: Preventing Iron-Deficiency Anemia During Infancy
Iron-deficiency anemia during infancy is a common problem in North
America. Anemia is characterized by a low level of red blood cells.
The most common cause of anemia is an inadequate amount iron in
the diet. A child with anemia may be tired or pale looking, may
be irritable, or may not have any obvious signs at all. Importantly,
some recent studies have shown that anemia during the first few
sensitive months of life can lead to long-term delays in mental
and physical development. So preventing anemia during the first
year is very important.
Premature babies are particularly high at risk, although anemia
can also occur in full-term babies if they aren't receiving enough
iron in their diet. Full-term babies are usually born with enough
iron stores in their body to last them for the first months of
life. Breastmilk provides additional iron in an easily absorbed
form. If infant formula is being used, it's very important that
it be iron-fortified. Parents frequently ask whether iron-fortified
formulas will cause their babies to be constipated. While many
children are constipated at times, research has shown that iron
in formula is not the cause.
Cow's milk should not be given until the baby is at least 9 to
12 months old, as it is a poor source of iron. Furthermore, if
it's introduced too early into a baby's diet, cow's milk can cause
intestinal bleeding, which increases iron loss and can lead to
By the age of 4 to 6 months, a baby's iron reserves have diminished,
and neither breastmilk nor formula can provide enough iron to
meet the baby's growing needs. At this point, iron-fortified cereals
should be introduced into the baby's diet to provide additional
iron and other nutrients.
Though an iron-rich diet is adequate for most healthy babies,
an iron supplement may be prescribed if iron-deficiency anemia
is diagnosed. Iron supplements are reserved strictly for children
diagnosed with anemia - they are not appropriate, and may even
be harmful, for other children. Iron-deficiency anemia can usually
be prevented simply by ensuring that there is sufficient iron
in the baby's diet.
Other Nutrition Topics
The information provided in this site is
designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to
replace the advice and care of your child's physician, nor is
it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If
you suspect that your child has a medical condition, always
consult a physician.
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