Iron Fortified Cereal in Breastfed Infants

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Q. Is it true that for breastfed infants iron fortified cereals will interfere in the absorption of iron from breastmilk? If it is true, will non-fortified iron cereals be okay (meaning is it the iron or the cereal interfering with absorption)? Thanks for your time.

A. Any solid foods will decrease iron absorption from breastmilk.  For many years, we wondered why the “small” amount of iron in human milk was enough to sustain normal blood counts and prevent anemia.  Then, we discovered that the iron in human milk is very “bioavailable” and absorbed completely differently than iron from other sources.  Any solid food, cereal, fruits or vegetables will change digestion and decrease the amount of iron absorbed from breastmilk.

Babies breastfed for six months or more probably have iron reserves lasting for the next year or more. No one is quite sure of the exact amount.

I don’t recommend hemoglobin screening for healthy full term breastfed babies.  As with many issues, I have to assume that a baby fed “naturally” will have blood values that are correct for him or her.  The values in text books are not always valid for breastfeeding babies because the data was usually gathered  from formula fed infants.  Babies with symptoms of anemia or illness and premature infants require different levels of care and may run low on iron and need blood tests.