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Vitamin D, Rickets and the Breastfed Baby


SCHAUMBURG, IL ( May 1, 1995) - Recent headlines in New Jersey, New York and Seattle have reported a few cases of rickets among Ethiopian and African-American Muslim children who were reportedly breastfed. Rickets, which can cause bone deformities and other health problems, is caused by a lack of vitamin D which prohibits the body from properly utilizing calcium. Primarily at risk for the disease are dark-skinned infants who are always heavily clothed or live where there is little sunshine. Babies of mothers who have low vitamin D stores may also be at risk.

Research suggests that people of color, especially religious or cultural groups who wear enveloping clothing should expose their babies' uncovered cheeks to sunlight for just 20 minutes a day to get the needed vitamin D. In cases where this is not possible or the mother is not getting adequate vitamin D, doctors may prescribe a vitamin D supplement for the baby. According to La Leche League International, the world's recognized authority on breastfeeding, rickets has rarely been found in fully breastfed infants. This is true even in northern climates where there is less exposure to sunlight, which activates the formation of vitamin D. Research has shown that human milk contains adequate vitamin D for at least the first 6 months of life.

Parents or health care providers who want more information on rickets, vitamin D in human milk or other information on breastfeeding issues may call La Leche League International at (847) 519-7730 or 1-800-LALECHE.

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