Q: Should breast-fed babies be on iron supplements since formula has iron in it?
A: Iron supplementation is not usually recommended for a breast- fed baby born at term and without complications. Human milk contains iron. Measure for measure it does not contain as much iron as formula, but the iron in human milk is more readily absorbed. When additional foods are added to the breast-fed baby's diet, however, the new foods may interfere with the absorption of iron from human milk. Therefore, it is important that those additional foods be rich in iron.
We usually recommend infant cereals as the first food because they are "iron-fortified." Cow's milk should not be fed to young babies. Not only is it a poor source of iron, but it can cause invisible bleeding from the intestine in some babies, resulting in iron loss.