Iron: Making Sure Your Baby Gets It
We’ve all heard that breast is best, but one of the drawbacks of exclusively breastfed babies is that they are at risk for iron deficiency. Although formula-fed babies get iron through fortified formula, breast milk does not contain adequate amounts. The LA Times reported that “Studies have shown that 4 percent of 6 month olds, and 12 percent of 12 month olds are iron deficient. Children between the ages of 1-3 years of age have rates of iron deficiency between 6-15 percent. Preterm infants, infants who are exclusively breastfed and infants who are at risk for developmental disabilities seem to be at higher risk to develop iron deficiency.” So what’s the big deal? A lot, actually. Dr. Frank Greer, co-author of a report which was published in the journal Pediatrics (put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)) stated, ” iron deficiency remains common in the United States.” The effects of being iron deficient not only cause anemia, but may also cause “long-term, irreversible effects on children’s cognitive and behavioral development.” To make sure that your (breastfed) child is getting enough iron, the AAP is recommending administering an iron supplement after four months of age. For those who have started solids, give your child naturally iron rich food. The LA Times published these specific guidelines: 1. Term healthy babies that are exclusively breastfed should receive an iron supplement (1mg/kg/day) beginning at 4 months of age 2. Whole milk should not be started until 12 months of age. 3. Infants 6-12 months of age need 11m/kg of iron a day, which should be met via the use of “complementary” foods. Red meat and vegetables with high iron content should be introduced early, as well as the use of iron-fortified cereals. 4. Toddlers ages 1-3 years need 7mg/kg of iron per day, and again this is best if iron comes from foods. 5. Children should have their hemoglobin checked sometime between 9 and 12 months of age, and again between 15-18 months of age, and follow-up for iron deficiency treatment and testing is recommended. 6. Children who do not meet their iron needs via foods should receive a daily iron supplement. And lastly, do some food research on your own. You’ll be surprised at what foods contains iron–there’s much more variety than the spinach and steak that first comes to mind.