Loving parents are being charged with child abuse because authorities fail to consider low levels of vitamin D in infants as a cause of broken bones and head trauma.
Many pediatricians warn parents to keep their newborns out of direct sunlight and use sun block to protect their baby’s skin. Pediatricians don’t routinely check infants for vitamin D levels. But breastfed babies, particularly black babies born in late winter and early spring and living above latitude 35 degrees, are susceptible to low vitamin D levels, according to John Cannell, MD., of the Vitamin D Council.
Insufficient vitamin D in infants causes soft bones that break easily. In severe cases, brain hemorrhaging that mimics shaken baby syndrome can occur. So parents who handle their infants appropriately can be accused of child abuse even when they haven’t done anything wrong.
A recent case in Great Britain is a prime example. A couple whose child died from a head injury was charged with murder. The couple denied having abused their child, but prosecutors insisted the brain damage could have occurred only if the child had been violently shaken or slammed against a wall. Medical, professional and expert witnesses were unable to agree on the cause of the baby’s injuries.
The couple was acquitted by a jury because the autopsy revealed the child had a severe case of rickets, caused by a vitamin D deficiency in the mother, who was breastfeeding.
It’s happening in America as well. Cannell has published numerous letters written to him by couples in similar straits.
The criminal justice system in those cases considers only the possibility of abuse, even though there are no other signs of bruising or injuries accompanying the broken bones and brain hemorrhaging. Prosecutors then offer the parents a Gordian knot-type deal: The father must agree to plead guilty to abusing the child in order to allow the child to remain with the mother. If the father refuses, the child is taken away from the parents and put on an infant formula.
The formula, which contains vitamin D supplements, leads to the child’s improvement, which, in the minds of authorities, proves the child suffered from abuse. They attribute the lack of additional injuries to the fact that the child is out of an abusive environment rather than the addition of vitamin D supplementation through the change in diet.
Be sure to have your pediatrician check your infant’s vitamin D levels during checkups, particularly if the baby is being breastfed. Failing to do so could lead to severe injury or death of your child and a world of legal troubles for one or both parents.