Do Babies Get Enough Iron When Raised on Baby Formula?

A concerned mum who has been buying baby formula 1 for her baby daughter and now has moved on to baby formula 2 recently emailed me with a question about iron in babies who are raised on baby formula. Her question was, because iron isn’t listed in the ingredients on either baby formula package, was her daughter actually getting an adequate intake of iron?

To be sure I was giving the most accurate reply possible I referred the question to the chief pediatric nutritionist at Holle, the manufacturer of both organic baby formula 1 and 2. I thought I would share the reply I got because it may be of interest to other parents raising their babies on the Holle organic baby formula.

Iron as such isn’t listed on our baby formula packaging but all our baby formulas contain iron in the form of ferrous lactate, which is actually listed in the list of ingredients. Ferrous lactate is a form of iron that is readily digestible by babies and is, in fact, a legal requirement in baby formula. The reason for that is that  raw cows milk alone does not contain the level of iron required by law for infant nutrition. The iron content for each baby formula is also listed in the nutritional value tables on each package.

All babies fed with baby formula milks are perfectly well provided with iron. A deficiency of iron should not be feared.

Breast milk contains much less iron than infant formula, but  breastfed babies also generally do not lack iron, if they are weaning onto solid foods from the age of approximately 6 months onwards.

Meat contains a high amount of iron in a form that is easily available to the body’s digestive system. Grains and vegetables together with a source of vitamin C can also supply a sufficient amount of iron for vegetarian and breast milk fed babies. Vitamin C helps the body to make use of the available iron in foods.

It is more important which iron content the food has and how well it is available for the body and not whether it is fortified with iron or not. Natural and organically produced foods are a good source of iron.

So, there is a legally prescribed amount of iron added to baby formula to ensure your baby has more than sufficient for all his/her needs. When weaning, as long as your baby continues to have the formula and a reasonably balanced intake of small amounts of foods, everything will be fine.

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