Oh, Mister Sun, Sun, Mister Golden Sun please shine down on me!!! If you’ve ever attended a mommy and me class you have probably encountered this sweet little ear worm of a song. If you haven’t heard it yet, definitely check out. Your little one will love it.
This song was the first thing that came into my head as I sat down to write this blog about vitamin D. In case you didn’t already know, the sun is the #1 source of vitamin D for our body. But why should we care about that fun fact? Vitamin D plays a major role in our physical and mental health during our entire life, and especially during pregnancy. Now brace yourself, research shows that 40% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. Yikes!
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that can naturally be found in some plants and animals and is also produced when we are exposed to the sun. There are two types of vitamin D.
Vitamin D2 is plant-based and often used when fortifying foods. If you are looking for a vegetable to eat that is high in vitamin D, check out certain varieties of mushrooms. D2 can also be taken as a supplement.
Vitamin D3 is what our body naturally produces when exposed to the sun. Sun exposure accounts for 95% of our vitamin D production.
Many foods are also naturally high in D3 such as salmon, sardines, herring, egg yolks, tuna, shrimp, and oysters. Like D2, D3 can also be taken as a supplement. Since my delicate fair skin tends to burn on contact with the sun and I am not a big fan of fish, vitamin D3 supplements are how I get my daily dose.
Why is vitamin D important?Maintaining our vitamin D levels keeps our bones strong and healthy. This is especially important for babies while their bodies grow and develop. Vitamin D also helps bones heal after a break or injury. Children with very severe vitamin D deficiencies can develop rickets. Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones, which can result in pain, delayed growth, and skeletal deformities. Rickets is not common, but it is super scary.
There is also tons of emerging research showing that Vitamin D not only plays a role in bone health, but it also improves our immune system, mental health and can help women have healthier pregnancies.
Like me, you are probably not thinking about life after menopause, but we should. That darn hormonal change screws up our bodies and makes our bones weaker. So having adequate vitamin D levels aids in the absorption of calcium which helps keep bones strong, prevent osteoporosis, and broken bones.
During pregnancy low vitamin D has been linked to an increased risk for:
• Preeclampsia (a serious pregnancy condition)
• Bacterial Vaginosis
Healthy vitamin D levels prior to conception have also been shown to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Lastly, there are many studies that have shown people who suffer from depression also have low levels of vitamin D.
Why do so many people have low vitamin D levels?
• People are spending more time indoors due to work and lifestyle.
• If you have darker skin, it takes a longer exposure to the sun to produce adequate vitamin D.
• In general, we are staying out of the sun more due to avoid skin cancer.
• Living in colder climates often keeps people indoors.
How much vitamin D do I need?
Since most adults do not get enough time in the sun, the Mayo Clinic suggests that adults up to 70 years old take 600 IU (international units) of vitamin every day.
Before you start taking any new vitamins it is important to talk with you healthcare provider.
If I am breastfeeding, does my baby need vitamin D?
There is so much chatter about breast milk not being able to provide our babies with enough vitamin D. To be honest, it drives me crazy. Truly the majority of the time breast milk is the perfect food for our babies.
Research has shown that the problem is not breast milk. The problem is the mother’s own vitamin D levels. If mom is low in vitamin D, then her breast milk will likely not have enough vitamin D.
So, yes your baby does need vitamin D. There are 2 ways to make sure they are getting enough.
1. Discuss taking extra vitamin D with your health care provider. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends that nursing mothers take 6,400 IU/day to reach adequate levels for her breastfeeding infant.
2. Give your baby vitamin D drops. There are many different brands on the market. Talk with your health care provider regarding their recommendations.
Adios mamas, I’m heading outside. Summer is here and my pasty skin is beckoning for a few minutes of sunshine.
I’ll leave you with one last tip. The sunshine experts say that the best time to get your natural vitamin D is around 12 pm.
Let a third of your skin be exposed for 10-30 minutes about 3 times per week. If you have lighter skin and tend to burn quickly, stick to closer to the 10 min mark. If you are going to stay out longer be sure to apply sunscreen.
Love and hugs,