Expertly reviewed by Sarah Almond Bushell, Registered Dietician & Children’s Nutritionist
Just like adults, babies and children also need their quota of Vitamin D every day to help them to grow up strong and healthy. The Department of Health recommends that all breastfed babies and children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin D supplements, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C, every day.1
This guide comes with expert insight from The Children’s Nutritionist Sarah Almond-Bushell, a registered dietitian and expert in children’s eating habits.
She provides helpful information on:
Also known as “the sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is essential for making sure our bones, teeth, and muscles are healthy as they develop.
It also makes sure they remain healthy as we get older.
We tend to get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure, which starts in the UK around March and ends as autumn arrives, usually around September time.
Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world? 1
In fact, some reports state that vitamin D deficiency is so widespread that it should be seen as a global public health problem.²
Given the fact it’s one of the vitamins we can all get access to, simply by being out in the sun, you might think you needn’t worry about deficiency.
But low vitamin D happens to be one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, 1 in 5 people in the UK have low vitamin D levels.³
Low vitamin D is associated with a higher risk of poor musculoskeletal health, such as rickets, osteomalacia, falls, and poor muscle strength.³
And the thing is, few people are aware of the fact they are deficient in it - so they fail to recognise some of the common symptoms.
Overall, vitamin D is good for maintaining good bone, teeth, and muscle health.²
Growing children need vitamin D to thrive.
However, it can be hard for kids to get it through food alone because it’s present in very few foods and in very low levels.
Pair that with a not-so-sunny climate, and most children will be susceptible to becoming deficient in vitamin D.⁴
That’s why the NHS recommends that all children up to 5 years are given a 10µg (microgram) vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D is sometimes expressed in IU or International Units. 400IU is the same as 10µg.
Vitamin D for breastfed babies is also important. They should be given a supplement containing 8.5-10mg of vitamin D too, but we’ll get on to that below…
Fortified foods - such as some breakfast cereals, soy products, and orange juice - contain extra vitamin D. You can find it naturally in oily fish, red meat, and mushrooms, too.
Find out about the best sources of vitamin D in this article.
You can also boost your child’s vitamin D levels by encouraging them to play outside in the sunshine for 10 minutes per day. That’s after you cover them in sun cream, of course – no matter the weather.
But what if your child spends a lot of time inside?
The best solution is to follow the government health guidelines: they recommend a daily supplement (10µg) every day.
Don’t worry, your child can’t get too much vitamin D with a combination of a daily supplement, sunshine, and fortified foods.
It can be a little tricky to get kids to take their supplements!
But, thankfully, manufacturers have found ways to make their products more appealing to our little ones.
Here’s some of the best vitamin D for toddlers and the best vitamin D for kids:
Children aged 1-5 years should be given a daily supplement containing 10µg of vitamin D.⁴
However, the NHS recommends that everyone above 5 also considers taking a vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months.
It is essential for babies to get enough vitamin D to help their bones, muscles, and teeth strengthen and grow.
This is why it’s recommended that breastfed babies are given a vitamin D supplement – even if their mother is taking one, too.
It is advised that babies are exclusively breastfed until around 6 months old.⁵
However, you should know that infant formula is already fortified with vitamin D. Babies who are fed more than 500ml of infant formula a day should not be given a vitamin D supplement.¹
Up to 90% of the vitamin D in our bodies is produced in response to exposure to sunlight.⁴ Most babies are kept inside, or covered up from direct sunlight.
It is unlikely that your new baby gets enough sunshine on his or her skin to stimulate vitamin D production.
The other 10% comes from a varied diet including oily fish, and very small babies won’t be getting their hands on that!
Public Health England recommends that babies under 1 year old are given a daily 8.5-10µg vitamin D supplement.⁶
There are some vitamin D supplements made specially for babies, like vitamin D drops for infants. They have been designed to provide the perfect dose of vitamin D for infant development:
Vitamin D supplements for babies and children have been formulated with little bodies in mind and are perfectly healthy.
To put your mind at rest, read the label carefully so you are confident that you understand the dosage. Then, make sure to stick to the recommended dose and keep a careful note of when you give your baby or child the supplement.
Do not give them two supplements which contain Vitamin D (cod liver oil and vitamin drops, for example).
Many people with vitamin D deficiency don’t show any symptoms.
However, your child could be low in vitamin D if you notice:
Vitamin D deficiency can also cause rickets, a disease that causes thin and weakened bones.
Once you have spoken to your doctor about your concerns, they will carry out a blood test to confirm whether your child is deficient in vitamin D.
Children of different ages require different amounts of vitamin D per day and your doctor will be able to provide you with tailored advice and arrange follow-up appointments to check how things are going in the coming weeks and months.
We all need different levels of vitamin D, which vary depending on how old we are.
Last updated: 25 January 2023
BSc Hons Nutrition & Dietetics (1999), Diploma in Advanced Dietetic Practice (2006), MPhil Nutrition for children (2015) and SOS Certificated feeding therapist - advanced level (2017 and 2018)
Sarah Almond Bushell is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, ex NHS Consultant child nutritionist of 22 years and founder of The Children’s Nutritionist™ who is working to create a generation of happier, healthier eaters by reduce the stress around food and mealtimes for parents. She is passionate about helping to cut the ties of generational eating habits, fuelled by misinformation and desperation tactics.
Her work has resulted in being asked to consult for brands including Annabel Karmel, Hovis, Heinz Baby, Tommee Tippee, Thermomix and Aptamil. She is a keynote speaker and author having ghostwritten three books for well known personalities as well as writing Love At First Bite, her own weaning book for Thermomix. Sarah has also featured in various magazines and media, helping thousands of parents raise their happy healthy eaters.
In her spare time Sarah can be found in the kitchen, as an ex-baker Sarah enjoys cooking with her teenage children, creating amazing dishes full of flavour for her friends & family.
“Sharing a meal together should be happy, sociable occasions, but for so many families it is fraught with stress, parents anxious that their children are not eating the good stuff on their plates, children anxious that they’re going to be made to eat something they don’t want to. My mission is to help families learn to enjoy eating together, for parents to be reassured, for children to be relaxed, essentially for mealtimes to be a time where happy memories are made.”
Older clinical publications: