Vitamins and minerals for babies after weaning: vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency impairs the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus, which can give rise to bone deformities in children.

Vitamin D and sunlight

The body creates vitamin D from modest exposure to direct UVB sunlight. Regular, short periods of UVB exposure without sunscreen during the summer months are enough for most people. However, children from six months to five years may not be able to get enough vitamin D in this way. In addition, as Scotland is north of 52 degrees latitude it does not receive enough UVB exposure during the winter months.

Sun exposure

It is important for everyone to be aware that longer exposure to the sun, especially for prolonged unprotected periods, increases the risk of skin cancer. Staying covered up and use of sunscreen (with a UVB factor of 15 or above) is important for most people spending time outside, and it is important to cover up or protect the skin before it starts to turn red or burn.

Vitamin D and diet

Certain foods as part of a diet can contribute to vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D can be found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines) and in eggs and meat. Manufacturers are also required to add it to margarine*. Some manufacturers add it voluntarily to breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milks and low-fat spreads; however, it is often a minimal amount. 

 * UK legislation requires margarine to be fortified with vitamin D. While fat spreads with a fat content of less than 80% are not subject to this requirement, some manufacturers voluntarily fortify these products with vitamin D.

The recommended daily supplement for all infants and children from six months to five years is 7.5 micrograms (μg) per day* unless they are drinking 500ml (a pint) or more of infant formula a day. (Infants aged 0-6 months may not need supplements as they should get adequate amounts from breast milk or infant formula milk.)

* This is based on The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition - Update on vitamin D (2007). However, as a precautionary measure, the recommendations for infants and children have been partly based on recommendations in the earlier report Weaning and the Weaning Diet (Dept of Health, 1994), and are set for a slightly wider age group.

For further information see:

Vitamin D Professional leaflet

Vitamin D and You

You may also be interested in