Breast milk provides almost everything that a baby will need for up to the first six months, the exception being vitamin D. After six months he or she starts to eat solid food and an additional supplement might or might not be recommended. Babies eating a range of foods should not have to have any supplements, though there will be exceptions. For example, a supplement might be needed if the baby was premature, has a chronic health problem that might affect its ability to eat properly or if it drinks less milk than another baby of the same age, without making up the differences with food. If in doubt, always ask your doctor.
When your baby moves on to solid foods, you could begin by introducing pureed sweet potato, avocado or banana. Introduce each food individually before checking to see if there are any adverse reactions. Within a couple of months your baby should be offered a variety of foods, such as breast milk or formula, cereal, meats, fruits, vegetables, fish and eggs. Babies should only be introduced to whole milk at the age of 12 months, as it is not nutritionally balanced to sustain their development. Cheese and yoghurt are digested more easily as they are cultured, while citrus fruits are too acidic and cause tummy upsets and rashes. Always practice caution and look out for allergic reactions to peanuts, shellfish and strawberries. Introducing your baby to solid foods is an important milestone.
If you are a vegan, you might be lacking in vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, iron and Omega3 fatty acids; a multivitamin and mineral supplement might have to be taken by both mother and baby. Generally, breast milk contains all the nutrients that your baby will need, but you could consider taking a supplement while you are breastfeeding. Once your baby starts eating solid foods he or she might be getting more minerals and vitamins than you think, especially if they include fortified foods, which often have added zinc, folate and vitamin A.
It is important that your baby eats food rich in iron; good sources include iron-fortified cereals, pureed meats and pureed legumes, for example kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, black beans and lima beans. If baby is not eating enough iron rich foods your doctor might recommend iron supplementation.
Only a small amount of vitamin D is transferred into breast milk. Doctors recommend giving breastfed babies 400IU of vitamin D per day, starting when they are a few days old. After exposure to sunlight our bodies manufacture vitamin D, but your baby should not be sunbathing until at least six months old. Sunscreen blocks out the rays of the sun that enable our bodies to manufacture vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is crucial in preventing anaemia and for developing the nervous system. It is found in fish, poultry, meat, eggs and milk, so if you do not eat animal protein it is important to eat fortified foods or take a supplement so that baby will also be getting an adequate amount of this vitamin.
DHA is an Omega3 fatty acid, important for brain and eye development, but these supplements are not recommended for babies. Vegan and vegetarian breastfeeding mothers should, however, consider taking this supplement.