Should I give my baby iron supplements if I’m exclusively breastfeeding?

Frequently Asked Question.

If you baby was born full term, we don't think you need to, but read on...

Your pediatrician may recommend starting your baby iron supplements at 6 month, such as Poly-Vi-Sol®, if you are exclusively breastfeeding. However, given current research, we believe you should carefully consider adding iron supplements to you baby’s diet.

Healthy, full-term babies are born with enough iron storage to last for at least 6-9 months. This iron storage helps to maintain normal hemoglobin values in infants during this crucial developmental period. (Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs throughout the body.)

Although breast milk technically contains less iron than ‘fortified’ formula or cereal, the iron in breast milk is more effectively absorbed. Breast milk contains a unique combination of vitamin C and lactose to help aid iron absorption. Plus, breast milk is more easily digested in baby’s gut than formula, leading to fewer fissures in intestinal track - which can cause blood loss in bowels, hence iron loss.

In addition, most babies will begin some sort of solid food regimen before they reach 9 months. When age-appropriate, they can eat iron-rich foods, such as meats, mushrooms, spinach, and sweet potatoes. More importantly, however, babies should eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits, papayas (when age appropriate). Vitamin C is crucial to iron absorption.

Reasons to consider adding an iron supplement:

• Baby was born premature. (Most babies will get the bulk of their iron reserve during the last trimester of pregnancy.)
• Baby was ever fed cow’s milk instead of breast milk or formula before first birthday.
• Baby whose birth weights were less than 6.5 pounds.
• Baby was born to mother with poorly controlled diabetes.

When in doubt, ask your pediatrician to check your baby’s hemoglobin levels before beginning an iron supplement regimen.

Vitamins and Supplements

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