Since the onset of the pandemic there has been increased interest in Vitamin D supplementation. The UK health departments have for several years recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women take Vitamin D supplements. It is currently more important than usual to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin D as we are likely to have been indoors more this year.
Most of the Vitamin D we get is made by our bodies with the use of UV rays from sunlight. In the UK it is very common for us to be low in Vitamin D due to the low light levels during the winter months. Vitamin D is also found in certain foods. It is present in eggs, oily fish such as salmon, red meat and “fortified” foods that it is added to such as breakfast cereals.
In pregnancy it is recommended to take supplements containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day. Often in over the counter supplements Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU). 10 micrograms is equivalent to 400 IU. Children between the age of 6 months and 5 years should also have Vitamin D supplements in the form of drops, every day. These should also contain vitamin A and C. A drop can be applied to the nipple during breastfeeding, or added to milk or food. Bottle fed infants having more than 500ml a day of formula do not require supplementation as it is already added to formula milk.
There has recently been much interest in taking high doses of Vitamin D to try to reduce the chance of severe Covid19 infection. This remains unproven and it is important not to take high doses of supplements above the recommended amounts, without checking with your Doctor first. Usually it would not be advisable to take a higher dose unless you have a known deficiency in Vitamin D. High doses can sometimes have adverse effects, for example they may increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
If you are on a low income you may qualify for free vitamins for you and your children in the governments’ health start scheme. There is more information about Vitamin D in pregnancy and breastfeeding on the NHS choices website.