Vitamin D Drops for Infants and What Parents Need to Know
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Vitamin D Drops for Infants and What Parents Need to Know

Vitamin D drops for infants are a safe and effective way to get your baby the vitamin D they need. Here's what you need to know.

Published April 19, 2022

by Tracey Agnese, MD, IBCLC

Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant
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So what’s all the hype about vitamin D drops for babies? Isn’t breastmilk supposed to be the perfect all-encompassing source of nutrition for babies? And infant formula is made specifically for babies, so shouldn’t it already have all the vitamin D that your baby needs? Do we really have to give extra vitamin D to babies, and why?

Great questions! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplementation to prevent rickets, a rare bone disorder of childhood.1 Vitamin D is essential for proper bone development and growth. Without an adequate amount of vitamin D, bones lose calcium and become softer. These infants and children can develop bone deformities, pain, poor growth, bone fractures, and seizures.

The good news is that this is preventable with adequate vitamin D supplementation, hence the recommendation!

The Importance of Vitamin D

The recommended intake for vitamin D is 400 international units daily (10 micrograms) for infants.2 You and your baby’s body both get vitamin D from one of two ways: nutrition and/or sun exposure.

Nutrition

The problem is that vitamin D isn’t naturally found in most foods. It is found in oily fish, eggs, and fortified foods, but not in great amounts. The recommendation is that infants receive 400 international units (IU) daily. Breastmilk has an average vitamin D content of about 22 IU/L (range: 15-50 IU/L) in a vitamin D–sufficient mother.3 So there isn’t enough vitamin D in standard breastmilk to meet your baby’s needs.

What about the formula, though? All US formulas have 400 IU of vitamin D in one liter (about 33oz). If your baby is not yet taking that much formula, they’re not getting the recommended 400 IU daily, so check with your pediatrician about supplementing with vitamin D.

Sunlight

Our bodies get most of their vitamin D from exposure to direct sunlight. About 10-15 minutes of direct sun exposure can allow your body to make enough vitamin D. However, we know that direct sunlight dramatically increases the risk of skin cancer. So direct sun exposure is not recommended, and the AAP specifically states that infants younger than six months should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible.4

Many factors decrease the amount of vitamin D a person can make from sunlight, including:

  • Use of sunscreen
  • Darker skin
  • Clothing covering the skin
  • High latitudes
  • High levels of air pollution

So now we know that vitamin D is necessary for proper bone development. We also know that infants often do not receive enough vitamin D in breastmilk or formula alone. And we do not recommend exposing infants to direct sunlight, which is the only other way to get vitamin D into your baby’s body.

Supplementing With Vitamin D

So this is why we recommend supplementing your baby with vitamin D. There are many formulations available over the counter, so find one that works well for your family. Some supplements contain just vitamin D alone, and others combine vitamin D with probiotics or other vitamins such as iron.

When buying vitamin D for your baby, you should be looking for liquid vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Pay close attention to the ingredients label to know how much to give.

Some products contain 400 IU per 1ml. Although 1ml might not sound like a lot, babies have small mouths and tummies, so some families find it challenging to give that large volume directly to the baby once a day.

How to Give Vitamin D Drops

I like using the more concentrated versions containing 400 IU per one drop. You can put the drop directly in the baby’s mouth. Or you can use a small spoon. You can even put the concentrated drop on a clean pacifier or the tip of the bottle or breast for the baby to take while eating. Whichever works for your family is fine!

I usually recommend putting the vitamin D drops near your baby’s feeding supplies so that you remember to do it once a day. It doesn’t matter the time of day, just aim for once a day!

Some people want to avoid giving supplements directly to their newborn babies. There is another option for breastfeeding mothers. Instead of giving vitamin D directly to the baby, a study showed that equivalent infant vitamin D status was achieved when the lactating mother took 6400 IU per day of vitamin D supplementation.5 So check with your doctor if you’re interested in this!

Vitamin D Supplements are Safe and Effective

But direct vitamin D supplementation for your baby is very safe. Incidents of vitamin D toxicity are rare. An exact level of toxicity has not been established, but most cases involve ingestion of more than 10 to 100 times the recommended daily dose.

At the end of the day, we all want our babies to be healthy. Vitamin D supplementation in infancy has been proven to be safe and helps prevent vitamin D-associated rickets. The recommended intake for vitamin D is 400 international units daily for infants, beginning soon after birth.

For exclusively breastfed infants, this can be achieved through supplementing the infant directly with 400 IU of vitamin D drops once a day. Alternatively, a high maternal intake of vitamin D (4000 to 6000 IU daily) can provide adequate vitamin D for the infant if direct supplementation wants to be avoided. Infants who are formula-fed usually also require supplementation unless their formula intake is more than 33 oz daily. And remember, these are general recommendations. Always check with your baby’s doctor with any specific questions or concerns.

Our Favorite Vitamin D Drops For Infants

Zarbee's Naturals Baby Vitamin D Supplement

A green and white box of Zarbee's Naturals Baby Vitamin D drops is shown. The box features a bee character with a baby bottle, highlights key benefits like supporting bone development, and states it's safe for breastfed infants. The size is 0.47 fl oz (14 mL).

Nordic Naturals Baby's Vitamin D3

A blue bottle of Nordic Naturals Baby's Vitamin D3 sits beside its box packaging. The box highlights benefits such as bone health, normal sleep rhythms, and healthy immunity. These vitamin D drops are non-GMO verified and purity tested. The bottle contains 0.37 fl oz (11 mL).

Baby Ddrops

A product image of Baby Ddrops, a liquid vitamin D3 dietary supplement for infants. The packaging indicates the vitamin D drops contain 400 IU per drop and provide 90 drops. A baby is pictured on the box, which highlights the award received and key product benefits.

Wellements Organic Vitamin D Drops

Packaging for Wellements Organic Vitamin D Drops for newborns. The front of the box features a baby holding a red butterfly, with text that these vitamin D drops promote healthy growth and bone development. Free from dyes, parabens, alcohol, and unnecessary preservatives. USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. Contains 0.15 fl oz (4.50 ml).

Mommy's Bliss Organic Vitamin D Drops

Box and bottle of Mommy's Bliss Organic Drops baby vitamin D drops. The box states

Carlson Super Daily D3 for Baby

A bottle and package of Carlson Baby's Super Daily D3 dietary supplement. These vitamin D drops provide 400 IU (10 mcg) of liquid Vitamin D per drop and come in a 2.54 mL (0.086 fl oz) bottle with 90 vegetarian drops.

Enfamil Baby Vitamin D-Vi-Sol

Three boxes of Enfamil Vitamin D-Vi-Sol dietary supplement for infants are displayed. The packaging highlights that it contains vitamin D drops for supporting strong bones and teeth, is free of artificial colors and flavors, and comes with an easy-to-use dropper.
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A woman with long dark hair and a black sleeveless top smiles at the camera. She is wearing a stethoscope around her neck. Behind her is a colorful wall mural with buildings, vehicles, and a sun.
Tracey Agnese, MD, IBCLC Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant
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Dr. Tracey Agnese has been taking care of children in private practice in NYC for over ten years. She completed her medical school at SUNY Downstate and residency at NYU.… Read more

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