Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vitamin D Deficiency: Reality or Racket?

A little Vitamin D isn't that hard to come by!

Before we left the hospital with Suzi I was required to attend a "class" on how to care for my newborn. One of the points covered was that we must administer Poly-Vi-Sol drops every day. Our generous hospital had provided our first bottle, compliments of their philanthropic buddies at Enfamil. In the first day or two home from the hospital, I dutifully squirted this disgusting liquid into Suzi's mouth, only to have her throw it back up, along with the milk I'd just breastfed her. This was disconcerting, especially since she was gaining slowly anyway.

The next time we took Suzi to the doctor, I asked if it was really necessary to give her those vitamins. The doctor gave a knowing chuckle and said, with a sideways look, that yes, it was necessary because the vitamin D deficiency in some children's diets could leave them prone to rickets. She seemed skeptical herself of what she was saying, but at the time I knew no better than to do whatever the doctor said. My mom kept trying to give them to Suzi since it was hard for me, and Suzi spit them out and stained her clothes.

After a few weeks we decided to discontinue the supplements. My maternal instincts were telling me the stuff was noxious, so I took Suzi out for a little extra sunshine to get vitamin D instead. It was the first time I vetoed the Baby Police in favor of common sense.

Today as I was browsing my favorite blogs, I came across this article on Mama Knows Breast, which was sparked by an article in the New York Times. The AAP insists that it is necessary to supplement all babies except those who are fed formula, because the formula is fortified with everything baby needs. Sunlight, they say, is not sufficient because no one is sure how much sunlight is enough for any given child (darker skin pigments need more sunlight to generate vitamin D). Furthermore, we shouldn't be taking our infants out in the sun anyway, because it increases their risk for skin cancer.


According to KellyMom, a site I love and trust, babies are usually only at risk for deficiency if 1) they don't have enough exposure to sunlight, 2) mother and baby have darker skin, or 3) the mother is deficient in vitamin D.

Suzi and I, as you may have noticed, are light-skinned. We both get a fair amount of sunlight and Suzi has had no problems so far with her bones. The claim that sun causes skin cancer so we should keep our babies out of it at all times is just ludicrous. Most people who end up with skin damage from UV rays have spent whole summers lying out on a beach blanket trying to get a tan, or repeatedly work outdoors without wearing sunscreen. Some experts suggest that sunlight is the safest way to get vitamin D because it allows the body to synthesize it, which takes away the risk of overdosing on supplements.

If adequate sunlight exposure is for some reason unfeasible, why not supplement the mother? She can take vitamins, or if that's not appealing vitamin D can be found in eggs, fortified milk, and many other foods.

I think we as a society have become too dependent on vitamins in general. When we should be planning our diet around our deficiencies, we've been popping pills to fix them. While vitamins are sometimes useful, no pill can replace a balanced diet. As for the vitamin D supplements, I will never give them again. To me, it's just something unnecessary which allows a formula company to make money even off women who are breastfeeding--which is exactly what they want.


Beth said...

We had the same issue with instructed, when she was two weeks old we started trying to give her that liquid awfulness. After 2 days I said forget that! I tried it and could understand why she wouldn't take it! She's turned out alright (aside from being a little scrawny). :-) (and from one of your previous posts...I'm sure my typing drives you nuts...I type as it comes in my head and don't worry about proper I hope you forgive me :-) )

Kristin said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one bothered by the "fact" that Vitamin D suppplements ar needed for all babies! Thankfully, my pediatrician has never even mentioned the issue because I would have to politely decline! I do know people who have been pressured to give the drops to their babies, though. It is ludicrous to think that breastmilk and nature (sun, air, etc.) do not provide a baby all they need to survive.

Melissa said...

All natural is the way to go! Good for you, we did the same with ours and I took the vitamen and they were great. Good points!

Vicky said...

I used on Nolan for about 3 days...I didn't even do it with Braydon...not once. Defintely Racket!

princess granola said...

From what I've read babies only need about 20 minutes of sunlight perweek to obtain an adequate amount of sunlight.

And one of the reasons doctors are prescribing Vitamin D to babies and older children is because of sunscreen. If you put bathe your child in sunscreen every single morning it can prevent the skin from soaking up the sun's nutrients.

My daughter and I walk down the mailbox and back every day plus trips in and out of the car while running errands- all which add up to plenty of Vitamin D.

Plus if you take too many vitamins you literally end up flushing them down the toilet because your body can only absorb so much at once.

oy. File this one under excessiveness for profit, right along with too many antibiotics and formula samples in hospital bags- but no nipple pads.

GrandmaKathleen said...

Your blogs are always so informative. Today as a parent you have to make a decision for yourself and your children as to what they really need, you must not always listen to the doctor.
He is in cahoots (Questionable collaboration; secret partnershipwith the pharmaceutical companies to give patients prescriptions. It's all about the money. You are a very wise parent.

Vicky said...

Kathy, "off the record"...we have talked to pediatricians in our hospital system that say they "HAVE TO" give them to parents because it was what they "LEGALLY HAVE TO DO!" And they don't think it is necessary 99% of the time.

Jennifer said...

That's strange... none of the doctors we've seen have ever suggested any sort of supplement. My girl has never had a drop of formula, we delayed solids until 8 months, are extending our breastfeeding past a year, and she is in the 5th-10th percentile.

I guess we hit the jackpot with our pediatric practice!