Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

While I used to think otherwise, I firmly believe that nursing mothers should supplement both themselves and their babies with Vitamin D.  The exceptions to this are mothers who live south of Atlanta, who Breastfeedingtogether with their babies are out of doors without sunscreen between 11:00 am and 1:00pm and who don’t use soap when they wash (because it washes away the D2 oil involved in the process of making D3.)  We used to have government programs to encourage parents to take children out into the sun.   See this informative and entertaining video from UCSD.

In Finland, babies were routinely given cod liver oil providing 4500 iu of D (and modern cod liver oil is NOT recommended for it due to lower D/A ratios).  Then, since research showed that rickets could be  prevented at 400 iu, the recommended daily amount was lowered.  As a result, Type 1 Diabetes skyrocketed.  We have very good data showing that 90% of Type 1 Childhood Diabetes can be eliminated by Vitamin D supplementation.

Finland Diabetes and D chart
The link between Vitamin D and Type 2 diabetes in children is less supported but there is good evidence that it may also play a role.

Vitamin D deficiency may also play a role in some autism.  The blood levels of Vitamin D in autistics is generally low.

Vitamin D Council’s John Cannell, MD, ( is convinced that vitamin D deficiency is linked to autism and that the autism “epidemic” started at the exact same time that the vitamin D deficiency epidemic started. As soon as we started limiting sun exposure and using sunscreens, the number of autism cases shot up.  Science Magazine published a similar article.  There are groups of Somali children in Sweden and Minnesota who are hugely overrepresented among autistics, with the only real difference between their lighter skinned peers is that their skin color prevents Vitamin D absorption.  It is correlation, but is compelling.

I have here a number of articles on Vitamin D and its health benefits.  While theoretical toxicity is a potential problem, it is hard to get high enough to be toxic.  And since 13,000  Finnish babies managed on 4500 iu, then we have good evidence that isn’t so high.

While it is very important that a pregnant or nursing mother have high D levels, it isn’t easy to do that from diet alone. Most of us drink less milk,  eat less liver or organ meat, don’t go out into the sun around noon without sunscreen and we wash the oils off of our skin that might be turned into the vitamin.  We are also heavier, which reduces Vitamin D.  Our foods used to have a lot more D:  cattle grazed in the sunlight foraging for wild plants, wild fish ate plankton instead of Purina fish meal, and pigs and chickens weren’t penned indoors.  The supplementation of Vitamin D from irradiated milk is insufficient to make up for the loss.  And your prenatal vitamins won’t have enough because the RDA is too low.

If your skin is dark, chances are that your D levels are low.  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) found African Americans were low: just 3 percent of blacks sampled in 2004 were found to have the recommended levels compared with 12 percent  two decades ago.  If you don’t have it, you can’t pass it through your milk.  Breastfed infants have been taken away from nursing African American mothers on suspicion of abuse because they had hidden fractures from rickets and were not tested for them.  Since we are out of our ecological niche, we no longer have the natural sources of Vitamin D at our disposal and we probably need to supplement.

I would personally take 10,000 iu during pregnancy and lactation, more if I had conditions that reduce Vitamin D like dark skin, autoimmune disease, diabetes or obesity.  I would personally give my baby 2000 iu, and would massage in a D-supplemented skin oil (even if I had to add it in myself.)  We would both spend time in the noonday sun without sunscreen.  And just to be safe, I would ask for 25-hydroxy-D blood tests to make sure I was getting it high enough.

Research on D in Pregnancy and Lactation from the Vitamin D Council.

CDC Recommendations on Vitamin D and breastfeeding

American Academy of Pediatrics ( but note they only suggest enough for bone growth and rickets prevention)

See Related Posts:

Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

How to Get Vitamin D from the Sun

And More On Vitamin D

Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

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8 thoughts on “Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D”

  1. Absolutely fascinating, albeit a bit terrifying as well, but my oh my, am I happy that I am educating myself on this subject. Out of curiousity, how long would you continue the 200iu/massage/noonday sun regimen with babies? I have a 2-month old and a 2-year old, is it something you would still do with a 2-year old?

    I’m also very curious about the vitamin D/autism link. I will certainly be researching that further.

    Thank you for broadening my horizons 🙂

    1. Yes I would continue it. We have ongoing needs for Vitamin D and it will protect him from Swine Flu, cancer, gum disease, all kinds of things. Somehow we have managed to keep ourselves away from sources of sunlight and to remove D from our food sources. I found that even when my children were outside at school, the teachers insisted on their using sunscreen. Feel free to pass on the link, because we could make a huge difference in the health of our population by increasing Vitamin D.

  2. The very first question which is regularly posed is whether or not coconut oil is safe to use. Makers of other oils have often tried to smear coconut oil as a poor oil since it is mainly comprised of saturated fats. Aren’t those the bad fats? In many cases they are, but inside the case of coconut oil their makeup is quite various from other oils. Coconut oil is largely comprised of medium chain fatty acids that are healthful. Most other saturated fats can’t say this. The stableness saturated fats helps make sure that coconut oil will not break down into trans fatty acids and free radicals when exposed to higher heat.

    1. I am a fan of pure virgin coconut oil, especially for cooking since it has a lower tendency to go rancid, but it is not a good source of Vitamin D.

      Incidentally the Weston Price site has a list of modern cod liver oils that have an adequate D/A ratio. Carlson’s is the mass market oil that is recommended.

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