Vegan Nursing Mothers Must Be Especially Aware Of Vitamin D Deficiency

Posted on: 14 December 2015

A vegan diet is often deficient in vitamin D, especially if one does not spend enough time in the sun. To counteract this, most vegan nursing mothers need supplements to supply the necessary nutrient for their baby's development.

Why is Vitamin D Essential for Infants?

Vitamin D is linked to calcium absorption in the body. A vitamin D deficiency can cause the bones to soften and become weak, leading to a soft skull and deformed skeleton. Other symptoms of rickets include

  • Bone pain
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Twitching
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Irritability
  • Dental problems
  • Fragile bones
  • Poor growth and development

Rickets is more common in nursing children with darker skin, because the melanin keeps them from absorbing sunlight as readily. Hispanic, Asian or African-American children need to spend more time in the sun than fairer haired children in order to produce enough vitamin D, so supplementation may be necessary if that is not possible.

Sources of Vitamin D for Vegan Mothers

Sun exposure is the best way to ensure a nursing mother's body produces the correct types and amounts of Vitamin D, but that isn't always possible. While exposing children to sunlight can help them get the Vitamin D that their mother's milk lacks, doctors advise again exposing babies under age 6 months to the amounts of sunlight necessary to obtain this vital nutrient. While certain mushrooms can supply vitamin D2, there was no vegan source of Vitamin D3, until a British firm found a way to extract the vitamin from a wild lichen in 2012, giving nursing mothers another option for obtaining sufficient amounts of both forms of the vitamin.

Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3

There is a long-running debate over whether vitamin D3 is superior to vitamin D2. Recent research has shown that either is sufficient to prevent a deficiency. Vitamin D2 has also been proven effective in treating rickets, although larger and more frequent doses are required.

Daily Vitamin D Requirements for Nursing Mothers

Most doctors recommend that nursing mothers give their babies a daily vitamin D supplement, although there is division on how much is appropriate for babies. The least amount recommended is 400 IU/day while the largest is 1,000 IU/day. If in doubt, have our doctor test your breast milk and recommend the proper dosage.

Vegan supplements of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are available for nursing mothers and their babies (from companies like Do Vitamins). Studies have shown that they are both effective in preventing and treating rickets at the correct dosages. Vegan nursing mothers should talk with their doctors about what type of supplementation is necessary for their particular situation.