Breast milk contains practically all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life.
It is the best meal any baby would love to have, little wonder they find it difficult to be weaned off the breast.
However do you know that breast milk lacks sufficient vitamin D that a baby needs to grow?
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that is necessary for an infant’s health and proper development. It is popularly known as ‘the wonder vitamin’ because of its numerous benefits. Vitamin D helps maintain the insulin level, calcium and potassium levels required to build strong teeth and bones. It helps the heart and nervous system.
The presence of this vitamin is essential in the first year of a child’s life. At this stage, children grow rapidly and experience the tremendous bone development of their entire body system. Many babies lack vitamin D as breast milk does not contain sufficient amount, they have little or no exposure to sunlight that is a major supplier and they cannot eat a variety of meals that have it naturally.
A child that is deficient in vitamin D would have rickets, which presents as soft bones in children. Rickets is commonly found in children between 6 and 36 months old. Children are at the highest risk of rickets because they are still growing. Also, Africans tend to be more affected because of the dark skin that does not react to sunlight as the lighter skin would produce less of vitamin D.
Such a child would have stunted growth, bowed legs, bone pains, large forehead, and trouble sleeping. Some of the complications that may arise include muscle spasms, bone fractures, an abnormally curved spine, scoliosis, and intellectual disability.
It is recommended that exclusively breastfed and formula fed babies within the first six months of life get vitamin D nutritional supplement.
Then after the first six months when the child begins to take complementary foods, vegetables, fatty fish, dairy and egg yolks are incorporated into her daily meals. In addition exposure to sunlight in a controlled way for a brief period would help to combat vitamin D deficiency.