Breastfeeding Vitamins

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Breastfed Babies

So which breastfeeding vitamins are good to take?

Vitamin D for Breastfed Babies

Vitamin D helps the body preserve sufficient levels of calcium and phosphorus. It is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. In children, a shortage of Vitamin D can cause a disease called rickets; this can cause bones to become deformed.

A lack of vitamin D can later cause problems in adulthood such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and others. 

Sources of Vitamin D include oily fish, fortified milk and cereal. Exposure to sunlight is also a good source of vitamin D. 

Do breastfed babies need vitamin D supplementation? 

Vitamin D in breast milk is available in small amounts. An exclusively breastfed baby, that does not get enough sunlight exposure each week, will need Vitamin D supplementation. Babies with a darker skin need more sunlight exposure than lighter skin babies. 

CPS recommends that all exclusively breastfed babies receive 400IU Vitamin D per day. 

Should I take vitamin D while breastfeeding?

Yes, breastfeeding mothers should take 4000IU vitamin D per day. 

K Vitamin for the Breastfed Baby

Vitamin K is essential for formation of proteins that help with blood clotting. 

Sources of Vitamin K include: Leafy green vegetables, cheese and fermented soy (natto).

Babies are usually given a Vitamin K injection or oral supplement after birth, this is because a baby’s system is unable to form hes/her own Vitamin K for two weeks after birth. 

Colostrum is high in Vitamin K, and therefore, if a baby has had uninterrupted feeding since birth, with no birth trauma, a Vitamin K supplementation is not always necessary. It is ultimately a choice that the parents need to make. The underlying risks of Vitamin K supplementation have not been researched. 

Iron Supplementation and Breastfeeding

Iron helps transport Oxygen through the bloodstream. It is also needed for proper cell growth. Healthy, full term babies, have enough iron stores to last them 6 months. 

The iron found in breast milk is in much smaller quantities than formula, this is because the Iron in formula is more difficult for a baby to absorb. Only 7% of the Iron in formula can be absorbed by a baby’s body, while 50% of the Iron in breast milk is absorbed.

The gut lining in a formula fed baby, tends to have small haemorrhages, which cause bleeding, this is as a result of an irritation to cows milk in the formula. This bleeding can cause Iron loss and, therefore, more Iron is needed in formula.

Breast milk is also much higher in lactose and Vitamin C than what formula is, and both these substances help the body absorb Iron more efficiently.

When a baby starts to eat solids, the mother can introduce Iron rich foods such as beef, turkey, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, eggs and spinach. Adding foods rich in Vitmin C, will increase absorption of the Iron.

Extra supplementation of exclusively breastfed babies of any age is not necessary; there is enough Iron in breast milk. 

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Risks of supplementation of Iron

Unnecessary supplementation of Iron can:

  • Decrease Iron absorption.
  • Cause the body to retain too much Iron.
  • Increase risk of infection.
  • Interfere with Zinc absorption. 
  • Can cause slower growth.
  • Can cause diarrhea. 

Infants that are at risk of Iron deficiency:

  • Premature babies.
  • Low birth weight infants. 
  • Babies whose umbilical cords are clamped too soon.
  • Babies who have mothers with badly controlled diabetes. 
  • Babies who are fed cows milk instead of formula or breast milk for the first year of life. 

Top of breastfeeding vitamins page

Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with breastfeeding vitamins page

- Gut protection

- Immunity of breast milk

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Course information through Childbirth International on the physiology of breastfeeding / Vitamins and breastfeeding.

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