Vitamin D for the baby: information and tips

Vitamin D für das Baby: Informationen und Tipps

Vitamin D is essential for the baby and should be given after birth. The sun is a particularly important source of this. Parents should therefore make sure that they regularly go into the sun with their child.

It is of great importance to give vitamin D because the baby cannot produce vitamin D in the first year of life. Nevertheless, there are often doubts as to whether the administration of vitamin D to the baby is necessary. In this article we explain the most important facts and answer the most frequently asked questions about vitamin D in babies. This should help you with your decision and give you the necessary clarity.

the essentials in brief

  • Vitamin D is usually given to babies in the first year of life in the form of tablets. Since babies should not be exposed to direct sunlight and the body cannot produce vitamin D itself.
  • If you don't give your baby vitamin D and vitamin D deficiency occurs, the consequences are devastating. Vitamin D has many different tasks to perform and is therefore essential for your baby's health. Consequences of a vitamin D deficiency are: rickets, weakening of the immune system and muscle atrophy.
  • Natural alternatives for absorbing vitamin D are the sun, breast milk, pre-baby milk and food. The sun's rays are not sufficient in winter and the intake of vitamin D through breast milk depends on the content.

What is vitamin D?

The term vitamin D not only refers to a vitamin, but is a designation of a category. Vitamin D is a group of vitamins that are essential for humans.

Vitamins D3 and D2 are of particular importance for the baby. The vitamin D3 is absorbed through the skin because this vitamin is produced by the body through UV radiation.

Baby with a blanket on his head

Vitamin D is a hormone precursor that is formed and stored on our skin by the UVB rays of sunlight. (Image Source: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash)

10 minutes in the sun are enough to absorb the necessary dose. It is important to note that you do not expose the baby directly to the sun's rays.

The reason for this caution is that the baby's skin cannot withstand direct exposure to the sun. This also has the consequence that the baby usually cannot produce vitamin D itself and therefore has to resort to external sources. (9)

Vitamin D is important for humans because it regulates and balances calcium and phosphate levels. However, vitamin D does not only have these tasks in the body, but also numerous others. The most important tasks include the following (1,2):

  • protection of the brain
  • Stabilization of the heart and circulation
  • Support of the immune system
  • Strengthening of muscles and bones
  • Prevent risk exposure to vascular diseases

In babies, an adequate vitamin D supply is particularly important in the first year of life.(7)

Background: What you should know about vitamin D for the baby

Do Babies Need Supplemental Vitamin D?

As discussed above, vitamin D is an important factor in the health of the baby. External sources must be used here so that the baby can absorb the necessary dose. Because the baby cannot be exposed to direct sunlight, the body cannot produce vitamin D itself.(9)

However, vitamin D can also be ingested through breast milk or alternative foods. However, food can also be used once the baby is developing enough to eat mush or small bites. (6, 7)

The following foods contain the group of vitamin D (6):

  • milk
  • Salmon
  • tuna
  • butter
  • yogurt

However, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor before administering food. Since a baby in the first year of life should not eat the above foods. This is also the reason why tablets or drops are used to ensure the vitamin D supply.(7)

How long should I give my baby vitamin D?

The amount of the dose and duration depends on the individual and should be determined by a doctor. Basically, there are some recommendations from when you should give your baby vitamin D.

In Germany, for example, vitamin D tablets with fluoride are already prescribed after the baby is born. It is recommended that you put one tablet per day in your baby's cheek pouch so that the tablet can dissolve.

The general dose for an infant is 400-500 IU per day to keep the baby well fed.

There are also recommendations regarding the duration. It depends on when your baby was born. If your baby was born in summer, i.e. between May and September, a period of 12 months is recommended. However, if your baby was born in winter, i.e. between September and April, the period should be increased to 18 months.

However, these are only general recommendations and not a legal obligation. The decision to administer vitamin D and for how long is entirely up to the parents.

What are the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in a baby?

A vitamin D deficiency in babies can have dangerous consequences. The greatest danger here is that a deficiency leads to rickets. The bone disease leads to growth disorders and irreversible deformations of the skeleton. Due to the lack of vitamin D, the bones are not supplied with enough calcium and phosphate and therefore become soft and unstable. (1,2)

However, a vitamin D deficiency not only affects the bones, but also the development of the teeth.

Too little vitamin D also leads to reduced muscle strength and a weakened immune system. This can have life-threatening consequences for your baby. It is therefore particularly important to give your baby extra vitamin D as a preventive measure. (3)

Baby sits in a garden full of purple flowers

Only up to 20 percent of the vitamin D requirement is obtained from food. The rest of the requirement is generated by the sun, so it is important to prevent the baby from vitamin D deficiency. (Image Source: Danny De los Reyes / Unsplash)

Is vitamin D healthy for the baby?

As already mentioned, vitamin D is essential for the baby. Without this vitamin D, life-threatening situations can arise for the baby.

In the right amounts, vitamin D intake has numerous benefits.

Since the baby cannot be exposed directly to the sun in its first year of life, it can be assumed that there will be serious consequences without additional feeding. (9)

In the following table we list some of the effects. Because vitamin D is not only suitable for the prevention of rickets.

Illness Effect
type 2 diabetes Vitamin D is used to prevent type 2 diabetes. Reducing the risk of developing this disease applies not only to adults, but also to children. The vitamin D has an immunoregulatory effect on the pancreas and thus reduces the risk.
weakening of the immune system Vitamin D also helps to strengthen the immune system. By taking vitamin D in the baby, the immune system is regulated and the risk of allergic diseases is reduced.
weakening of brain development Vitamin D receptors are located throughout the body, including the baby's brain. Thus, a lack of vitamin D can cause developmental disorders in the brain.


Are there side effects from taking vitamin D in babies?

It is natural for critics to voice their opinions on this subject. Every solution always has positive and negative sides. Now it can be debated whether vitamin D is necessary or not. It can be argued that the additional administration of vitamin D is harmful to the baby.

It is always important to know each perspective before deciding on a solution. Side effects also occur when administered to the baby. This can manifest itself as abdominal pain, since the baby's intestines are not yet fully developed. If you become aware of this reaction in connection with the administered tablets, it would be useful to contact the doctor. An alternative would then be to switch to the oil, but you must discuss this with your doctor. (10)

Other side effects that can occur with a long-term intake of 2000 IU are increased thirst, diarrhea and sweating.

In addition, severe side effects occur when the dose is 10,000 IU over a long period of time.

Therefore, it is very important that you follow your doctor's instructions.

What happens if I forget to take vitamin D for my baby?

Especially in the beginning, it can easily happen that you forget to give your baby vitamin D. This isn't too bad as long as it doesn't happen all the time. Because the body has stored reserves for these cases, which it can fall back on in an emergency.

However, you should keep in mind that in such cases you cannot give your baby a double dose as compensation. You should consult your doctor in these situations. They can provide you with information about the side effects and consequences of forgetting to take vitamin D once or several times.

Is there a vitamin D for babies without fluoride?

Vitamin D is always given to babies in conjunction with fluoride. This is in the form of tablets enriched with fluoride. A clear advantage of this type of administration is the positive effect on the baby's dental health.

However, not all parents are convinced of this administration and many babies find this form very difficult to tolerate. These negative concerns have led to the development of an alternative without fluorides. These are usually available as drops and, in rare cases, as tablets. You should seek advice from your doctor and have the various advantages and disadvantages explained to you.

mother is holding her baby

The vitamin D tablets for the baby are placed on the inside of the cheeks before breastfeeding or giving baby milk. Thus, this can dissolve during the meal. Nevertheless, parents should make sure afterwards that the tablet has dissolved. (Image source: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

What alternatives are there to vitamin D for my baby?

There are many different alternatives available to you should you not want to use additional supplements. If you want to use natural sources of vitamin D for your baby, here are some options for you.


The most natural source of vitamin D for babies is sunlight. As with an adult, 10 minutes of sun in the summer is enough for a baby. This exposure provides the baby with adequate vitamin D.

However, it should be noted that this alternative is not suitable in winter. Since there is too little sun exposure in winter, the baby cannot produce enough vitamin D.(9)

breast milk

This is a good factor in deciding whether to breastfeed. By breastfeeding you provide your baby with enough vitamin D. However, it should be mentioned that the vitamin D supply depends on your vitamin D content.

To make sure your body is getting enough vitamin D, you can have it tested by your doctor. If you have less vitamin D, your doctor can advise you on any preparations or alternatives. (7.8)


This alternative is particularly suitable for babies who are in a later development phase. Because for this alternative, the baby must be able to eat porridge or small bites.

You should make sure that your baby eats a lot of fish or other foods containing vitamin D.(6)

However, you should note that not all foods containing vitamin D are suitable for your baby. Therefore, find out exactly which foods you are allowed to use.

Pre baby milk

This is especially an alternative for mothers who do not want to breastfeed. Not every mother is able or feels the desire to breastfeed.

For these cases there are pre-baby milks that contain the necessary nutrients. This baby milk is very similar to mother's milk and contains an optimal level of vitamin D for babies.(7,8)

When choosing baby milk, you should make sure that the product contains vitamin D, as this does not apply to all variants.


The recommendation to give the baby vitamin D is given after birth. In Germany it is recommended to give the baby a dose of up to 500 IU per day. However, other countries also recommend giving the baby extra vitamin D to prevent deficiency symptoms.

Vitamin D is very important for the baby's development as it not only supports brain development but also strengthens the immune system. For more information, you can seek the advice of your doctor or midwife. He can explain to you exactly about the tolerability and the effects.


  1. Aikaterini I Trochoutsou (2015): Vitamin D in the Immune System: Genomic and Non-Genomic Actions
  2. Xiaoying Cui (2017): Vitamin D and the brain: Genomic and non-genomic actions
  3. Chien-Ming Chiang (2017): Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Muscle Strength in Athletes: A Systematic Review
  4. Xiaoying Cui (2017): Vitamin D and the brain: Genomic and non-genomic actions
  5. Joanna Mitri (2014): Vitamin D and diabetes
  6. Louise O'Mahony (2011): The Potential Role of Vitamin D Enhanced Foods in Improving Vitamin D Status
  7. Rhiannon Eleanor Day (2019): We still don't know that our children need vitamin D daily: a study of parents' understanding of vitamin D requirements in children aged 0-2 years
  8. Ane Cristina Fayão Almeida (2018): Do all infants need vitamin D supplementation?
  9. S. Balasubramanian (2011): Vitamin D deficiency in breastfed infants & the need for routine vitamin D supplementation
  10. Nordie A Bilbao (2017): Vitamin D Toxicity in Young Breastfed Infants: Report of 2 Cases
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