Vitamin D and Breastfeeding

What to know

Vitamin D supports healthy bone development. It helps prevent rickets, a condition that causes weak or deformed bones. Learn more about vitamin D considerations for breastfed infants.

A mother giving a her baby a vitamin supplement.

Do infants get enough vitamin D from breast milk?

No. Breast milk alone does not provide infants with enough vitamin D. Shortly after birth, most breastfed infants will need an additional source of vitamin D through a supplement.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that breastfed and partially breastfed infants receive 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily beginning in the first few days of life.

Families who do not wish to provide a supplement directly to their infant should discuss the risks and benefits of maternal high-dose supplements with a health care provider.

All children need vitamin D beginning shortly after birth.‎

Children younger than 12 months old need 400 IU of vitamin D each day.

Children 12 to 24 months old need 600 IU of vitamin D each day.

Why are breastfed infants at risk for vitamin D deficiency?

The risk for vitamin D deficiency increases when there is limited exposure to sunlight or when an infant is not consuming an adequate amount of vitamin D.

Other factors that decrease the amount of vitamin D a person can make from sunlight include:

  • Living at high latitudes (closer to the polar regions), particularly during winter.
  • High levels of air pollution.
  • Dense cloud covering.
  • The degree to which clothing covers the skin.
  • Use of sunscreen.
  • Darker skin types.

Because adequate sunshine exposure varies and sunshine exposure may increase the risk of skin cancer, vitamin D supplementation is recommended for breastfed infants.

Did you know?‎

For tips on reducing the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure, visit Sun Safety: Information for Parents About Sunburn & Sunscreen.