Iron is necessary to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells to all parts of the body. Iron also supports proper neurological development during infancy and early childhood.
Do infants get enough iron from breast milk?
Most newborns have sufficient iron stored in their bodies for at least the first 4 months of life. Breast milk contains very little iron; therefore, the American Academy of Pediatricsexternal icon recommends that infants who only receive breast milk (exclusively breastfeed) will need a supplement of iron each day at a dose of 1 milligram of iron for each kilogram of body weight; this supplement of iron should start at 4 months of age.
When infants receive both breast milk and formula, their need for supplemental iron will depend on how much breast milk and how much formula they consume. Parents should talk to their infant’s healthcare provider about whether their infant is getting enough iron.
If an infant is receiving only iron-fortified infant formula (during the time before complementary foods are given), then additional iron supplementation is not necessary.
At about 6 months of age, an infant’s iron needs can be met through the introduction of iron-rich foods, iron-fortified cereals, or iron supplement drops. Learn more about iron-rich foods that support an infant’s healthy development.
- Clinical Report: Diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in infants and young children.external icon – American Academy of Pediatrics
- Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionalsexternal icon – National Institutes of Health
- Iron Fact Sheet for Consumersexternal icon – National Institutes of Health