For the most part, your breast milk is packed with nutrients for your baby. When you first begin breastfeeding, the milk is going to be thicker because it is essentially a shot of immunoglobins for your baby. These nutrients act as high-powered defenses against any infections or illnesses. Even after that, the milk your body is producing is specifically designed to give your baby almost exactly what he or she needs. However, it isn’t flawless, and your baby might actually need a supplement. If you are formula feeding your infant, there’s a good chance the formula already contains all vital nutrients, but checking with your doctor anyway is probably a good idea.

Breastfeeding and vitamin D

Babies who are breastfed are often deficient in vitamin D. Since your baby likely isn’t spending much time in the sunshine, the milk you give him is the only way he can get the vitamins. Adults tend to absorb the vitamin by sunlight. Vitamin D is especially important in a newborn’s development since it will help your baby absorb the calcium and phosphorous he or she needs from your breast milk, which is directly related to bone health and strength.

Does your baby need a supplement?

Of course, mothers have been breastfeeding perfectly healthy babies for years without the help of vitamin D supplements. Many healthy adults today were fed breast milk as babies with no supplements, and they are living their lives to the fullest. Clearly, a vitamin D supplement is not absolutely necessary. However, giving your baby the supplement will in fact allow him to better process other nutrients, which will assist in his overall development. Vitamin D supplements are one of the many recommendations that doctors have only recently discovered, but are also an important advance in human health that can improve the quality of living for your newborn. By promoting bone health at an early age, you’re setting him up for better bone health for life.

What about formula?

If you are able to breastfeed your baby, you are setting him up with valuable nutrients that are difficult to replicate. Many of the immunoglobins that you produce have DNA makeup that will suit his specific needs. However, in some ways formula is superior, because breast milk doesn’t have the essential vitamin D your baby needs to absorb other nutrients. Luckily, you can effectively counteract this downfall of breast milk by giving your newborn baby a vitamin D supplement with your pediatrician’s approval. 

Source: Cria Perrine et al: Adherence to Vitamin D Recommendations Among US Infants. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Volume 125 Issue 4 pp. 672-632 April 2010.