Vitamin D for plant-based kids. Are there vegan sources of vitamin D? Here’s how to get enough vitamin D on a plant-based diet.
We’ve touched on vitamin D before in terms of nutrients for bone health, but this essential nutrient deserves it’s own spotlight, too!
Getting enough vitamin D is important for overall health no matter the stage of life.
Understanding why, where, and how much vitamin D your babe needs can help ensure she’s getting enough in the earliest years.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for strengthening bones, nerve function, and muscle movement. It also plays a significant role in immunity
Often called “the sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is produced by your skin when exposed to direct ultraviolet light.
Enjoying the sun may be enough to meet vitamin D needs for some people. But how much you actually produce depends on a number of factors, like complexion, age, and where you live geographically.
And what about babies?
Because infants should avoid too much direct sunlight, their vitamin D needs have to be met in other ways.
How much vitamin D do kids need?
Providing vitamin D to your babe is important shortly after birth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving exclusively breastfed babies 400 IU (10 mcg) per day of vitamin D.
This is because research shows vitamin D is not transferred adequately via breastmilk.
In fact, a 2015 study found that nursing mothers would need to take 6,400 IU of vitamin D daily to adequately meet their baby’s needs.
While the researchers found this to be safe in this controlled setting, it’s not exactly convenient for mamas. And it may not be right for everyone. High dose supplements should always be discussed with your healthcare provider first.
Formula-fed babies, on the other hand, receive all the vitamin D they need from formula. All formulas made in the United States are required to provide at least 400 IU per Liter, or 32 ounces.
Therefore an additional source isn’t necessary until she starts weaning.
Daily vitamin D requirements for children are 400 IU (10 mcg) until 12 months, and 600 IU (15 mcg) until 18 years.
If you’re ever concerned that your child isn’t getting enough vitamin D, this can be checked as part of a routine blood test by their pediatrician.
Types of vitamin D supplements
There are two forms of vitamin D: ergocalciferol (D2), found in plants, and cholecalciferol (D3), found in animals and made in your skin.
Both forms increase the vitamin D in your blood, but D3 is utilized more effectively and is therefore used more often.
You can find baby vitamin D3 drops as most grocery stores in the supplement section. (P.S. Breastfeeding mamas, you can put a drop on your nipple for easy transport to babe.)
Most baby drops contain the recommended 400 IU in just one drop.
Again, formula-fed babes won’t need a supplement until they start weaning. But breastfed babes will need this from the start.
Once baby begins solids, a daily vitamin D supplement can be adjusted depending on how much vitamin D other sources are providing.
Vegan sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t found naturally in very many foods.
Most food sources of it are animal products. In particular, fatty fish like salmon and canned tuna, as well as egg yolks.
However, there are a few plant sources of vitamin D that can be incorporated once your babe begins weaning, like fortified soy milk and certain breakfast cereals.
While you may have heard that certain mushrooms contain vitamin D, this requires them being grown in ultraviolet light, and most commercially grown mushrooms are grown in the dark.
As such, these shouldn’t be depended upon as a primary source of vitamin D for babies.
In addition to incorporating vitamin D-rich foods into your babe’s diet, remember that the best way to ensure his needs are met is via a daily supplement, at least for the first year.
Supplemental D2 is plant-derived, but because it’s not as effective, we suggest finding a vegan D3 supplement if this is important to you.
There are some D3 supplements produced using lichen, a type of fungus, instead of lanolin, the oil found in sheep’s wool. Check the packaging to confirm.
If you’ve been wondering how to get enough vitamin D on a plant-based diet, we hope this helps you! Vitamin D for plant-based kids is super important for growth, development, and immunity, and even vegan sources of vitamin D exist.
Chime In: What are some sources of vitamin D your family currently gets? Are there any that you would add or change?
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My baby has just turned one and is partly breastfed although I have low supply. I am wondering if you know whether I can use Vit D fortified nutritional yeast on food as a supplement at this age, rather than drops. I know usually it is only vit b fortified but I have found one that is also high in vit d!
Hi Morvah, how much vitamin D is in the yeast? And how much is he consuming per day? We tend to not recommend fortified foods as the only source as baby preferences and amount can change so much day to day.
If a child consumes dairy milk, should we be factoring in the respective Vit D content when determining how much additional to supplement? Or better to just supplement the full RI and not worry about any excess from dairy milk?
Hi Kelly– that really depends on how much dairy (or fortified non-dairy milk). Typically, you’ll need 4 servings of cow’s milk to meet vitamin D needs each day. So, if they are routinely consuming 2 glasses, then you can do a 1/2 dose of Vitamin D.