Do breast-feeding babies need supplements

Do Breastfeeding Babies Need Supplements?

We are so excited to introduce a new column to our website, “Ask Amanda,” a virtual Q and A forum brought to you by Feed to Succeed’s expert Northshore dietitian Amanda Gordon. Amanda is also a certified lactation consultant, and she explains in this week’s first column whether breastfeeding infants need vitamin supplements.

Q: Hi Amanda, I am breastfeeding my 3-month-old. This is the first time I am breastfeeding, and it is going well. Every once in a while, she gets a bottle of formula. My pediatrician told me that formula-fed babies don’t need extra vitamins, but my sister-in-law is a nurse and she told me differently. What should I be doing?


A: Exclusively and partially breastfed babies need to take a vitamin D supplement. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively and partially breastfed babies take 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D each day. Even breastfed babies who take some formula should take 400 IUs of vitamin D each day (unless they are taking more than 32 ounces of formula every day).

Even once they transition to whole milk, which is not recommended until one year of age, most children still don’t get quite the recommended amount of vitamin D daily and supplementation is often continued into toddler and childhood.

Breastfed babies usually need iron supplementation after three months old as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving breastfed infants 1 mg/kg/day of a liquid iron supplement. If your baby is partially breastfed and partially formula fed, the iron recommendations are the same. Formula fed infants and partially breastfed infants who get at least half of all of their feedings from formula should get an iron-fortified formula and likely do not need iron supplementation.  Babies born prematurely, even if they are formula fed, often need more iron supplementation.  Check with your child’s pediatrician about iron supplementation for babies born prematurely.

There are over-the-counter vitamins that contain the recommended daily amounts of iron and vitamin D, which can make supplementation easier.  Side note: liquid iron stains, so I recommend giving it in the bath!

Aside from iron and vitamin D, the best way to ensure that your breastfed baby is getting enough of the vitamin and minerals she needs is for Mom to eat a balanced diet and ensure that she is getting enough calcium and vitamin D (it’s not just kids who need to drink milk!), protein and iron.

Please submit your questions about infant and toddler nutrition to our Facebook page or on our website contact us form. Each week we will pick a question to answer and post to our Facebook page and website.