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Vitamins Recommended for Breastfed Babies and Formula Fed Babies

Breastfed Babies and Vitamin D

Breastmilk provides your baby with a variety of nutrients and immune-supporting compounds. Just as achilles had a small weak spot in his heal, research has shown that breastmilk does not include enough vitamin D to promote the best possible growth. Therefore, breastfed babies should also get vitamin D supplementation every day.

Breastfed Babies and Iron

As mentioned above,  babies are born with enough iron stores to last for the first four months of life, give or take. Iron is an important component of blood, because of his fast rate of growth, your baby is actually making lots and lots each day they’re growing! Around 4 months, start giving your baby an iron supplement each day. (Note: if your baby was born prematurely, your doctor may recommend that baby start iron supplements earlier.) Once your baby starts solids, some of the iron drops can be replaced by iron-fortified cereals or infant meats.

5 Top Foods for a Healthy Breastfeeding Diet and How They are Best for Baby

  1. Fish (Salmon): FIsh like salmon can be high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. VItamin D is essential for baby’s strong bones and omega-3 fatty acids are needed for brain, eye, and nervous system development. Vegetarian option: walnuts, flax seed (for omega-3s; UV exposed raw Portobello mushrooms (for vitamin D).
  2. Milk: Cow’s milk is an easy source for calcium, vitamin D and protein. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones for you and baby. Smoothies made ahead and frozen can be an easy morning option after a long night (you can add flax seed for extra omega-3 fatty acids too!) Vegan/milk intolerance option: Fortified soy milk is the milk alternative with the most protein after cow’s milk. Be cautious when making homemade soy or almond milks, these will not have added calcium and vitamin D. 
  3. Eggs: Boiled eggs (or any form of eggs really) are a great source of protein that is quick and easy. Eggs have vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and selenium which are great for building your immune system; the B-12 is essential for baby’s brain development and making red blood cells. Vegetarian/vegan option: Brown rice and beans.
  4. Oatmeal: A bowl of oatmeal in the morning or for a daily snack is touted to increase milk supply (see milk supply post coming soon!). Oatmeal is another easy way to add essential food groups when you add yogurt, fruits or nuts to flavor it. Oatmeal is higher in protein than other grains and is also a great source of fiber. 
  5. Dates: This fruit is jam packed with nutrients including some protein and iron. Some moms attribute having a snack of dates has helped their milk supply (more research is needed but dates are so healthy anyways that trying them doesn’t hurt!). Dates also have fiber, vitamin B6 and antioxidants (hello hope for better skin!). Baby obviously benefits if a snack of dates may increase milk supply, but the iron and other micronutrients that are jam packed in this little fruit universally benefit him also.

Bonus Momma question!>>>> My Dr. has been worried that I do not get enough vitamin B12 in my diet, does my baby need a B12 vitamin?

Infants who drink breast milk from mothers who consume adequate amounts of vitamin B12 do not typically need to take a B12 vitamin. Infants need vitamin B12 for their brain development and making healthy red blood cells. If mothers diet intake is not adequate while she is breastfeeding, the baby can become deficient in B12. If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency in infants can lead to permanent brain damage.

Vitamin B12 is found in foods from animals, primarily meat, fish, milk/milk products, and eggs; therefore infants of mothers who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.

If you are on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, you should consult a dietitian or your healthcare provider about taking a supplement that contains the right amount of vitamin B12 for your dietary preferences.

Also, if you have had a malabsorptive bariatric procedure (such as gastric bypass surgery), or have a history of pernicious anemia (this is a low number of red blood cells caused by inadequate amounts of vitamin B12), or who have certain gastrointestinal disorders, you may not be able to absorb certain vitamins and minerals (vitamin B12, folic acid (vitamin B9), iron, and calcium).

For any of the above conditions, it is best to consult your healthcare provider to find out about recommended supplements and to monitor your levels.

Formula-Fed Babies and Iron

Infant formulas are designed to provide all of the vitamins and minerals a baby needs. If your baby is taking more than 32oz of formula per day, the formula should be meeting all of your baby’s needs. (There are special formulas with different amounts of vitamins and minerals designed for premature babies.) Iron Fortified baby formulas are recommended. Check the label of your formula of choice to make sure that it has Iron added.

Formula-Fed Babies and Vitamin D

If your baby is taking in less than 32oz of formula per day (such as when he or she starts solids), you will likely need to add a vitamin D supplement.

Babies Starting Solids and Vitamin Requirements

Iron and vitamin D are still necessary (and can be difficult to get enough of) when your baby starts solid foods. Include iron-fortified cereal and infant meats for iron early on in feeding. If your baby doesn’t like the taste or texture of these foods, you may need to continue with a supplement until your baby starts to like these foods.

As your baby starts to eat other foods, you should continue to give breastmilk and/or formula for additional vitamins and minerals. Whether they drink breastmilk or formula, you should continue with a vitamin D supplement through the age of one year, because vitamin D is not as abundant in foods as other vitamins. After the age of one, your baby can start having cow’s milk, which is almost always fortified with vitamin D.

Additionally, if your baby eats mostly plant-based foods, he or she may need vitamin B12. As talked about above, vitamin B12 is found exclusively in animal foods (meats, fish, and dairy). Check if your formula has vitamin B12. As talked about above, if you eat animal foods, your breastmilk will likely have B12.

The Best Newborn Vitamins that are Natural

The Best Multivitamin with Iron for Newborn Babies According to Dietitian Mommas

Zarbees Multivitamin With Iron

The Best Vitamin D Supplement For Newborn Babies According to Dietitian Mommas

Baby D Drops – Liquid Vitamin D3

Bonus Momma question!>>>> Since It sounds like I have to give my newborn baby vitamin D when I am breastfeeding, is it just better to give formula?

A newborn vitamin complete with vitamin D is needed for a majority of  breastfed babies to them grow strong bones and bodies. Why does breastmilk not have enough vitamin D? Well, It is hypothesized that breastmilk and its poor levels of vitamin D may be traced back to evolutionary hypotheses around UVB radiation and humans moving into extremely high latitudes-but I digress.

So, yes, breastmilk-fed infants do require additional vitamin D supplementation. But, we do know that the benefits of offering any breastmilk to your newborn far outweigh the benefits of offering formula, if breastfeeding is what you choose – even if breastmilk does not have enough vitamin D. Some key examples of the benefits of offering breastmilk is the prevention of ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections, meningitis, allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

 I like to equate the choice of infant formula over breastmilk, when thinking about the lack of vitamin content to the following scenario: a mom is choosing between 2 cars (at the same price point). The first car is a luxury car that gets double the mileage, has seat warmers and a sun-roof, but is lacking an automatic starter. The second car is a not-so-luxury car that lacks everything except the electric car starter. And mom chooses the second car just because the luxury car lacks an eclectic starter (when she can have an eclectic starter installed easily after purchase).

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Emily Sylvester

Emily Sylvester is the Founder & CEO of Mother of Fact. As a Licensed Registered Dietitian, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Mom of 3, she's helped thousands of families in many low/middle income communities feel confident and supported in their feeding journey. Her mission is to eliminate the deficit of equitable breastfeeding & formula feeding help for all households & healthcare systems.
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