Posted by: Lisa | September 17, 2010

To D or not to D…that is the question

Dear Vitamin D,
You’re just a solitary letter, and yet you produced 13,400,000 results on my google search.  You must think you’re pretty important.  You’ve started debates and arguments.  You’ve helped bring revenue to vitamin supplement manufacturers. And medical professionals and parents seem to think you’re pretty important, so I figured I’d better join in the party and write about you.  Here goes.
A Sun-Loving but Fair-Skinned Mama of a Sun-Loving, Fair-Skinned, Breastfeeding Toddler

So.  If you happen to confess to being a breastfeeding mom in the presence of your child’s pediatrician, you will most likely be given a prescription or a mini lecture or at least a recommendation for Vitamin D supplements.  Some formula-fed babies are even being given this same suggestion.  The deal is, research has shown that many people (including babies) are deficient in this crucial vitamin.  We get it through certain foods, including milk, but we need sunlight exposure to truly absorb the vitamin in our bodies.  The supplement is added to baby formula, making this the one thing on which breastfed babies are one-upped by their bottle-guzzling pals.  A deficiency can cause rickets, a disease where your bones become fragile from a lack of minerals.  It can cause skeletal deformities.  It may be difficult to get enough quality sun exposure for people who live in northern climates or even those who live in the south during the winter months.  Dark-skinned people often have trouble getting enough Vitamin D, too.  But us super pasty folks have the problem of easily acquired sunburns!  You just can’t win.

A friend of mine once said she wouldn’t give her breastfed baby the supplement because women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years without supplemental vitamins.  That is true.  And for thousands of years we also didn’t use anesthesia during surgery.  How many of you would opt for that?  Sometimes we can’t argue with medical advancements.  Just because it wasn’t around 500 years ago doesn’t immediately mean it’s bad.  Some changes are.  I don’t think most medical ones are, but that’s just my opinion.  Hey, this is coming from someone who could have KISSED her anesthesiologist for giving me a pain-free birth.  Call me a wuss, fine.  But I’m still a mom & I still got a healthy baby out of the birth process, and I did it pain-free thanks to modern medicine.  Also thanks to modern medicine, my son won’t get polio or hepatitis B, and probably not even the flu this year.

I’ve said this before, but my son’s pediatrician went to medical school.  I did not.  We all have our skills & strengths.  Judging from our doctor’s demeanor I’d be willing to guess I can do a much more animated version of “Goodnight Moon.”  I am probably better at sewing quilts than our doctor is.  I’m honestly probably even more knowledgeable about breastfeeding than he is, and most definitely more educated on early childhood reading strategies.  But I leave the medical stuff up to him.  You know, that whole 8-years-in-school-and-fancy-paper-with-the-shiny-seal-framed-on-the-wall thing…it seems pretty important to me.  Kinda like the Vitamin D supplement.

*FYI: We use tri-vi-sol drops (blue box, found in vitamin section at drugstore or grocery store).  We tried poly-vi-sol once (purple box) and Jacob hated them.  My mom said I hated them as a baby, too.  Apparently the tri-vi-sol ones taste a lot better.  If your baby won’t take them directly, you can add the dropperful to baby food, applesauce, or yogurt.



  1. Well here comes my two cents! (or my soap box rather).

    On the little blip about your little man not getting Hep B, Polio, or the flu…he won’t get hep B not because of his vax, but because he isn’t having sex or otherwise sharing bodily fluids (except nursing and his mama doesn’t have hep B so what of it), and he may or may not get Polio as the vax for that one is not so effective at a young age, and if he does get it, you probably won’t know it because it’s most common form looks identical to the common cold. Lastly, on the flu – that vax has not been proven to prevent the flu, but IS proven to dose you up with a serious amount of mercury. Mmmmmm…. (btw, my kid has had his polio series even with all this info. 🙂 hey man, you gotta find a balance! )

    An excerpt on Vit D from a book I recently read, “First Bites and Beyond”.
    —Vitamin D is coming to light as a very important nutrient that many modern people are deficient in. The Vitamin D status of a newborn is almost perfectly correlated with the Vitamin D status of his mother. Baby requires large amounts of Vitamin D from the mother during the third trimester, so it’s vital that mom gets plenty during those three months. Breastmilk often appears deficient in Vitamin D because nursing mothers tend to have low stores of it. This means baby gets low levels of Vitamin D.
    Vitamin D works along with Vitamin A to ensure strong bones and healthy teeth. It protects against rickets, which is surprisingly common in the developed world.
    Vitamin D can be manufactured by our skin after exposure to sunlight. This is not a book on the risks versus the benefits of getting sun time! I’m sure you’ve heard the official recommendation and I urge you to research for yourself. I’ll just say that I let my kids play in the sun and leave your kids to you :).
    There are food sources of Vitamin D – real Vitamin D, not synthetic. Like other synthetic nutrients, Synthetic D can be bad news (this is what’s in the milk you buy at the grocery store – and note that children are still deficient).
    Foods that are rich in Vitamin D are the same that are rich in Vitamin A – the two vitamins work together synergistically. Traditional peoples had good levels of both. Butterfat, eggs, organ meats such as liver, cod liver oil, and seafood are all high in Vitamin D. In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morell notes that crab and shrimp are especially rich seafood sources.—–

    To be sure, I think Vit D supplements are a great thing. I take 2,000 IU of Vit D when I take my vitamins. For now, I believe that’s enough going through my milk for my baby. But I don’t think supplementing is a bad thing. Not at all!!! Our food in today’s world is not even close to being a nutrient rich as it was even a hundred years ago for a variety of reasons, and it’s all the more reason to grow your own, buy local, and supplement!

    • You can get Hep B from sex & bodily fluids, yes, but also from sharing personal items like razors with an infected person (maybe in a high school locker room someday?) or just contact with someone’s blood (on the playground?). I’d rather protect him against it than just assume he most likely won’t share drug needles or have unprotected sex. The Hep B vaccine IS the one he’s gotten – I double checked after you wrote your comment. I’ve also had the Hep A vaccine (before I went to Egypt) but there is no vaccine for Hep C.

      I found this regarding mercury in flu shots:
      “Chemically, the way the mercury (in the flu shot) is bound, it just can’t be utilized by the body like other forms of mercury,” says Roberts. “That’s why the flu shot is perfectly safe.”
      Interesting. It’s all so confusing & overwhelming, but so far in my life doctors have only helped me or made me better. I have no bad personal experiences with medical professionals, so I continue to keep my faith in their research and knowledge until something happens to change my mind.

      It sounds like you’re definitely getting the Vitamin D for yourself. I’m not and guess I should be!

  2. You are totally right about modern medical advances and at the time I didn’t think about it that way. So I never gave Hailey Vitamin D supplements as I saw it as a way for Formula companies to make money from me a bfing mom

    • I hadn’t thought about that point – that formula companies make money from us. I guess that’s true, too, but I’d like to think it’s a little more than that.

  3. Our pediatrician, who I love and respect, because she keeps me so calm and she isn’t a pill or med-pusher, only recommended that I start giving Charlie the vitamin supplements due to an iron deficiency they found during a blood test. He actually started taking the supplement from the purple bottle around 9 months. She never mentioned anything about vitamin D specifically. However, if she ever recommends something for either of my children, I am willing to try it, because I do agree with your point that she is the one who went to med school! I think there are pros and cons to being the “natural” parent who swears off certain procedures or meds. I, for one, don’t like to give either of my children unnecessary meds or anitbiotics for every little sniffle. My pediatrician only prescribes them for when other methods or time itself doesn’t help. However, I would never skip out on vaccines or meds just because doctors hundreds of years ago didn’t use them. Maybe people got along fine before modern medicine developed vaccines… but some of them also died from polio and viruses that we can now prevent with simple science.

  4. First of all, remind me not to drink while reading your posts. I almost spit out my coke twice!

    I’m in agreement with you. Our pedi (and my OB for that matter) spent way more time learning about medicine than I did. I trust their opinions and usually do what they suggest. Since Ryan was bf, I was pretty good at giving him his vitamin supplement. Now however, I’m a bit lax on it. Though there it sits on the kitchen counter.

    I’m all for medical advances, especially those that help prevent diseases or my particular favorite, the epidural 🙂

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