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If you aren’t breastfeeding your baby, one of the health concerns that you need to watch out for is a calcium deficiency. Feeding a baby isn’t complicated, but the sources of food for an infant are limited, which increases the risk of poor nutrition. Also, there are several risk factors that can lead to a calcium deficiency in your baby, ranging from genetics to medication. Find out what calcium deficiency is, how it can affect your baby, and what is the way forward.
Why is Calcium Important for a Baby?
Calcium primarily helps in the proper growth of bones. As your baby will grow rapidly, calcium plays a vital role in his overall bone strength. This has long-lasting implications, as the bone mass of adults is determined by the calcium they receive from infancy to adolescence. In addition to this, calcium also helps in proper muscle function, heart function, and nerve impulse transmission.
Causes of Calcium Deficiency in Infants
- Poor supply of oxygen during the delivery of the baby.
- Medication for some bacterial infection, such as Gentamicin, can affect your baby’s calcium levels.
- Poor exposure of your child to sunlight can lead to a deficiency of Vitamin D. This also reduces calcium levels in your baby, as Vitamin D helps in the proper absorption of calcium.
- Infants that are inflicted with a genetic defect called DiGeorge Syndrome suffer from poor levels of calcium in their body.
- Studies have shown that infants with congenital hyperthyroidism suffer from low levels of calcium in their bodies.
- Studies have shown that premature babies, especially those born before 32 weeks, are likely to develop a calcium deficiency.
- There is some speculation over the role of diabetic mothers in causing hypocalcaemia in their babies. A study shows that there may be some relations between them due to maternal hyperthyroidism.
- A diet that is rich in cow’s milk can lead to calcium deficiency. This is primarily due to two reasons. One, the infant’s body is unable to absorb the calcium in cow’s milk in the first place. Second, milk acidifies the body and calcium is drawn from the bones to negate this acidification, leading to loss of calcium.
Baby Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
Observing the symptoms of calcium deficiency is difficult in infants. Hence, it is important to keep an eye out for some of the signs of calcium deficiency in babies:
- Observing a patch of sweat under the baby’s pillow and on his hair during nap time
- Erratic emotional behaviour in the form of unusual temper, restlessness, and general difficulty in controlling your baby
- Teeth formation is late and, once grown, the teeth have defects such as looseness and an uneven alignment.
- A protruding belly, which can look similar to a frog’s belly
- Poor level of mental concentration
- A disinterested approach to the environment around him
- Loss of appetite
- High susceptibility to diseases due to a poor immune system
- Difficulty in sleeping at night and crying more than usual as a result of night terrors.
- Suffers from seizures and convulsions due to poor oxygen supply to the brain
- Abnormal facial movements, such as twitching of the tongue and lips, fluttering of the eyes, etc.
- Poor growth and deformities in the joints
- Low blood pressure
- Tetany or spasm in the hands and feet, which look similar to a seizure. This is a dangerous symptom and if the deficiency is not addressed, it could lead to the death of the baby.
How to Treat Infant Calcium Deficiency
Even if your child has lower levels of calcium, it can be rectified by a few simple steps such as:
- Make sure they have adequate access to sunlight. Vitamin D helps in proper calcium absorption.
- Breastmilk is one of the best sources of calcium for babies. If you are unable to supply your own milk, you could employ a wet nurse to help take of your child’s nutritional requirements.
- For those infants that suffer from seizures, calcium could be directly administered into the bloodstream. However, this method has one major drawback, which is that if it is injected too quickly it can lead to heart failure.
While calcium deficiency should be addressed urgently, it can be corrected by the methods mentioned above. It has been observed that most new-born babies are vulnerable to low levels of calcium. However, swift action would mean that there is no permanent damage and your baby can grow into a fine adult without any health complications.
Also Read: Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants