Do your Vit D Drops support your breastfeeding?

*** (Update – BreastfeedingArts is now MommaArts – check us out here for further info on lactation support, IBCLC, doula and postpartum care) ***


This has been bothering me for a while now.  This is Enfamil brand Vit D drops, considered “#1 Brand Recommended by Pediatricians” in the country.  A free sample is handed out in many peds office across the country.  Did I mention free?

You know what that means?  That means formula reps are in these offices providing free samples to hand out to breastfeeding mothers …. with the Enfamil brand boldly highlighted on the product.  You think maybe it being free is how they can claim #1 brand status?

Now look at this screen shot below.  This is Enfamil’s website.  Hypothetically, baby is now 2 months old and you’ve run out of the free sample and need to buy more.  You’ll likely have to buy more every month, at 10 – 15 bucks a pop, so that’s at least 100 bucks worth of D-Vi-Sol a year (I’ll come back to the economics of this in a minute).  You know where these guys are shelved in many stores?  Yup, right next to the formula.  Meanwhile, look what’s smack in the middle of their webpage.  Remember, you’re a breastfeeding mom trying find out where you can buy more Vit D in your area.  What’s that?  Why yes it is!  A nice “buy Enfamil now” button ….

And what of the ingredients?  Here they are, in order of how they appear on the box:



polysorbate 80

citric acid

vitamin D3

sodium citrate

sodium hydroxide

artificial flavor

artificial caramel color.

Hmmmmm …

Ok, now, I am NOT (really!) trying to sell you on anything.  I promise.  For around 20 bucks (depending on where you live and mark up) you can get Carlson for Kids drops where a single bottle lasts a year.

The advantages to buying these guys …

1. No formula cross marketing (yay).

2. You only need one drop (not dropper full) to babies tongue or your nipple or in a bottle of expressed milk a day.  Therefor, a single bottle will last upwards of a year.

3. I promised I’d get back to those economics.  $20 a year for Carlson versus $100 a year for Enfamil.  Kind of a no-brainer right?

4. Ingredients: Vit D3 and coconut oil.  That’s it.  Just two ingredients.

The pediatrician where I work is a distributor of Carlson.  As an IBCLC I take pride in working in an office where the MD is practicing responsibly and ethically. He buys Carlson drops and sells them to our mother/baby pairs (at the company recommended modest mark up).  He’s not making a ton of money on these.  But he is keeping mother/baby pairs in Vit D (for info on the importance of Vit D click here). And he’s doing so with a reputable brand without selling out to formula companies, handing out free samples or opening up questions on practice ethics.  Bonus: it is a very clear message in support of breastfeeding.

I don’t see why more pediatric offices can’t say no to free samples.  You don’t have to distribute Carlson brand.  You don’t have to sell anything.  Let’s just start with ending the free handouts from formula companies.  An office could easily provide families with local information on brands, so individuals can make their own choices on what to buy and where to shop.  If it’s a question of making sure they in fact go out and get Vit D, then do sell them yourself in the office.  But handing out free samples sends the wrong ethical message.  It takes very little effort to set up an account and become a distributor of a better brand like Carlson (and there are others out there).

Let’s keep Vit D supplementation cheap, with simple ingredients and free from formula Booby Traps.  I like that idea, don’t you?

  One thought on “Do your Vit D Drops support your breastfeeding?

  1. Lo
    April 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    The supplementation of vitamin D is paradoxical: While breastmilk is supposedly the best form of infant nutrition (as mothers, physicians, and even infant-formula companies agree), it is somehow lacking in sufficient amounts of vitamin D. This policy could have far-reaching, potentially harmful implications for the work of breastfeeding advocates across the country. Breastmilk is the only form of nutrition designed to meet a baby’s specific needs. Some babies have circumstances that warrant medications and/or supplements; but this should be on a case-by-case basis. And just as there are those looking to cash in by adding DHA to infant formula, there is the same danger with the issue of vitamin D supplementation. It also perpetuates the myth that technology and science are needed to complement and improve breastmilk.

    It is true that breastmilk has low amounts of vitamin D, but those low amounts are just what breastfed babies need. In rare cases, vitamin D supplements may be appropriate for some breastfed babies, such as those not exposed to the sun because of their parents’ religious beliefs and those who live in regions where there is little sunlight.

    If experts begin to say that breastmilk is best, but that all breastfed babies need a supplement, of any sort, a Pandora’s box is opened. Too much vitamin D, in fact, can cause an excess amount of calcium in a baby’s system, potentially leading to kidney or brain damage, lethargy, seizures, coma, pancreatitis, and cardiac arrhythmias. What happens if a baby is given an overdose of vitamin D drops? What if a mother chooses not to give the drops?

    Who will pay for the drops? What if a mother can’t afford to buy them? Medical doctors will also be affected by this recommendation. Some will prescribe the drops across the board rather than on an individual basis. For those doctors who don’t promote breastfeeding to their patients, this may reinforce the doctors’ lack of confidence in breastfeeding as the most viable option.

    Many unanswered questions regarding the supplementation issue remain. What are the short- and long-term health consequences of providing vitamin D to infants who are not vitamin D-deficient? What are the psychological and physiological impacts on breastfeeding? Have the risks been weighed against the benefits? Clearly, there is a need for additional research on breastmilk, vitamin D, rickets, and the disease’s causes and means of prevention.

    • Melanie
      April 3, 2012 at 10:17 am

      As a breastfeeding advocate for 14 years now, I have seen the tide turn on this issue. La Leche League used to recommend no vitamins or other supplements for exclusively breastfed infants, but in 2008 changed their recommendation. I have linked to their media release from 2008 below.

      It is important to note that humans never got vitamin D in great quantities from foods until recently. Vitamin D is a hormone produced by the human body in response to sunlight exposure. Due to our modern lifestyles and fear of skin cancer, sunlight exposure is low. This lifestyle change is what has necessitated oral vitamin D supplementation.

      It is not that breastmilk is “deficient .” It is that we happen to be attempting to right lifestyl problem

      • Melanie
        April 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

        Sorry, that posted before I was done.

        What I wanted to say was that we are attempting to fix a problem (lack of sunlight exposure) of our modern lifestyles with a dietary supplement.

  2. Lo
    April 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    i neglected to cite the source for the above reply, it was written in Mothering Magazine…

  3. April 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Great points in this post. I never even thought about the implications of the Enfamil drops, which are sitting right next to me. Next time I buy them I’ll shop for a different brand.

  4. April 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Interesting. I never liked D*vit*sol bc my baby never liked it. He just spit it right back up. Also, all that junk that was clearly in it gave me the creeps. When we heard about D Drops it was an exciting day :). Honestly though, we didn’t give them that regularly, mostly only in the winter (which, granted, where I live is most of the year). We of course never put our baby in direct sunlight (or they turn into gremlins etc) but he did get outdoor time in the shade. I don’t know. I’m on the fence about the whole Vit D thing. We still give D-Drops to our now almost 3 year old, but kinda sporadically, and still, mostly in the winter.

  5. April 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you so much for this info!! I HATE supporting Enfamil by buying their Vit D drops, but have not been able to find any alternatives, including at our local health food store. It absolutely drives me crazy to give that company money, but I felt I had no choice. Plus, we are on a pretty tight budget, and being that alternatives online are more expensive, I figured I was stuck. I did not realize that so much less product is needed (i.e. Carlsons). I will be buying them right away!! My little guy deserves the best, after all. 🙂 Thanks so much for great article & info!!!

  6. Julie Rosen
    April 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Awe. Some. Bravo, Deirdre, on an inspired post!

  7. Kinzie
    April 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Another option is for a Vit D deficient mom to supplement with Vit D. A mom who has sufficient levels of Vit D, is able to appropraitely provide (through breastmilk) adequate levels of Vit D to baby–without supplementing baby.

  8. psychsarah
    April 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Great post! I didn’t like the Enfamil drops because of all the extra stuff in them, but I didn’t realize there was an alternative until I spoke with a friend from my new mom’s group who was a registered dietician. My son loved the Enfamil drops, I think it was the sweetness, but after the first bottle, I bought the D Drops instead, and preferred them strongly. Now that I consider the politicial and economical issues involved, I’m lucky that I found these when I did. I suspect it’s another case where the smaller company doesn’t have the marketing back-up to support big advertisements and free samples to get you “hooked” to their product.

    Lo’s comment raises some very interesting points. I wonder about the research in this area. I admittedly am not 100% compliant with the drop a day dose, as I am back at work, and sometimes forget to apply it when I’m feeding, and don’t know if I can put it on the bottle’s nipple ahead of time, or if I have to depend on the person feeding him the bottle to remember (anyone know the answer to this)? I was more concerned in the winter, as I live in a Northern climate. Now that summer is coming, and he’s getting some sun, perhaps I don’t have to worry quite as much, but then we apply high SPF sunscreen, so he’s probably not getting much from the sun… I also wonder if I’m taking Vitamin D (which my GP recommends), how much is getting into my breastmilk. If so, is there risk of overdose to my son if I take it and I use the D Drops?

  9. mapetite2
    April 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I never used them i figured that my son even with living in MI,USA that we’d get enough sun.
    Since the ped never offered or suggested the drops i never had them. MIHP was pushing them really hard on us but since they were without samples and like i said with the ped never got’em(i’ll go with the ped(close fam friend) before the MIHP).
    we’ve gone without and have a happy health stringbean baby boy well almost tot with teeth and daddys really thick skull hes a tank and we will go without with our next in july as long as the ped sees nothing wrong with his/her development 🙂

  10. TeePee
    April 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

    is coconut oil ok for infants? I purchased a cheaper brand (non enfamil) but have not used it yet on my baby because I wasn’t sure if it was ok. In the interim, we’ve continued to use the D-Vi-Sol drops just in case….

  11. Tina
    April 3, 2012 at 10:35 am

    My baby was born in a Military hospital where they give breastfeeding mothers a free bottle of the Carlson Baby D drops. 365 day supply. I use it periodically in fear I may be supplementing DS something he doesn’t actually need.

  12. Anne Montgomery, MD, FAAFP, FABM, IBCLC
    April 3, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Vitamin D supplementation is VERY important. Yes, we are fixing the problem of inadequate sunlight exposure with a dietary supplement, but most of the northern half of the US doesn’t get enough direct sunlight for 8 or more months a year for people to get adequate vitamin D from the sun. Making sure pregnant and nursing mothers have adequate vitamin D levels is also important so babies aren’t starting out “far behind” in their vitamin D levels. I’m looking forward to the research about how much breastfeeding mothers have to take to make their milk a sufficient source (it’s a lot). Until then, appreciate having non-formula sources of vitamin D to recommend to families.

  13. April 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I give the Carlson D3 drops, but in the winter and if he were to get sick I give a double dose. They are 400iui and the recomended daily now is 600 for infants. Uping it is not harmful as it helps with the immune system. Coconut oil is very benificial to everyone of all ages! Inside and out! I urge anyone to look up the benifits. Vit D3 is not passed through the milk easily and if if you have been vegan for 20+yrs you will still be deficent without suppliments, unless you are in the sun all year long everyday for many hours your whole life. DArker the skin the harder to absorb vitD3! Also the Enfimil list carmel coloring which the FDA has finnally required it to be listed on labels as cancer causing. Coke is taking it out instead of having to label it. Vitacost has the Carlson kids D3 wich is the same dose as the babies one for $15. You can not find it were I live so I buy it online.

  14. April 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Great post! I’m in private practice but also working at a busy OB office – the formula reps are CONSTANTLY pushing “stuff” on us. I shut them down every time, but it’s amazing how they will talk circles around you trying to convince you their product is fantastic, even though they know breast is best. I’m a HUGE fan of the Carlson DDrops and I take the adult version. A year supply in one tiny bottle, low cost, one drop, no flavor, no additive garbage. TOTAL WIN!

  15. Tara
    April 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I was told to give my son those enfamil vitamins. I kind of did. I got a prescription and got 2 bottles for $10. I used the first bottle over the course of a year, since I wasn’t giving it to him regularly. I threw out the second bottle when I noticed it was expired along with whatever else was expired in the cupboard. With my first daughter, I was given the same thing and barely ever gave her any. Again, threw them out when I realized they’d expired after not giving them for awhile. They didn’t even mention them with my third child, my second daughter. We live in sunny SoCal, btw, and my first two were born in May and April. I doubt they ever needed them.

  16. DiPietro Portraits
    April 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    So annoying to constantly have formula samples, coupons, and other freebies shoved in your face by pediatricians, OB/GYN’s and even daycares! But, I’m really confused. I was told that Vitamin D supplementation was totally unnecessary as long as your baby gets direct sunlight for at least 30 minutes per week. I live in the Southeast US (subtropics all the way) and I’m pretty sure he’d get in this just walking to the car, not to mention the regular walks we take. Is this regional advice? Bad advice? He is supplemented with formula (he had feeding problems as a newborn and was unable to breastfeed successfully for the first 8 weeks)… would the formula be enough Vitamin D?

  17. Niahsmommy
    April 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    My son is exclusively on breast milk (nursing and expressed) and I am proud that I can provide this for him. However, I also work in a family medicine office where some mothers cannot, for medical reasons, breastfeed their babies. We rely on these samples to help the burden of cost if formula; the docs make infomed decisions about the formula and supplements based in the science, not the rep. It seems you are villifying those that may not have another choice. I think your point about the extra ingredients in the drops is valid, but pointing out that the drops are next to formula seems on the verge of hysterics. They are next to each other because they are the same brand, just like medela bags are next to medela bottles and lansinoh bags are next to lansinoh lanolin.

  18. seriouskrystyn
    April 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Wow! i just blogged about this exact same thing last week! We must be on the same page!
    (It’s here:

  19. April 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Niahsmommy — I understand your point, but I don’t think anyone is vilifying ANY moms, only the marketing practices of the formula company. A mom may have a medical reason not to breastfeed. She still should not be subjected to marketing in her doctor’s office.

    It’s a very telling indicator of the successful techniques of these multi-million dollar companies that nobody can breathe a word about their surreptitious marketing without it being perceived as “attacking moms” or “hysterics.” Really? That’s basically saying that a formula company can get away with doing anything it wants, because any attack against their strategies can be easily deflected back to those who ask questions, leaving the company free and clear. That speaks very deeply about their monumental success.

    There are many agencies (WIC, for example) that can assist moms with the monumental cost of formula. Seeing a particular brand in their pediatrician’s office, however, is ADVERTISING. It implies that the doctor him/herself approves specifically of that brand.

    Also … Medela bags and Medela bottles are used together. As are Lansinoh bags and Lansinoh lanolin. They’re products with the same purpose. Vitamin D drops are not intended for formula-fed babies, because Enfamil has already fortified their formula with it. These drops belong with the rest of the vitamins.

    Nestle produces both baby formula and chocolate bars. Are these shelved together because they’re the same brand?

  20. Carol Snyder
    April 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm


    Imagine this kind of scenario:
    Breatfeeding mom has low vitamin D level
    Baby gets no D from her because her body is holding on to whatever D she takes.
    Baby becomes vitamin D deficient and develops rickets.
    Baby breaks a bone and is seen in the local emergency room.
    Child protective services is called in because child abuse is suspected and baby is removed from home- starts on formula with Vit D added.
    Later when or IF someone thinks to check the baby’s vitamin D level, it’s too late because the formula supplementation of Vitamin D has now caused the infants D level to rise.
    Parents are charged with child abuse and lose their child.
    This is happening according to letters written in to Dr. Cannell at Vitamin D Council.

  21. Kathleen
    April 3, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Another option:

    No coconut oil – MCT oil, which is safe for babies inluding extrememly premature babies.

  22. Alison
    April 3, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you!! I never knew about this. I will never buy the enamel brand again! I hope I can find those drops at a store or online.

  23. Shel
    July 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

    In Canada we have access to D Drops made by the ddrops Company, located in Woodbridge, Ontario. They also supply an adult version, 1000 IU per drop. (365 drops per container) Because of our lifestyle change, ie no longer being in the sun without sunscreen or having coated windows not allowing the right rays into our homes, we need supplementation. One can have their Vit D level checked via a blood test and then supplement accordingly. (Costs $50 in Canada if you want it more frequently than your MD requests it.) You can do the same with your babies, then there is no guessing. We all know how important Vit D is for so many things other than bone growth. If mothers are taking 3000 IU (per non-governmentally employed nutritionists) then they should have enough in their Breastmilk postnatally. If mother takes the 3000 IU prenatally then the fetus should not have low stores. The 3000 IU is because we are already so depleted. What I am saying is do the blood tests and then you will know for sure, for both Mom and baby.

  24. Rolando Trombly
    October 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Vitamin D is really needed so that we can absorb properly the calcium and magnesium that we are taking from food and other supplements. ;;’:”

    Please do stop by our own blog

  25. July 29, 2013 at 12:44 am

    I know this web site presents quality dependent articles and
    other data, is there any other web page which provides these kinds of
    information in quality?

  26. Shylo Dahle
    December 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Not only did our ped give us enfamil drops,but it came in a “kit” that had two already made containers of formula. Ugh really.!

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