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Supplements for Breastfed Babies

Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN
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Until you start introducing solid foods around six months of age, breast milk is a complete source of nutrition for most infants. However, some babies may need supplements of three nutrients. Ask your doctor for advice.

Iron for Healthy Tissues and Organs

Why is iron important? Iron helps make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body to all your baby's cells. Plus, iron is needed for your baby's brain development and growth.

Premature infants who breastfeed may need iron supplements. Born early, these babies had less time to build adequate iron reserves before birth. Thus, your preemie may need an iron supplement.

Around four months of age, full-term babies who are exclusively breastfed may also require an iron supplement due to their iron stores getting low. However, talk with your health care provider before adding an iron supplement. If you are feeding your baby formula, also ask your doctor about iron needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that if formula is used, it be iron-fortified for the first year of life.

Fluoride for Strong Teeth

Before you can see them, your baby's teeth start to form under the gum. Fluoride, a mineral often found in tap water, helps develop strong teeth. And, it also helps to prevent cavities later. For strong teeth, both breastfed and Before you can see them, your baby's teeth start to form under the gum. Fluoride is a mineral which helps develop strong teeth and prevent cavities. Although many sources of tap water are fluoridated, breast milk contains little fluoride. And a lot of infant formulas are prepared with water low in fluoride.

Whether your baby is breastfed or formula fed, discuss with your child's pediatrician or dentist to determine if supplementation may be recommended. The AAP does not recommend a fluoride supplement until babies are 6 months or older.

Vitamin D for Growing Bones

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Because, when exposed to sunlight, our skin can make vitamin D. However, you must protect your baby's tender skin from sunlight with sunscreen or clothing. Thus, infants might also need a vitamin D supplement.

This vitamin helps your baby use calcium from breast milk (and infant formula) to help bones grow and develop. Babies who do not get enough vitamin D may develop rickets. Rickets, which is weak bones, may cause the legs of young children to bow.

The AAP recommends all breastfed babies receive at least 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily, starting within the first few days of life. Talk with your pediatrician about supplemental vitamin D drops for your baby.

All infant formula in the United States is fortified with vitamin D to help babies meet their needs. If your baby is only partially formula fed or if you're worried about your baby's appetite, ask your doctor if a vitamin D supplement is needed.