Side Effects of Vitamin D Drops for Babies

Vitamin D is extremely important for good health, yet nearly one billion people around the world are deficient in this nutrient. Vitamin D is particularly important to the health of babies and growing children, because it helps their bodies absorb calcium, which, in turn, allows for the growth of strong and healthy bones.

Vitamin D is important for babies. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/GettyImages)

Because young children often can't eat foods rich in this nutrient, they can be given aqueous vitamin D oral drops as a healthy, safe alternative.

Vitamin D Intake for Infants

Vitamin D is a very important essential nutrient. It's known for helping the body absorb calcium, but vitamin D also regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus stored in your bones, helps your muscles function and supports your immune system.

It also helps reduce inflammation and supports the growth of your body's cells. Getting the right amount of this nutrient can help to prevent a variety of diseases, including rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia ⁠— which are all conditions that cause weak bones.

Most people can obtain vitamin D from certain foods, like fatty fish, egg yolks, beef liver or fortified products, but one of the best sources of this nutrient is the sun. When your body is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays of light, your skin produces vitamin D. According to the Cleveland Clinic, as little as five to 15 minutes of sun exposure just two to three times a week can provide most people with adequate amounts of vitamin D.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to prevent health problems like skin cancer. When children are exposed to direct sunlight, they should wear sunscreen ⁠— but the sunscreen can prevent your child's body from making enough vitamin D.

Because infants aren't able to eat vitamin D rich foods yet and can't obtain their vitamin D from the sun, they need to get this nutrient from fortified beverages or supplements, like aqueous vitamin D oral drops.

Although breast milk contains most of the nutrients that a growing baby needs, it contains almost no vitamin D. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that all breastfed infants, even partially breastfed infants, obtain 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D through supplements each day for good health.

Babies should continue to receive these supplements until they consume about 1,000 milliliters (32 ounces) a day of fortified baby formula or whole milk. If infants are not breastfeeding but consume less than this amount of formula, they should also receive vitamin D supplements.

Safety of Baby D Drops

If you're using vitamin D for babies, side effects are fairly limited ⁠— baby D drops are generally considered to be safe and healthy for your baby. However, your child shouldn't consume more than a certain amount of vitamin D each day.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, infants up to 1 year of age should consume 400 IU (10 micrograms) of vitamin D per day. The maximum amount of vitamin D that should be given is 1,000 IU per day for infants 6 months and younger and 1,500 IU per day for infants between 6 and 12 months.

Once an infant turns 1 year old, she should get 600 IU (15 micrograms) of vitamin D per day. After the first birthday, a child's intake should be no more than 2,500 IU per day until the age of 4.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, too much vitamin D can lead to a range of side effects including:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Persistent thirst
  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tiredness

Excessive vitamin D can even lead to more serious problems, like weight loss, kidney damage and heart problems.

It's possible to accidentally overdose infants with liquid vitamin D by simply using the wrong-sized dropper. It's also likely that a baby may get too much vitamin D when he is given both aqueous vitamin D oral drops and supplemented products, like infant formula or fortified beverages such as milk or juice. This is because most American milk has 100 IU of vitamin D per cup, while infant formula has 40 to 100 IU per 100 calories.

Importance of Vitamin D Supplementation

The World Health Organization recommends making sure infants gets enough vitamin D, because without it, they may experience breathing difficulties, seizures and conditions like rickets, which can deform their growing bones. All infants are born with low amounts of vitamin D, which means they are particularly prone to becoming deficient in this important nutrient.

Some infants are more at risk for vitamin D deficiency than others. According to a July 2013 study in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal, preterm infants (born earlier than 28 weeks) are likely to have even lower vitamin D levels than infants born between 28 and 32 weeks. A May 2013 study in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics also showed that female infants tend to have lower vitamin D levels compared to male infants.

According to a December 2014 study in the British Nutrition Foundation's journal, the Nutrition Bulletin, other populations who are most at risk for vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Children 5 years old or younger
  • Young women (including teenagers)
  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding mothers
  • People who have little to no exposure to direct sunlight
  • People with darker skin who are living in northern regions with less sunlight

As shown in a January 2014 study in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal, Pediatrics, low vitamin D levels are not just important in infants and young children; they're just as important in expectant mothers.

If you're trying to become pregnant or are currently pregnant, you should make sure you're getting enough vitamin D. When vitamin D levels are low during pregnancy, they can even affect a child's health later on in life ⁠— particularly their dental health.

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