Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in Australian women - approximately 30% of women have a low vitamin D level if tested in early pregnancy. The cause is not completely clear but is probably partly due to reduced sun exposure - most people stay out of direct sun and use sun screen when they are exposed (which prevents vitamin D production in the skin). Vitamin D deficiency in mothers can easily and safely be treated with a vitamin D supplement such as Ostelin.
When a mother is found to be deficient in vitamin D during pregnancy, her newborn baby requires vitamin D supplements for the first six months of life if breast-fed. Even if a mother takes vitamin D supplements, and her blood vitamin D level returns to normal, the supplements don't cross the placenta and the baby will have a low vitamin D level. Vitamin D supplements for the baby are very safe; they are only required if a baby is breast-fed (or mainly breast-fed) as there is very little vitamin D in breast-milk but lots in artificial formula. The supplements are important as normal blood levels of vitamin D are required to keep the blood level of calcium normal - a normal calcium level is required for healthy bone development.
Occasionally, there are signs in a baby that their mother's vitamin D level has been low. The commonest is softening of the skull bones which is referred to as craniotabes. If this sign is present in your baby, no extra treatment except the vitamin D supplement is required.
There are four vitamin D supplements that are suitable for babies; all are available across the counter in a pharmacy (a prescription is not required). They are listed below:
Vitamin D Liquid Kids
200 iu in 0.5 mL
20 mL bottle with dispenser (strawberry)
Children’s Oral Drops
200 iu in 0.04 mL
2 drops (0.08 mL)
15 mL bottle with dispenser (butterscotch)
1000 iu in 0.2 mL
30 + 20 mL bottle with dropper (caramel)
400 iu in 0.45ml
30 mL bottle with dispenser (pineapple)
The supplement for the baby does not need to be started immediately after birth; we usually recommend that it be started once feeding has been fully established in the second week of life. Vitamin D levels are no longer measured in newborn babies so a blood test is not required.