It is a common myth that ” Babies after 6 months need Iron Supplements” and mommies are concerned whether their babies might become anemic if Iron is not supplemented. This is not true for all babies and kids. So here arises the question
” Does your Baby/Kid really need Iron Supplementation? “
To understand clearly about whether Iron supplements for infants and kids are necessary, you should first understand what is Iron and its role in the Body.
What is the role of Iron in the Body?
Our bodies need Iron to make Hemoglobin, which takes oxygen through blood to all the cells. Hemoglobin gives the red color to the blood. When Iron is not enough the red blood cells become pale and small, the condition is called anemia. They can’t carry enough oxygen to muscles and organs of the body. The brain cells need Iron for their growth.
What will be the symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia in your baby?
Babies who have Iron deficiency anemia will have the following symptoms
- Slow weight gain
- Pale skin
- Decreased Appetite
- Physically Less active
Babies who may have any one of symptoms need not be due to anemia as there are various diagnosis for these symptoms.
How do I know my child has Iron Deficiency Anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia can be diagnosed only by blood test and presence of any one of the symptom is not diagnostic of Iron deficiency Anemia.
Iron Deficiency Anemia can be diagnosed and confirmed by
1. Hemoglobin level in blood.
Who are at risk for Iron Deficiency Anemia?
The following children are at risk for Iron Deficiency Anemia
- Preterm Babies.
- Low birth weight babies [2 to 2.5 Kg]
- Babies who are fed Cow’s Milk [read Why cow’s milk is not for babies below 1 year] and not breast fed or fed with Iron fortified formula.
- WHO recommends that babies between 7 months to 23 months who are not given Iron Rich complementary foods and where there is a 40%prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Why Iron supplementation is not necessary as a preventive measure for Anemia in Normal Babies?
If a baby or toddler is healthy and active , they do not need Iron supplementation for the following reasons
1. Iron is absorbed in the gut as “First come, First serve ” basis. So if you give Iron supplementation and Iron rich foods together, The iron supplements will get absorbed instead of the natural food sources of Iron.
“Your child is being denied the natural Iron source in favor of the Iron supplements”
2. Iron supplements may interfere with Zinc absorption.
3. Iron supplements may cause gastric upset like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
Does my Baby/Toddler need Iron Supplements?
Now to the most important part of the article, you baby or toddler does not need Iron Supplementation if
1. If your baby is exclusively Breast fed for 6 months or Iron fortified Formula (the formula part is still under research, data suggests that formula can never equal the breastmilk’s iron source, but in cases where the baby is exclusively Formula fed, please ensure the formula is Iron fortified).
2. After 6 months if you are feeding Iron rich complementary foods.
3. If your baby does not have any signs of Iron Deficiency Anemia.
Next article is on
To receive the updates directly to your inbox, sign for our newsletter for free Here. We promise not to spam your inbox 🙂
3. Iron Requirements in Infancy [Domello]
4. Iron and Breastfeeding Griffin IJ
6. Iron Deficiency in low birth weight Infants Domello
9. Iron in infection and Immunity Cassat JE
Do comment below if you have any queries and doubts regarding Iron supplementation for Babies and Children