Vitamin D for babies 0 to 12 months

Give your baby 5 micrograms of vitamin D3 as a supplement every day from birth to 12 months if they are:

  • breastfed
  • taking less than 300ml of infant formula a day

You do not need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement if they are fed more than 300ml of infant formula a day. Infant formula now comes with vitamin D added to it.

All breastfed babies will still need a vitamin D supplement after birth, even if:

  • you took vitamin D during pregnancy
  • you are breastfeeding

There are many suitable infant vitamin D3 supplements available to buy in Ireland. These are available in liquid form and can be given to your baby by dropper or by oral syringe. Use a supplement that contains vitamin D only.

Why babies need vitamin D

Vitamin D helps us to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.

Our bodies can make vitamin D from the sun. But babies cannot safely get the vitamin D they need from the sun.

Your baby needs vitamin D because:

  • their skin is very sensitive to the sun and should not be in direct sunlight
  • their food (breast milk or solid foods) may not have enough Vitamin D in it
  • between 0to 12 months babies grow very quickly and have a greater need for vitamin D to form strong bones

Helps fight illness

Research shows that vitamin D plays an important role in helping the immune system.

It may help to prevent:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • MS (multiple sclerosis)
  • some forms of cancer

If you have black or brown skin, for example if you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background, you are more likely to have a baby with low levels of vitamin D.

This is because people with black or brown skin may not make enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Risks

In severe cases, low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets or osteomalacia in children.

Rickets is a condition that leads to soft bones. It can cause severe bone deformities such as bowed legs and spine curves.

Rickets in adults is known as osteomalacia or soft bones. This can cause frequent bone fractures, muscle weakness and bone pain.

Buying vitamin D for your baby

You can buy vitamin D3 supplements for babies in pharmacies and some supermarkets. Buy supplements that are suitable for babies, and contain vitamin D3 only.

You do not need a prescription to buy vitamin D. It is not available on the medical card or Drugs Payment Scheme. The cost will vary.

Ask your pharmacist how many doses you will get from a supplement and how long it will last once open.

Depending on the supplement, you may need to buy more than 1 bottle in the year.

Giving your baby vitamin D

Check the label on your vitamin D3 supplement for the number of drops or amount of liquid you need to give your baby. Read the instructions each time. You may need to give your baby the supplement in a different way with each new brand. Give your baby the correct dose directly into their mouth.

One dose is 5 micrograms

The correct amount is 5 micrograms. The number of drops can vary, depending on the supplement you are using. If the dose is correct, there are no risks to babies.

Only give your baby 1 dose per day. Very large doses of vitamin D3 may make your baby ill.

Ask your pharmacist, GP or public health nurse if you're not sure what to do.

Other vitamins

If your baby was premature or is getting ongoing medical care, they might need extra vitamins or a higher dose of vitamin D3. Talk to your GP about this.

If your baby is taking other vitamins, ask for advice about vitamin D.

Important

Only give your baby multivitamins or a higher dose of vitamin D3 if it is recommended by a healthcare professional.

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2022
Next review due: 14 October 2025