Vitamin D is important for babies born prematurely as well as for full-term infants. However, a lack of strong bones in preterm babies is primarily due to not enough calcium and phosphorus in the diet. A new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report, “Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements of Enterally Fed Preterm Infants,” in the May 2013 Pediatrics (published online April 29) offers the first dietary recommendations for vitamin D and calcium intakes specifically for preterm infants. Because preterm infants have distinct bone mineral requirements that differ from full-term newborns, pediatricians recommend preterm babies be given 200 to 400 IU’s of vitamin D daily while in the hospital and after being discharged. In addition, preterm infants, especially those with multiple medical problems or who weigh just under 3 and a half pounds, are at an increased risk of developing rickets, and should be given calcium and phosphorus supplements or special fortifiers designed for preterm babies. The report concludes that preterm babies need specialized high mineral diets in the NICU and in some cases after they go home. Such infants should continue to be monitored until they reach a safe body weight.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)