Vitamin D supplements are now being recommended earlier for babies and pregnant women in Scotland, due to the lack of it being naturally produced because of weak sunlight during winter.
New guidance has been published today recommending that all babies from birth up to one year of age, as well as pregnant women, should take a precautionary daily supplement of vitamin D.
“In Scotland the sun is not strong enough to make vitamin D in the winter months”
The guidance – titled New Vitamin D recommendation information for new parents – updates previous recommendations, by bringing forward the point at which supplementation should begin.
It states: “We are now taking a precautionary approach to protect babies by suggesting that they start vitamins within the first two weeks of birth. This is earlier than the six months previously recommended.”
“The community midwife will discuss the use of vitamins after the first week and suggest that you get a supply of the drops to start before the baby is two weeks old,” the document stated.
It also recommended that, as a precaution, breastfed babies from birth up to one year of age should also be given a supplement of 8.5 to 10μg/d vitamin D per day.
But the Scottish government noted that babies who were formula fed did not require a vitamin D supplement if they were having at least 500ml/day, as infant formula already has added vitamin D.
It also highlighted that breastfeeding women and children up to age four years, who were eligible for the Healthy Start voucher scheme via benefits, could get free supplements containing vitamin D.
“It is essential that parents and guardians are properly supported to follow this new advice”
In addition, it said Healthy Start vitamins were available free of charge to all pregnant women in Scotland for the duration of their pregnancy, regardless of their entitlement to Healthy Start.
The guidance advised women to ask their midwife or health visitor about where they could get their Healthy Start vitamins from locally.
The guidance on vitamin D has been updated in line with recommendations from the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and has been approved by Scotland’s chief medical officer.
Explaining the need for supplementation, the document stated: “In Scotland the sun is not strong enough to make vitamin D in the winter months.
“Most of us are able make vitamin D in the summer sunlight but living and working indoors and using sun creams makes this less likely,” it added.
CMO for Scotland Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “We get most of the vitamin D we need from sunlight during summer months. However, anyone can experience a vitamin D deficiency.
“New born babies depend on their mother’s levels during pregnancy meaning it is important that pregnant women, and babies up to a year old, continue to receive a daily supplement,” she said.
“This new guidance reflects the latest available evidence and will help ensure the best start for children,” noted the CMO.
She added: “It is essential that parents and guardians are properly supported to follow this new advice, which is why additional, specific guidance for them and healthcare professionals has been created to support implementation.”