Why You Need Iron When You're Breastfeeding

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During pregnancy and childbirth, many women become anemic because of blood loss and increased needs in nutrients. Once your baby is born, it is crucial to maintain a breastfeeding diet full of vitamins and minerals to support the health of not just your baby, but also your own.

When babies are healthy and carried full term, they usually have enough iron stored to last six months. Iron is absorbed better in a baby’s body through breastmilk than through other sources due to the fact that breastmilk also contains vitamin C to help with iron absorption. If a baby is born prematurely, he or she can be at greater risks of iron deficiency anemia. 

Mothers who have anemia can still breastfeed their babies, but iron supplementation may be needed for both the mother and baby to avoid anemia symptoms. Maternal iron depletion is very common due to blood loss from child birth, inadequate nutrient intake, and during lactation. While some new mamas believe that fatigue and low energy are from postpartum depression, these symptoms could actually be from anemia, and can easily be treated by proper iron intake through supplements and iron-rich foods.

Some foods to eat that are rich in Iron:

  • Spinach

  • Dark chocolate

  • Broccoli

  • Potatoes

  • Eggs

  • Quinoa

  • Tomatoes

  • Strawberries

  • Beans

  • Nuts

Be aware that too much iron can cause constipation for mamas and potentially colic-like symptoms for babies. While you can take supplements, it’s also important to note that you will not be able to increase your iron levels in your breastmilk. If your baby is a healthy, breastfed baby, then it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that your baby does not take iron supplements. 

Babies need sufficient amounts of iron for healthy growth, but please know that too much iron can also lead to negative health consequences. We advise consulting with your health professional if you have any concerns about yours or your baby’s iron levels.


Cassandra Leszek Shuck