Successful Breastfeeding Blog
Evidence based advice, support, and education for modern families.
I hear the argument made frequently that breast/chestfed babies are at a disadvantage because there's so little iron in human milk compared to formula. This is often the rationale behind the recommendation to start babies on iron fortified cereal, sometimes as early as four months.
While, yes, it's true that human milk has less iron than formula, there's something important you MUST understand:
Babies can absorb 50-70% of the iron they consume in your milk. This is a great example of human milk's bioavailability powers. (Which just means your baby is really great at absorbing the nutrients in your milk!) On the flip side, babies who are given cow's milk based formula only absorb about 3-12% of the iron that is added to it. (And only 1-7% of iron is absorbed from soy based formulas!) Furthermore, iron fortified cereals only offer a rate of 4-10% of iron absorption. This is partly what I mean when I say that these cereals aren't much more than filler foods. (Which is something I say frequently.)
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE
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