Calcium Deficiency In Babies - Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Calcium is an essential mineral responsible for the normal formation and functioning of the heart, nerves, bone, muscles, and teeth development (1). And, calcium deficiency in babies, termed hypocalcemia, might lead to complications in the growth and bone development of infants. Read more about the types, causes, symptoms, and treatment of hypocalcemia in babies.

In This Article

Types Of Hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia is characterized by lower levels of calcium in the circulating blood. It is termed neonatal hypocalcemia in babies. Your baby can get it due to different causes and at different times. Neonatal hypocalcemia is classified into two types (2):

Early hypocalcemia

It happens in the first two to three days of a baby’s life and is most likely curable.

Late hypocalcemia

It starts in the first week or a few weeks after the baby’s birth and is less likely to disappear.

Causes Of Calcium Deficiency In Babies

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A lack of adequate calcium in the diet can lead to calcium deficiency in adults. For babies, the causes can include the following (1) (3):

  • Low oxygen availability during childbirth
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Certain medicines such as Gentamicin
  • Feeding your baby formula milk or cow’s milk with excessive phosphate.
  • Vitamin D deficiencies since vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the body.
protip_icon Point to consider
Magnesium and calcium are co-dependent for absorption and excretion. Hence, magnesium deficiency can cause low calcium levels (2).
  • Certain infections
  • Stress due to some severe illnesses
  • Rare reasons such as DiGeorge Syndrome (DGS), a defect in chromosome no. 22.
  • Congenital hypothyroidismiXA condition in which the thyroid gland is absent or partially developed, causing low levels of thyroid hormone.
  • Low vitamin D or calcium in the mother
  • Premature babies
  • Underactive parathyroid glandsiXLow production of parathyroid hormone causing decreased blood calcium levels and increased phosphorus levels in the body.
  • Low magnesium levels
  • Babies with kidney problems that can lead to kidney failure

protip_icon Things to know
Babies with slower than normal fetal growth may be more likely to have severe hypocalcemia (3).

Symptoms Of Calcium Deficiency In Babies

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Babies exhibit several symptoms while suffering from calcium deficiency, which includes (1) (3)

  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle aches
  • Jitteriness
  • Tremors
  • Poor feeding
  • Lethargy
  • Twitching
  • Jerking movements of limbs
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures or convulsions due to a reduction in oxygen supply to the brain

Treating Calcium Deficiency In Neonates

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Early hypocalcemia usually resolves by itself without any intervention. However, in some cases, babies with late hypocalcemia may need calcium supplements in their feedings or via intravenous administration (IV) (3).

protip_icon Quick fact
Calcium gluconate, a readily absorbable form of calcium, may be used for oral or IV administration in neonates (4).

Blood tests may be taken to determine the infant’s nutritional status. Then, the IV fluids administered may be tweaked accordingly to meet the infant’s needs in terms of essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium (4).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I give my baby more calcium?

You can include the following food items in your child’s diet to increase their calcium intake (5):

  • Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and puddings
  • Calcium-fortified foods like bread and juice
  • Canned fish, such as sardines, salmon, and anchovies
  • Green leafy vegetables, including spinach, kale, and turnip greens

2. Which fruits are rich in calcium?

Not many fruits can be considered rich sources of calcium. Give your child calcium-fortified fruit juices to offer them the benefits of calcium (6).

3. Is banana rich in calcium?

Banana contains 12mg of calcium per 100g serving. Thus, it cannot be considered a rich source of calcium. However, it can help your child develop strong bones and muscles (7).

It is essential to consume calcium-rich foods during pregnancy to promote musculoskeletaliXThe combination of bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and their connective tissues. and nervous system health. Milk and milk products such as yogurt, kefir, and cheese are rich sources of calcium. Oranges, bok choy, dates, broccoli, almonds, tofu, dried figs, kale, and oatmeal are other calcium-rich foods you can incorporate into your pregnancy diet. You may take calcium supplements as per your doctor’s recommendations during pregnancy and breastfeeding even though calcium-rich foods are consumed. Not consuming enough calcium can also increase your risk of developing osteoporosisiXA condition that weakens bones, increasing the chance of sudden, unsuspected bone fractures. later.

Infographic: How To Know A Baby Has Calcium Deficiency?

Maternal diabetes, certain medicines, low oxygen levels, infections or certain illnesses may cause calcium deficiency in babies. Though some babies with hypocalcemia may not show any symptoms, others may exhibit signs indicating a calcium deficiency. The infographic below helps to understand such signs and symptoms so that remedial measures may be taken at the earliest.

signs of calcium deficiency in babies (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Takeaways

  • Low oxygen availability during childbirth, maternal diabetes, excessive phosphate consumption from milk, and vitamin D deficiency can cause hypocalcemia.
  • Symptoms include irritability, insomnia, poor feeding, lethargy, twitching, jerking movements, lowered heart rate, low blood pressure, and seizures.
  • Early hypocalcemia can resolve on its own, but late hypocalcemia requires treatment with calcium supplements.
  • Calcium-fortified bread and juice, canned fish, green leafy vegetables, and milk products can help increase calcium levels in the baby.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Low calcium level – infants.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007229.htm
  2. Hypocalcemia in the Newborn.
    https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=hypocalcemia-90-P02376#:~:text=Hypocalcemia%20is%20more%20common%20inless%20calcium%20crossed%20the%20placenta
  3. Hypocalcemia in the Newborn.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=p02376
  4. Hypocalcemia.
    https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/h/hypocalcemia
  5. Calcium: The Teen Bone Builder.
    https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/calcium-the-bone-builder-kids-and-teens-need.aspx
  6. 22 Calcium-Rich Foods
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/calcium-rich-foods/
  7. Calcium Content Of Common Foods
    https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/patients/prevention/calcium-content-of-common-foods
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