Q. I've heard a lot recently about the importance of getting adequate vitamin D. What is the current recommendation for babies and children?


A. "We're learning more and more about the health benefits of vitamin D," says Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University. It seems to play a role in helping the immune system guard against asthma, cancer and eczema, for instance. "It's much more important than we thought."

Usually you would get vitamin D from the sun. But over the generations, children spend less and less time outdoors. It used to be they were out on the fields of a farm, for instance. Not so today. And when they are outdoors, they're wearing sunscreen, which is a good thing to guard against skin cancers but inhibits vitamin D absorption.

The recommended minimum dosage if you want to give your child vitamins is 400 IU of vitamin D a day, no matter whether a baby or a teenager. You could go up to 1,000 IU a day, Greene says.

If your child is formula-fed or drinking 32 ounces of milk a day, he or she is probably getting enough. If not, you might want to supplement with either liquid or chewable vitamin D, he says. Even breast-fed babies could benefit from a supplement, he says.

But before adding anything to the children's regimen, you should check with their pediatrician, Greene says, especially if they already take a multivitamin that might include vitamin D in its mix.