Why doctors recommend cod liver oil to children

Public health nurses and doctors around the country recommend cod liver oil from four weeks of age. But could you just as well give them vitamin D drops?

As a new mother you have a sea of questions. The clinic is a good place to come to get help and answers, and confirmation that your baby is well.  At the same time, the clinic is a place to get good, secure advice from a nurse or doctor. We have asked the health center physician Randi Kasin, who is responsible for medical examinations at the clinic in western municipality Suldal, about why she recommends giving cod liver oil to the infant.

Randi Kasin, helsestasjonslege
Randi Kasin, health center physician

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Do you recommend cod liver oil for infants to all mothers who come here for check-ups?

– “Yes, I always suggest this at the 6-week check-up, when I ask if they give the baby cod liver oil. Breast milk does not contains vitamin D, and therefore I always recommend giving a supplement of this in the form of cod liver oil, which contains vitamin D and beneficial fatty acids”.

How much cod liver oil should you give the baby?

– “You can start by giving infants ½ dessert spoon a day and gradually increase it to 1 dessert spoon, equivalent to 5 ml. This will cover the daily requirement of vitamin D, which is 10 micrograms per day”.

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But why do you recommend just cod liver oil, and not vitamin D drops?

– “Vitamin D drops do not contain the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, that I believe is important for the baby. Another advantage of cod liver oil relative to vitamin D drops, is that it is cheaper. But those who do not take cod liver oil are advised to take vitamin D drops”.

Why is vitamin D so important for children?

– “That’s because children are in a very active phase in regards of building bones and teeth. Bones and teeth consists of calcium, and vitamin D is essential to make the body be able to absorb calcium from food and milk. A consequence of too little vitamin D is rickets, which give soft bones and misaligned legs. Rickets was virtually extinct in Norway until a few years ago, but now we have some cases. These are mostly among the dark-skinned immigrants, which is dependent on more sunlight to create enough vitamin D in the skin. Dark-skinned are therefore advised to take supplements of vitamin D”.

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In the recommendation for infant nutrition from The Directorate of Health, cod liver oil is particularly recommended as a supplement that one should give to infants, from four weeks of age:

Use of cod liver oil has a long tradition in the Norwegian diet. Familiarization and use of cod liver oil from infancy by will lay the foundation for a good dietary habit that will ensure supply of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids also later in childhood and adulthood.

One of omega-3 fatty acids DHA, contributes to the normal development of brain and eye sight ** in infants. Vitamin D is also important for a well-functioning immune system.

** Beneficial effect achieved by a daily intake of 250 mg DHA



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