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Food Supplements for Babies

By Kirstin Hendrickson ; Updated April 18, 2017

It's very normal to wonder whether your baby is eating a healthy diet, particularly if you've started introducing solid foods. If you're wondering whether you should supplement your baby's diet with solid food -- or should use nutritional supplements like vitamins and minerals -- it's best to talk to your pediatrician, but there are some general guidelines you can follow in making your decision.

Early Nutrition

During the first six months of your baby's life, your baby should consume breast milk exclusively, or as a second choice, a formula designed for infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for as long as possible -- ideally at least a year -- but formulas also provide babies with the nutrients they need, explains Dr. Scott Cohen in his book, "Eat, Sleep, Poop."

Later Nutrition

Once your baby is 6 months of age, your pediatrician will probably recommend that you start introducing solid foods as dietary supplements and to get your baby used to different tastes and textures. Until your baby is at least a year old, however, these solids generally shouldn't comprise the bulk of consumed calories; you should continue to give mostly breast milk or formula to fill your baby's stomach. Your pediatrician can help you determine which solids you should use to supplement your baby's diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

Formula-fed babies don't need additional vitamin and mineral supplements, because formula contains all your baby needs to thrive in most cases. Breastfed babies generally need vitamin D supplements because today's lifestyles and eating habits tend to leave mothers vitamin D-deficient, which in turn leaves breast milk low in vitamin D. Once your breastfeed baby is 6 months old, your pediatrician may also want you to start introducing iron-rich solids or iron supplements.

Other Supplements

There are many supplements, including herbals, probiotics, and enzymes, on the market that claim to treat or prevent common symptoms and diseases. In general, your baby doesn't need any of these and you should avoid giving them. This is for two reasons: First, it's best not to try to diagnose your own baby; your pediatrician is your partner in your infant's health care. Second, many supplements that are safe for adults aren't safe for babies.

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