It’s common as a mother to ask yourself, how much iron does a baby need? It’s in your nature to want what’s best for your baby’s wellbeing. Maintaining healthy iron levels is necessary during pregnancy, as iron plays a key role in the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs and muscles, supporting both you and your growing little one.
“Am I getting enough iron?” may be a frequently asked question for expecting mammas, but as your baby continues to mature after birth, iron remains an essential nutrient in shaping and impacting your baby’s development.
Iron Supplements for Babies
Iron plays an important role in your baby’s growth, immunity, and brain and motor development. However, between four and six months, some of your baby’s nutrients may no longer be in balance. Due to how quickly your infant is growing, he may be at risk to develop an iron deficiency.
If your baby is suffering from iron deficiency, you may notice he is less physically active and developing at a slower rate. Below are common symptoms of iron deficiency in babies:
- Slow weight gain
- Pale skin
- Poor appetite
- Irritability (cranky, fussy)
When to Start and How Much?
Between four and sixth months old, your little one may have depleted the iron stores he was born with. Typically, full-term healthy babies receive enough iron from their mothers in their third trimester of pregnancy to last through the first four months of life.
For breastfed babies: Human milk contains low amounts of iron, so infants who are exclusively breastfed are at an increased risk of iron deficiency after four months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving breastfed infants 1mg/day of a liquid iron supplement until iron-rich solid foods are introduced at about six months of age. It’s important to check with your pediatrician on how long you should be giving your child iron supplements during the first year.
For partially breastfed babies: If your baby is partially breastfed, the iron recommendations remain the same (as long as half of the daily feedings are from human milk, and your baby is not receiving iron-rich foods).
For babies on infant formula: The AAP recommends using an iron-fortified formula (containing 4 to 12mg of iron) from birth through the first year of life.
For premature babies: Preterm babies have fewer iron stores, so they may need additional iron beyond what they receive from breastmilk or formula. It’s recommended that:
- Preterm babies with a birthweight of 3–5.5lbs receive an iron supplement of 2mg/day starting at one month, extending through 12 months.
- Preterm babies with a birthweight under 3lbs receive 2–3 mg/day.
- Prophylactic iron (given as iron drops, preterm formula or fortified human milk) should be started at 2–6 weeks of age (at 2 weeks in very low birth weights).
For babies 6-12 Months: The total daily iron intake between six and 12 months of age should fall around 11mg/day. For toddlers one to three years old, iron intake should be 7mg/day. Your doctor may recommend liquid iron supplements if your baby’s iron needs are not being met by complementary foods such as meats, fish, eggs, grains and cereals.
Your baby’s advancement is nothing short of amazing. While iron is vital in supporting your baby’s health, too much iron can be harmful, or even fatal, to young children. It’s important to consult your pediatrician on the best approach when it comes to iron and your little one.
Now that you have the scoop on iron supplements for babies and your child’s growing needs, check with your doctor before using any iron supplements such as Enfamil® Fer-In-Sol® drops or Enfamil®Poly-Vi-Sol® with Iron.