Delaware Modern Pediatrics Blog

Iron for infants helps development.

A new study shows that giving iron supplementation to young infants helps their gross motor development.

The study followed more than 1000 infants, most of whom were solely or mainly breastfed.  Iron supplementation (or a placebo) was started by 6 weeks of age, and continued every day until 9 months.  By that age, an improvement in gross motor scores was seen in the infants who received the iron supplementation, compared to placebo.  No side effects were reported.

Vitamin D and iron are found in breast milk only at very low levels.  For many years, experts have recommended that breast-fed infants should be supplemented with daily oral Vitamin D.  But there has been no consensus about iron supplementation for breast-fed babies; the American Academy of Pediatrics has at times recommended it, but the AAP’s own breastfeeding committee has disagreed.

I have recommended iron supplementation for breast-fed babies (along with the Vitamin D), because some children do show low iron levels or even iron-deficiency anemia on the one-year routine blood screen recommended by the AAP.  The only preparation with both iron and Vitamin D that I’m aware of is “Poly-vi-sol with iron.”

This new study confirms to me the value of routinely supplementing breast-fed infants with iron.  (It should be noted that mainly formula-fed infants already receive iron and vitamins in the formula, so they should not usually be given any extra supplements.)

—  David Epstein MD