Posted on the online edition of US News and World Report for January 30, 2009 is a headline that screams, “Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers at Risk.”[i] The article goes on to say that breast feeding is a known risk factor for vitamin D deficiency in infants.
Though the information presented in the article is correct, I fear that such headlines appear as an indictment of breast milk, obviously the very best food for infants. Nursing mothers should realize that the problem is not with breast milk, but rather with their own vitamin D deficiency; no vitamin D-deficient nursing mother can provide anything but deficient breast milk. The problem lies in the fact that the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Cancer Society and other “health organizations” have frightened women out of the sunlight and away from tanning beds, either of which can maintain high vitamin D levels. As a consequence, we have a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency in infants that has lead to autism, rickets, brain disorders, soft skulls, heart failure and diabetes, among other disorders (see my book for the discussions).
For instance, after a century of knowing exactly how to prevent rickets, this disastrous children’s disease is returning, and cases are being reported as far south as Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.[ii] Not surprisingly, 83% of cases occur in black children, and 96% are breast-fed, indicating a lack of vitamin D in their mothers’ milk. We must educate expectant mothers to get out in the sun during their pregnancies or at least take a potent vitamin D supplement. Before and after giving birth, these mothers should assure that both they and their babies maintain optimal serum levels of vitamin D. Too many nursing mothers, especially African Americans, are providing vitamin D-deficient milk. Drs. Bruce Hollis and Carol Wagner have shown that 2,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily for nursing mothers falls woefully short of achieving healthful serum levels in their babies.[iii] Until lately, the typical multivitamin contained about 400 IU. Is it any wonder that deficiency exists in breast-fed infants? The next post on this blog will tell you exactly how much vitamin D is necessary for nursing mothers to achieve optimal levels for their own health and the health of their infants.
[ii] Weisberg, P. et al. Nutritional rickets among children in the United States: review of cases reported between 1986 and 2003. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80(6 Suppl):1697S-705S.
[iii] Hollis B. et al. Vitamin D requirements during lactation: high-dose maternal supplementation as therapy to prevent hypovitaminosis D for both the mother and the nursing infant. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1752S-58S.