A London-based doctor has shared a photo of a child’s bowed legs to raise awareness of a dietary deficiency that can occur in little ones.
Dr Sermed Mezher took to TikTok and cited a case report where a baby’s parents began to notice their legs were bending inwards ahead of their second birthday.
When they took the child to the GP, it became apparent that their little one also walked differently compared to other children their age and had a widening of their wrists.
The parents said they had exclusively breastfed their child up to nine months old and they hadn’t given any vitamin D supplementation during this period.
“Vitamin D is an essential part of a growing child’s bone strength,” Dr Mezher said, “and you can’t get it from breast milk.”
He said children also need it from food sources – such as salmon, eggs, orange juice and red meat – and sunlight. In the UK, it’s also advised young children are given vitamin D supplements.
“The child was given supplements [to treat the issue] but only had a mild improvement,” the doctor added.
In the caption for the video, he stated: “All exclusively breastfed babies and those receiving less than 500ml of formula milk should receive vitamin D supplements daily.”
Do all babies need vitamin D supplements?
From birth, all breastfed babies should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D (8.5 to 10 micrograms), according to NHS Start For Life. This is because while breast milk is considered a great food source for babies, it provides virtually no vitamin D so babies can quickly become vitamin D deficient.
But if your little one has more than 500ml of first infant formula a day, they don’t need a vitamin D supplement because formula milk is already fortified with the vitamin.
Do toddlers need it, too?
It’s recommended that all children aged one to four should take a daily supplement (10 micrograms of the stuff) throughout the year as it can be hard to make all the vitamin D we need from sunlight and diet alone.
How much are supplements?
Supplements for children come in various forms – from liquid drops you can pop on your nipple while breastfeeding, to medicine-like mixtures that can be given to older babies on a spoon or in a syringe.
It depends on which ones you get, but prices can vary from between £5 to £15.
Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D.
What happens if you don’t get enough vitamin D?
Babies and children who don’t get enough vitamin D can develop bone deformities such as rickets, which can cause the leg bones to bow, as seen in the video above.
Other signs of vitamin deficiency in children include bone pain, muscle weakness or cramps, feeling tired, and feeling down or sad. In severe cases, it can also cause delayed growth and seizures.
Babies with darker skin tones tend to have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. One study of 3,000 newborns from the University of Birmingham found half of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) babies are vitamin D deficient.
In adults, the issue can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, frequent illness, low mood and bone pain. It can also cause the bones to become weak.
According to the Glenfield GP Surgery, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several health problems such as cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes and heart disease.
It’s thought one in five people in the UK have low vitamin D levels, so it’s a common yet preventable problem.