamin D supplement with 1800 IU that I put away over the summer when I was getting sun. Perfect!


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