A Canadian study recommends giving Vitamin D supplements to children who are still breastfeeding after their first birthday in order to prevent health problems such as rickets.
The study, conducted by Dr. Jonathon Maguire at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada, measured the levels of Vitamin D in the blood of 2,500 Canadian children aged one to five.
The children were all participating in TARGet Kids!, a study by researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto looking into the health of Canadian children.
The test results from the children showed that for every month that a child was breastfed after his or her first birthday, the risk of being vitamin D deficient rose by 6%.
By the time the child was two their risk of being Vitamin D deficient had reached 16%, and by the time they were three it had reached 29%.
The researchers found that the results were the same even if the children were eating solid food in addition to being breastfed.
Breast milk is an excellent source of many nutrients needed by children in the early stages of life, however it does not contain sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Breastfeeding exclusively in the first year of life is known to increase the risk of the bone disease rickets, with the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics already both recommending that breastfed children be supplemented with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D every day for the first year of life.
Dr Maguire believes that these new findings could be significant not only for Canadian children but also those from other northern countries who may struggle to get enough exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which the body uses to produce vitamin D.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life. From six months of age WHO recommends introducing nutritionally-adequate solid foods to meet the child’s increasing energy demands, as well as continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.
- Family Health