How Vitamin D Benefits Baby

Babies who are born prematurely may benefit from higher doses of vitamin D, says a new studypublished in the most recent issue of PLOS ONE. In a small study of 32 infants, a team of researchers led by Ann Anderson Berry, MD, associate professor in the division of newborn medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and medical director of the NICU at Nebraska Medicine, found that increasing the dose of vitamin D supplements from the currently-recommended 400 IUs to 800 IUs daily improved bone density in premature infants.

Vitamin D is important for bone health, both in babies who are born prematurely as well as babies who are born at full term. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies under 12 months be given 400 IUs of vitamin D per day.

Vitamin D and Premature Babies’ Bone Health

Premature babies are known to be especially at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which can increase a child’s chances of developing rickets, a condition that leads to a softening and weakening of the bones. Previous research has shown that increasing vitamin D intake in premature infants from 400 IUs to 800 IUs was effective in decreasing vitamin D deficiency, though that study didn’t show whether giving premature babies more vitamin D leads to better bone density.

This study by UNMC, though small, is showing that boosting vitamin intake in premature infants to 800 IUs may indeed improve bone health. To find out what effect increased vitamin D intake had on premature infants, doctors studied 32 infants born between 24 and 32 weeks, giving half the group 400 IUs per day and the other half 800 IUs per day for 4 weeks. They found that the levels of vitamin D in the blood increased and there was a significant improvement in bone density in the higher-dose vitamin D group.

Despite the fact that doctors have been prescribing vitamin D for premature and preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICU), infants are still developing rickets, according to a statement by Dr. Berry in a UNMC press release. This new study offers more evidence that giving premature infants a higher dose can improve bone health preemies and may help decrease their risk of developing bone health problems.

Not Overdoing a Good Thing

As with any supplement, parents should be mindful about talking to their doctor to make sure they stick to recommended doses. As beneficial as vitamin D has been shown to be for building kids’ bones, too much vitamin D can lead to nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and muscle and joint pain. For babies who are born prematurely or at full-term, or for older children, be sure to talk to your doctor before giving your child any supplement.


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