Supplements: Needed or Not?

Whether you feed your baby breast milk or formula, new research shows he may need additional nutrients. Here's the latest on four supplements.


Fatty acids Long-chain fatty acids, such as the omega-3s in fatty fish and walnuts, are important for a baby’s brain and eyes, among other benefits. Many infant formulas now contain the fatty acids DHA and ARA, while breastfeeding moms can get them through food or supplements.

Iron While iron is commonly added to infant formula to prevent anemia and boost healthy development, a large study conducted in Chile suggests that iron-fortified formula may promote developmental delays when given to babies ages 6 months to 1 year who were not iron deficient in the first place. The surprising research stands out against several other studies that have found the opposite, says neonatologist Jatinder Bhatia, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition. Breastfed babies likely get enough iron through breast milk until they start on iron-rich foods at 4 months to 6 months, he adds.

Vitamin D Rising rates of rickets, or softened bones, in American infants spurred the AAP to double its vitamin D recommendation to 400 International Units (IU) a day starting in the first few days of life for babies who are exclusively breastfed. Extra vitamin D is especially important for dark-skinned babies and those living in Northern

latitudes who get limited sun exposure, says Bhatia.

Fluoride Most of the water in the U.S. is fluoridated to help prevent cavities, but check with your local water utility agency. If the fluoride level is below 0.3 parts per million (ppm), the AAP recommends giving supplements beginning at age 6 months. You may also want to consider them if you use bottled water to mix formula.