Thirty African-American infants were included in the
study, beginning in 1988. All patients were breast-fed without receiving
supplemental vitamin D for an average of 12.5 months. The infants were
suffering from failure to thrive, bone fractures and bow legs, all common
problems with a vitamin D deficiency if left untreated.
"Rickets, can cause severe health problems
including seizures from low calcium levels," Schwartz said.
"We found that the number of women who are
choosing to breastfeed has dramatically increased in the last decade and
their babies were not getting adequate amounts of vitamin D added to their
diet," said Shelley R. Kreiter, M.D., pediatrician and principal
investigator of the study.
While breastfeeding is the optimal way to ensure that a
child receives the proper nutrients and is the ideal nutrition for
infants, the vitamin D content of breast milk is low and infants and
children need supplemental vitamin D as a complement to their diet when
they are exclusively breastfeeding. Drs. Schwartz and Kreiter recommend
starting the vitamin supplement at birth or by two months of age.
North Carolina is the only state that has recently
begun to distribute vitamins D, A and C in liquid form to all exclusively
breastfeeding infants, according to Schwartz.
"All a mom has to do is request the vitamin
supplements from her physician," Schwartz said. "This disease is
100 percent preventable."
The vitamin supplement is not necessary for mothers who
choose to feed their infants formula, because vitamin D was added to
formula in the 1930s.
Physicians at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill also participated in the study.
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