Monday, March 1, 2010

Vitamin D! Get Your Vitamin D!

I don’t give my daughter the liquid vitamin supplement that many pediatricians recommend. I’m always in favor of doing less – less vaccines, less medicine, less supplements.

To be honest, I don’t think my breast milk needs any supplementing. I take plenty of vitamin D, and I eat a healthy diet. I know that people say vitamin D doesn’t pass through breast milk, but I have hard time believing that alcohol passes through, eating lots of broccoli can make her gassy, but vitamin D won’t get into my milk.

Anyways, none of these random thoughts are the main reason I’m writing. The reason I’m writing is that I know, without a doubt, that my daughter got her dose of vitamin D today. How can I be sure? It’s sunny, and we went for a walk.

Sunshine is one of the best ways to get vitamin D. For all the bad reviews the sun gets in relation to skin cancer, God put it up there for a reason. It’s not an evil, horrible thing to be avoided. Yes, we have to expose ourselves to it using common sense and moderation, just as we do with everything in life, but there are very good things about it.

When I hear people say, “You need to give your daughter a vitamin supplement because breast milk has a vitamin D deficiency, I want to respond, “No, my breast milk has everything it needs. Our society has a sunshine deficiency.”

It’s true. I’m glad we know the harmful effects sun can have on a person, but do we ever talk about the positive effects? All of the talk of skin cancer and other negative results of too much sun exposure have sent people into an anti-sun panic. No one dreams of going outside anymore without first applying their SPF 15. Children go outside on a 70-degree day wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a sun hat.

Don’t get me wrong – I know we have to be careful with sun exposure. But allowing our “unprotected” skin to be exposed to sunlight for short amounts of time each day is very beneficial to our health. Vitamin D is essential for building healthy teeth and bones, since it aids in the absorption of calcium. It also regulates the immune system, and can even help prevent certain cancers.

We can’t get all of the vitamin D necessary for good health from food alone, and the body doesn’t absorb nutrients from supplements as well as it does from natural sources. So, how much sunlight exposure does your baby need in order to get enough?

To begin, your body can only make vitamin D from UVB rays, and those are only present between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm. Experts recommend that a light-skinned baby (like mine) get 30 minutes of sun exposure per week during these hours if he is wearing only a diaper, and 2 hours per week if he is fully clothed, not wearing a hat. I understand that two hours of outdoor time per week during the cold winter months might sound a bit steep, but it translates into about 15 minutes per day. I also can sense some hesitation about exposing your baby’s tender skin in the summer months during the times when the sun is the hottest, but 30 minutes per week in the summer translates into about 4 minutes per day. I certainly think that is manageable, and not at all dangerous.

Are you unsure about giving your baby a vitamin D supplement? Stop worrying, and get outside! The sun is your friend, not your enemy. Just use common sense. Extra outside time will not only give you and your baby vitamin D, you’ll probably come back inside feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

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