Breastfed Babies Could Have Health Risk

Baby Bottle

Did you know that there were new guidelines issued for iron intake among infants and children for the U.S? I didn't.

On October 5, 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics set guidelines to increase the iron intake for infants. Studies have shown that iron deficiency is one of the most common problems among infants. That was news to me. I thought between breast milk and iron fortified formulas, babies were getting an adequate supply. Not so.


What's worse is that iron deficiency is frequently not detected and can have long-term health implications for children's development including irreversible effects on children's cognitive and behavioral development. Preterm infants, exclusively breastfed infants, and infants at risk of developmental disabilities are at higher risk. Scary news!

Even though babies are born with an iron reserve, by around four months of age those stores are mostly depleted. This is why the AAP is now making the following recommendations:

Exclusively and partially breastfed babies: Need 1 mg per kilogram of body weight, or 1mg/kg per day of an oral iron supplement starting at four months to six months. This should continue until iron-rich foods like enriched cereals, meat or green vegetables are introduced.

Formula-fed babies: Will receive adequate iron from formula and complementary foods. No supplements are recommended before 6 months of age.

Babies six months and up: Need 11mg of iron a day. This can be hard to achieve if you have a picky eater, so your doctor may recommend supplementing through the end of the first year. Liquid iron supplements can be used if iron needs are not met by formula and complementary foods.

Make sure that your baby has their hemoglobin (iron levels) checked sometime between 9 and 12 months of age. If an iron deficiency is identified, your doctor may repeat the test again between 15 and 18 months of age. As always, check with your pediatrician if you are not sure your baby is getting enough iron according to the newly issued guidelines.

Based on these new guidelines are you concerned that your baby is not getting enough iron? Are you surprised that breastfed babies are at risk?


Editor's note: Version has been corrected to read: Babies six months and up: Need 11mg of iron a day. 

Photo via abbybatchelder/Flickr

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