This first appeared in The Standard on 18 September 2016
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins a child must get adequately. It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorous, which is needed to strengthen the bones. It also helps avoid autoimmune diseases. While different foods serve as a source for different vitamins, Vitamin D’s most important source is sunlight. Lack of Vitamin D will cause rickets, which weakens the bones and make them bowed in the process of trying to support the body.
Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin at all, but is a steroid hormone that the body produces using UVB rays from the sun.
The question, how long should I sun bathe my baby in a day to produce sufficient vitamin D is based on how you do it and how long you do it. Darker skins take longer to produce vitamin D and hence should bask in the sun for a bit longer than light skins. The time of the day the baby is basking in the sun also affects the smooth skin your baby has. There is no definite guideline on how to do it but most health experts agree on the following recommendation.
“To make enough vitamin D, a baby in a diaper needs a total of only 30 minutes of sunlight a week-less than five minutes a day. Fully clothed and without a hat, a baby would need two hours of sunlight a week, or about 20 minutes a day. Medium to darker skin tones need a little more time in the sun.” (http://homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/baby-and-vitamin-d)
Can I substitute sunbathing with foods that contain Vitamin D?
Foods like salmon fish, fortified formula milk and egg yolk contain Vitamin D but not in an adequate amount Breastfeeding mothers can increase their intake of Vitamin D rich foods but even that does not guarantee that your baby will get enough. Hence sunbathing remains to be the most important source of Vitamin D.