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Vitamin, Iron and Calcium Supplements

Should exclusively breastfed babies be given vitamin or iron supplements

Exclusively breastfed babies do not need multivitamins and vitamin C drops. It is important that the mother eats well and includes leafy vegetables in her diet.  If the mother's diet is not very healthy, vitamins and iron supplements may be given to her instead of the baby.  However, once the baby starts on solids (around the age of 4-6 months), many doctors recommend that the baby's diet be supplemented with iron, calcium and vitamin drops. 

Does the mother need to take any supplements

During the time that the mother is breastfeeding, she is not only eating for herself but also providing nutrition for the baby. A baby's need for calcium is significant in the early months - for teething and bone development of the entire body.  If the mother does not take enough calcium in her foods and dietary supplements, she will begin to lose her own calcium (from teeth and bones) that will get passed on to the baby through breast milk. This is why most doctors recommend iron and calcium supplements to the nursing mother.  This becomes even more important if the mother is pregnant again.

Should these supplements be taken at the same time

Doctors generally advise that iron should be taken after meals because it is quite strong and requires some amount of vitamin C for better absorption (contained in all citric fruits and many vegetables).  If calcium is taken at the same time as iron, calcium slows down the absorption of iron.  Therefore, in order to get the highest absorption of both these supplements, it is better that iron is taken right after meals and calcium is taken between meals.

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