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I have iron-deficiency anemia. Can I breastfeed?
Yes. Breastfeeding is good for you and your baby, even if when you have iron-deficiency anemia. If you want to breastfeed your baby, you can do so safely.
It's true that you lose iron through breast milk, but if you breastfeed exclusively, it's unlikely that you'll get your period for four to six months. And not losing iron through your menstrual blood helps your iron stores stay balanced.
Are iron supplements necessary if I'm breastfeeding?
If you had anemia during pregnancy, check with your healthcare provider to see if you need to continue taking iron supplements when breastfeeding.
Iron supplements are perfectly safe to take when you're breastfeeding. For breastfeeding women, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron is 9 milligrams (mg) per day.
If you lost a lot of blood during birth from a postpartum hemorrhage, you may have your hemoglobin level tested after birth. The test assesses the severity of your anemia and whether you still need to take an iron supplement. It's possible you may need a transfusion.
If you're worried about your iron level (if you feel extremely tired, for example), ask your provider to give you a blood test. If you're anemic, she's likely to recommend more iron supplements.
What are alternatives to breastfeeding?
If you're not able to breastfeed (or choose not to), it's still important to ensure that your baby gets enough iron. Choose iron-fortified formula so your baby gets the right amount of iron from day one.
Don't give your baby cow's milk before the age of 1 because it's very low in iron. After age 1, limit the amount of cow's milk you give your child to no more than 24 ounces daily.
Will my baby need an iron supplement?
If your baby was born prematurely or had a low birth weight, then she probably won't have as much iron stored in her body as a larger or full-term infant. If this is the case, she may need iron drops. Follow your healthcare provider's advice about how much iron to give your baby, and keep iron drops out of your baby's reach.
If you've had anemia, it's understandable to worry that your baby will be low in iron too, but that's not necessarily the case. Feeding her breast milk, which is naturally rich in iron, or iron-fortified formula, will give her the best start in life.
Visit the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's website for more information and to find an MFM specialist near you.