What Is Vitamin D? Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body take in calcium from the foods that we eat. Together, calcium and vitamin D build bones and keep them strong. Vitamin D also plays a part in heart health and fighting infection. Why Do Kids Need Vitamin D? Kids need vitamin D to build strong bones. Vitamin D also helps bones heal after an injury or surgery. Where Does Vitamin D Come From? The Sun Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. It's hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun, though. Most kids and adults spend lots of time indoors at school and work. When outdoors, it's important to protect skin to prevent melanoma and skin damage from too much sun exposure. Food Very few foods have vitamin D naturally. The foods with the most are fatty fish and fish oils. Kids don't eat these foods a lot. That's why food companies add vitamin D to milk, yogurt, baby formula, juice, cereal, and other foods. Adding vitamin D to foods is called "fortifying." It's helpful, but it still may not be enough. Supplements To get enough vitamin D, children often need to take a multivitamin with vitamin D or a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is sometimes labeled as vitamin D3. You can buy vitamin D pills, gummies, chewables, liquids, and sprays in stores without a prescription. Ask your child's health care provider for advice on choosing the right one. How Much Vitamin D Does My Child Need? Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU). Babies younger than 1 year old need 400 IU of vitamin D a day. Baby formula has 400 IU per liter, so babies who drink at least 32 ounces of formula each day get enough. If your baby takes only breast milk or gets less than 32 ounces of formula each day, ask your health care provider about giving your baby a vitamin D supplement. Kids older than 1 year need 600 IU or more of vitamin D a day. Health care providers often want healthy kids to take 600 to 1,000 IU daily. Some kids might need more vitamin D, such as those who: have certain medical problems (for instance, obesity, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, multiple fractures, or bone pain) are healing from bone surgery (such as after fusion surgery for scoliosis) are taking medicines (like anti-seizure medicines) that block the way the body uses vitamin D Your health care provider can talk to you about whether your child needs a vitamin D supplement. How Can I Help My Child Get Enough Vitamin D? Because vitamin D is so important, you'll want to be sure your child gets enough. Giving your child a daily supplement or a multivitamin with vitamin D is the easiest way to do this. Health care providers might order a blood test if they think a health problem is keeping a child from getting enough vitamin D. If doctors don't think your child has a health problem, there's no need for a blood test. What About Calcium? Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, a building block for strong bones. Unlike with vitamin D, kids usually can get enough calcium from food. High-calcium foods include milk, cheese, and yogurt. Food makers often fortify foods like cereal, bread, or juice with calcium. Back to Articles Related Articles 3 Ways to Build Strong Bones We build almost all our bone density when we're kids and teens. Kids with strong bones have a better chance of avoiding bone weakness later in life. Here's how parents can help. Read More Calcium Milk and other calcium-rich foods help build strong, healthy bones. But most kids and teens don't get enough calcium. Here's how to make sure that yours do. Read More Bones, Muscles, and Joints Without bones, muscles, and joints, we couldn't stand, walk, run, or even sit. The musculoskeletal system supports our bodies, protects our organs from injury, and enables movement. Read More Does Nonfat Milk Provide the Same Nutrients as Whole Milk? Find out what the experts have to say. Read More Pregnant or Breastfeeding? 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Read More Minerals Just like vitamins, minerals help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy. Find out more about minerals in this article for kids. Read More Your Bones Where would you be without your bones? Learn more about the skeletal system in this article for kids. Read More Calcium Your parents were right to make you drink milk when you were little. It's loaded with calcium, a mineral vital for building strong bones and teeth. Read More Bones, Muscles, and Joints Our bones, muscles, and joints form our musculoskeletal system and enable us to do everyday physical activities. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.