What are the Benefits of Iron Supplementation for Kids?
  /   Dr. John Snow

What are the Benefits of Iron Supplementation for Kids?

Iron is essential for kids, supporting healthy brains, muscle function, energy production, and making healthy red blood cells. Without enough iron, your kid’s body can struggle to make enough healthy red blood cells, which can lead to a condition called iron deficiency anemia. 

If you’re trying to boost your kid’s iron intake, you’re probably wondering if your child can benefit from iron supplements. And should you buy a chewable, syrup, or a gummy? What’s the difference? We’re here to break down the facts so you have all the information you need to make the best decision for your family. 

Importance of Iron for Children

Iron is a mineral that is crucial for growth and development. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which is a protein that carries oxygen in the blood throughout the body. Iron is also key in producing myoglobin, a protein found in muscles that stores oxygen. Iron is a major player in getting all that good oxygen around the body. When you lack iron, there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen. 

In addition, iron also performs a few other important jobs that help kids stay healthy

  • Support growth and development 
  • Boost muscle metabolism 
  • Aid immune function 

Iron is so crucial for kids that when levels drop due to iron absorption issues or a low-iron diet, a serious condition called iron deficiency anemia can occur.

Left untreated, severe iron deficiency anemia can get in the way of proper development, so it’s crucial to hit the daily recommended intake to maximize iron benefits for kids. Naturally, there are times when it’s hard to get enough iron through diet alone. Picky eating, plant-based diets, and some health conditions can all stand in the way of kids hitting their iron goals. That’s where iron supplements are a key consideration for parents and healthcare providers, especially when iron demands outweigh iron intake. 

How Much Iron Is Needed? 

Iron needs can vary depending on your child’s age, sex, activity levels, diet, and overall health. Teen girls who have started their period also have higher iron demands.  

Recommended daily iron intake for children are: 

  • Birth to 6 months: 0.27mg (breastfed), 11mg (formula-fed)
  • 7-12 months: 11mg
  • 1-3 years: 7mg
  • 4-8 years: 10mg
  • 9-13 years: 8mg
  • Boys (14-18 years): 11mg
  • Girls (14-18 years): 15mg

Consult Your Doctor

According to the World Health Organization, iron is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide. Iron deficiency affects about 10% of children in the U.S., with childhood iron deficiency anemia associated with cognitive and behavioral delays. Childhood iron deficiency prevention is important, given the potential detrimental health effects. 

Like any changes to your child’s routine, speaking to your doctor before giving your child iron supplements is essential. In many cases, it’s normal for kids to undergo routine screening for anemia between nine to twelve months. But, if you have any doubts or your child is showing signs of iron deficiency, then your doctor can run tests, rule out any other issues, and if necessary, recommend iron supplements for kids or provide dietary adjustments. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency in children include: 

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pale skin 
  • Cold intolerance 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Delayed growth and development 
  • Craving non-food items (pica

Does Your Child Need an Iron Supplement? 

Ideally, children should get their iron intake and other vitamins and minerals from a balanced and nutrient-rich diet. Whole, unprocessed foods naturally contain a huge variety of essential nutrients and fiber that promote a well-rounded intake of all the good stuff kids need. A food-first approach also helps expose children to diverse foods, allowing them to develop healthy eating habits. But we also know that even with all the best intentions, it’s easy for kids to miss out on certain nutrients from picky eating, dietary choices, and busy lifestyles. 

When it comes to iron absorption, the consumption of iron-containing foods is one of the primary factors for determining iron status. But it’s not the only thing that matters. Iron absorption also depends on the type of iron. There are two different types of iron: non-heme and heme. Animal-based foods contain heme iron, which is highly bioavailable, and non-heme. Plant-based foods mainly contain non-heme iron, which is less bioavailable. 

Some iron-rich foods for kids include: 

  • Lean meat 
  • Poultry 
  • Eggs 
  • Beans and lentils 
  • Tofu and tempeh 
  • Darky leafy greens 
  • Fortified foods 

The types of iron sources you eat can affect how much iron the body absorbs. Other factors that affect iron absorption include:  

To maximize iron vitamin benefits, it’s best to avoid giving iron supplements at the same time as cow’s milk, as this can hinder absorption. Pairing iron with foods high in vitamin C, like berries and citrus fruits, can help enhance iron absorption. If you’re considering iron supplements for your child, please consult your pediatrician. Adult supervision is essential at all times. 

If you can’t get enough iron through diet alone, it can put you at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia, a condition that can lead to serious consequences if left unchecked. As kids go through different development stages, iron demands can vary. In some cases, dietary intake no longer meets iron demands.

One study found that iron supplementation positively affected intelligence, concentration, and attention in school-age children. 

Some groups are naturally at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency, such as:  

  • Picky eaters 
  • Kids who drink a lot of cow’s milk 
  • Children going through rapid growth stages 
  • Adolescents who lose blood during their period 
  • Kids with medical conditions that affect iron absorption 
  • Young athletes who are very physically active 
  • Children on a vegan or vegetarian diet 

The above factors help give you an indication of whether your little one could benefit from an iron supplement. Whether your child needs an iron supplement is a conversation to have with your doctor, who can determine the most suitable iron dosage for your child's specific health requirements. 

Iron Supplements for Children

If you’re considering an iron supplement or kids multivitamin with iron, you will come across different formulas, types, dosages, and brands. 

The best kids’ multivitamins with iron are designed for children. Instead of adjusting an adult product for a child, look for formulas that mention specific age groups in children. Iron-only supplements for adults typically contain 65 mg of iron, much larger than the recommended amount for children. Due to the potential risks of iron toxicity in children, you should always look for an iron supplement that is developed specifically for kids.

Types of Supplements


Syrup iron supplements are a type of liquid supplement that you typically measure out with a spoon. As a syrup, the consistency can be a bit thicker than a normal liquid, and they can be easier to take for kids who struggle to swallow capsules. 

The downside is that some studies do report a potential of tooth staining in kids taking iron supplements in liquid form.


Gummies tend to be popular among kids because they look, taste, and feel like candy. While this is great for getting children to take their vitamins without a battle, unfortunately, it does come at a cost. Gummies can be an unstable form for iron, and can reduce the efficacy of the supplement.

Liquid Drops

Liquid drops are usually thinner than syrup. Whereas you would measure syrup with a spoon, liquid drops usually come with a dropper and instructions on dosage. You can then put these drops straight into your child’s mouth or, in some cases, add them to a drink like a smoothie. 

Again, this is ideal for getting those iron benefits when you have a child who can’t stand tablets or soft capsules. But, as a liquid iron supplement, there is a potential that it could stain your child’s teeth


Chewables are not gummies, but you don’t have to bother with any measurements like liquid drops or syrups. With chewables, even picky eaters can still reap the benefits of iron supplements without the added sugar that’s commonly found in gummies.  


When considering a child’s multivitamin with iron, the first step is to speak with your pediatrician. Like any medical changes, make sure to follow your doctor’s guidelines on dosage and monitor children at all times when taking iron supplements. 

No matter the type of iron supplement, too much iron can be potentially toxic, so it’s crucial to keep any iron supplements out of reach of children.

Iron toxicity is one of the most common toxic and deadly ingestions among children, especially in kids under six years old. It's important to use childproof containers and store them in a safe location to prevent accidental ingestion.

Key Takeaways

There are so many types of iron supplements available, but we suggest one designed for children, without any artificials, sweeteners, colors, or preservatives, like Kids Daily Iron+

Iron fuels cognitive function, healthy growth and development, and energetic kids. While it’s important to begin introducing iron-rich foods into your child’s diet, iron supplements can help bridge any nutritional gaps so you know that your little one is getting all the iron they need to thrive. Just remember, consulting with a doctor is key to ensuring the best approach for your child’s health. 

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Please always consult with your pediatrician before giving your child iron and confirm which dosage is best for your child. 

Warning: Accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6. Keep all iron products out of reach of children. In case of accidental overdose, call a doctor or poison control center immediately.


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