Conditions inside the womb are extremely different from the outside environment. From receiving food and oxygen through the mother, a newborn reaches a milestone upon taking the first breath on his or her own. The first few months of lung development are crucial not only for survival, but also for the general health of a child. At this stage, the lungs are still very delicate. This organ needs all the help and protection it can get.
Clinical studies have shown that vitamin D helps prevent respiratory diseases. It is also known for enhancing bone development in infants and children. By means of giving supplements to their children or exposing them to good sunlight, parents are able to avoid potentially life-threatening diseases like pneumonia and bronchiolitis. These are caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. There is no treatment for such. The only way to protect children is to build their immune system.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency should not only be monitored in infants and young children, but also in pregnant women. Our skin is responsible for making 90% of vitamin D that we utilize. Deficiency means that not enough is absorbed by the body. This can be especially true for people who have an increased need for it, like a woman with child. A blood test may be performed in order to determine levels of vitamin D.
People have different opinions about whether or not to take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy or breast-feeding. The fact is the body only produces a small amount of vitamin D. Women, who became pregnant again shortly after giving birth, should take supplements. It takes some time for the body’s supply to be replenished. Having consecutive pregnancies imply that the next child might not be able to get as many nutrients.
Breastfeeding mothers should expose their newborn babies to good sunlight, before mid-morning is ideal. This improves the production of vitamin D. It is present in breast milk, but only in small amounts. This might not be enough for an older baby. As with any oral medication given to babies, consult your pediatrician before giving supplements.
Infants who have extremely low vitamin D levels can experience problems in bone development and breathing, since it also has a lot to do with calcium absorption. A condition called Rickets can develop. This is when the legs appear curved. Poor growth and delayed teething are also signs of deficiency. Respiratory infections often occur. The ribcage of a vitamin D deficient infant or toddler tends to be softer. This becomes the source of breathing problems.
Good sources of Vitamin D
The nature of vitamin D is that it can be stored in our fat cells. In this environment it can be dissolved easily, therefore allowing us to have a constant supply of it. Not a lot of food contains vitamin D, unless it is added to them, like in the case of infant formula milk and some cereals. Egg yolk, some oily fishes, green leafy vegetables, beef and liver naturally have vitamin D in them. Multi-vitamins or food supplements have more concentrated amounts. However, many parents and doctors are hesitant to give these to children unless there is a medical need for doing so.
What is more preferred by physicians is the method of exposing a baby or small child to sunlight. It should be limited to 20 minutes. The sun’s rays should also be able to reach the infant’s arms and legs. Early morning is the best time for this activity. In this way, ultraviolet B light is able to convert cholesterol into vitamin D.
Vitamin D benefits include: more absorption of phosphorus and calcium. This is important for bone mass and development, muscular development and over-all health of babies and small children.