Breastfeeding Babies and Vitamin D

It's another Vitamin D post! Sorry to keep going on about it, but I saw an article this morning that I really want to address.

I love Dr Chatterjee, I really think he is awesome and is doing amazing things for medicine in the UK, particularly in bringing the Functional Medicine Forum to London. He's a real hero of mine and talks about controversial issues so openly, and refreshingly honestly.

I did cringe a little when I first read this post though. The article he is alluding to was published on Medscape this morning entitled 'Breastfed Babies Still Need Extra Vitamin D'. The article critiques the fact that the mothers of breast fed babies believed that they were receiving all the nutrition that they need, and were therefore less likely to supplement vitamin D, compared to a mother who was mixed or formula feeding.

Note that the study didn't say that breast milk had less vitamin D than formula, only that mothers were less likely to supplement it. The article goes on to blame paediatricians and health visitors for not telling them that it was necessary.

Whilst I totally agree that our children, in general, due to our climate in the UK (particularly if they are born in autumn or winter) will usually be deficient by 6 months of age, I felt like the article headlines were suggesting that breast milk might be deficient.

I'm possibly being over sensitive, but I felt like both Dr Chatterjee and the pubmed article title implied that your baby would be better formula fed, or that you have to supplement if you breast feed. Neither of which are true. You have to supplement whether you give formula or breast feed according to the study.

In fact, I would actually recommend neither. A babies gut and micro biome is incredibly sensitive, and I recommend only breast milk for the first 6 months. How does the baby get vitamin D then?

Through the breast milk.

I know I sound crazy, but bear with me.

The reason breast milk is deficient in Vitamin D is because THE MOTHER is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D in breast milk increase dramatically when the mother takes the supplement, and it means you aren't giving the baby whatever other fillers, binders, E numbers and flavourings have been added to your supplement. Mother is much better at processing these things with her more mature immune and detoxification system than the infant is.

Maternal supplementation is the safest way to adequately supply an infant with enough vitamin D, and there's a pubMed study to prove it. It was a randomised, controlled trial, which saw mothers of breastfeeding infants supplementing 400, 2400 or 6400IU a day and then conclusion was that 6400IU was enough to create the same Vitamin D level in breastfed infants as if they had received 400IU directly themselves.

But these were randomly selected individuals, and as we know that around 3/4 of the population are deficient, wouldn't a baby with a properly nourished mother not need any supplementation at all?

The deficiency isn't in breast milk. It's in mothers. We need to be working with mothers to ensure that they have optimum nutrition, before and during pregnancy, as well as lactation so that babies aren't becoming nutrient deficient. Sadly, rickets is on the rise in the UK, and has been for many years. Something needs to change. We need to eat more cholesterol, get people off statin drugs and get outside; and we need to make sure mothers are getting adequate nutrition, not just for themselves, but for their children too.

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