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Iron supplements

Iron is a nutrient that's essential to your child's growth and development. Iron helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen.

Who is at risk

  • Prematurity or low birth weight
  • Use of non–iron-fortified formula or introduction to cow's milk in the first year of life
  • Exclusive breastfeeding without regular intake of iron-fortified food after age 6 months


  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Poor appetite
  • Abnormally rapid breathing
  • Behavioral problems
  • Frequent infections
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt, paint or starch

What you can do

  • Feed your baby foods with added iron, such as iron-fortified baby cereal, pureed meats and pureed beans.
  • For older children, good sources of iron include red meat, chicken, fish, beans and dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Between ages 1 and 5, don't allow your child to drink more than 24 ounces of milk a day. The calcium makes it harder to absorb iron.
  • Vitamin C helps promote the absorption of dietary iron. You can help your child absorb iron by offering foods rich in vitamin C — such as citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, bell pepper, tomatoes and dark green vegetables.

Preventive service at no cost

Iron supplements for children ages 6 to 12 months at risk for anemia

Why the service is important

Iron is essential for our bodies. Without a sufficient amount of iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. If you do not have enough oxygen in your body, it will cause you to become tired and groggy. Iron also helps keep your hair, skin and nails healthy.

What the service is

The usual dose in infants and young children is 3 to 6 mg/kg of elemental iron per day in 2 to 3 divided doses


Your doctor will find out if the anemia is being caused by a poor diet or a more serious health problem. You can be treated for both the anemia and its cause.

Additional tips

The best way to take an iron supplement is between meals with a glass of juice.

Talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement. He or she can recommend a certain dose based on your current state of health and iron levels. Though iron supplements are over the counter, it can be very unhealthy and dangerous to take too much iron.