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The sunshine vitamin for healthy bones

Parents of all babies up to 12 months are being advised to give their infants a daily vitamin D supplement to protect their growing bones.

This advice comes to parents from the Health Service Executive, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Department of Health and Children.

All babies in Ireland aged up to 12 months, both breastfed or formula fed, should be given a daily supplement of five micrograms of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, but is present in very few foods. It is also known as the sunshine vitamin, because it is made in the body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin.

However, Ireland's northerly latitude and lack of winter sunlight means that we cannot make enough vitamin D in this way.

Babies need a daily supplement of vitamin D because their delicate skin cannot be safely exposed to the sun, and because their feeds or diet alone do not provide enough of this important vitamin to ensure healthy bone growth.

A number of vitamin D-only products that are suitable for infants are available for purchase in pharmacies and other locations across Ireland.

Newborn infants are dependent on their mothers' vitamin D status during pregnancy to build up their vitamin D stores. At birth they only have 50 to 60pc of their mothers' stores of vitamin D.