Dear Parents and Carers
I am Kathleen, a Family Outreach Worker with Lewisham Children & Family Centres. My role is to support parents and carers to access services.
I hope you are enjoying reading our posts and finding the information helpful.
This week I would like to talk to you about Vitamin D.
What is vitamin D
Vitamin D is very important for you and your baby. It helps your bodies to absorb calcium, which is essential for keeping bones healthy throughout life. Vitamin D helps to make sure the bones and teeth of both you and your child become and remain strong.
The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin and vitamin D rich foods, but it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D through sunlight and food alone. Vitamin D supplements can make sure you and your family maintain good levels of vitamin D all year round.
What happens to children who do not get enough vitamin D?
Low levels of vitamin D in babies and young children can lead to rickets, which affects the way bones develop and grow. The bones of a child with rickets are unable to support their body weight, resulting in bowed legs or knock knees. You are particular risk of serious vitamin D deficiency if you:
- Are of Asian, African, Afro-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin
- Cover up your skin for cultural reasons
- Are confined indoors, including ‘Lockdown’
- Are overweight
How do I know if my child is getting enough vitamin D?
Some possible signs of low levels of vitamin D are:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Soft skull
- Weak teeth and delayed growth of teeth
- Delayed walking
Severe vitamin D deficiency can cause low levels of calcium in the blood, leading to muscle cramps, seizures and breathing difficulties.
Vitamin D for children
To maintain healthy bones, muscles and teeth the Department of Health recommends that all children, from birth to five years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
- Breastfed babies from birth to one year of age should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D, to make sure they get enough.
- Babies fed infant formula should not be given a vitamin D supplement until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D
- Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D
Do adults need Vitamin D too?
Yes! Because vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods and even summer sun often isn’t strong enough. It might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and fortified foods alone. Therefore, it is important to take supplements containing the recommended amount even if you think you are getting enough daily sun exposure. So everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg or μg) of vitamin D a day.
The Lewisham Free D scheme
In Lewisham all pregnant women can now get free vitamin D supplements to make sure their own needs for vitamin D are met and they have enough vitamin D to pass onto their developing baby. After birth, mother can continue to get vitamin D supplement for a year, along with vitamin D drops for their child from birth to age 4 years.
If you are pregnant or have children under 4 years you can register for the scheme by filling in a simple form available at one of our Vit D Collection Sessions – details below.
You will then be given a card that entitles you and your child to free vitamin D supplements. Simply present it at most community pharmacies and Children’s Centres list below by appointment.