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Iron plays an important role in producing hemoglobin. Our body needs it to carry oxygen in red blood cells to all the organs. Iron is also crucial for proper neurological development in the infancy period. This mineral is quite essential for the normal growth of a baby.
Iron deficiency can slow down the child’s growth and his activeness. Continue reading to learn more about iron’s role in a baby’s development and when to feed baby iron supplement.
Does Breast Milk Provide the Necessary Amount of Iron?
Newborn babies usually have enough iron stored in their body for the first 3-4 months. The chances of iron deficiency are quite high after 4 months. Breast milk does not provide enough iron to meet the child’s needs.
The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends feeding baby iron supplement if you breastfeed exclusively. The baby will need 1 milligram of iron for 1kg weight of his body. So, the child may need 5-6 milligrams of iron supplement per day!
If your baby is on a mixed feeding diet, his iron supplement needs will depend on the amount of milk he consumes. Formula milk might also contain some iron and breast milk also has a small amount of this mineral. Therefore, the dosage of the supplement will reduce. Your child might not need the baby iron supplement if you feed the iron-fortified baby formula.
Which Babies Have a High Risk of Iron Deficiency?
Not every child suffers from iron deficiency. Babies, who have a high risk of iron deficiency, include:
- Babies born with low birth weight and premature babies.
- Infants, who are on goat milk or cow’s milk diet before age of 12 months.
- Babies, who are on a breast milk diet and do not get complementary foods after 6 months of age.
- Infants who do not get iron-fortified formula milk if they are on a mixed feeding diet.
- Kids, who consume more than 710 ml of soy milk, goat milk, or cow’s milk every day.
- Infants who are suffering from health issues, such as chronic infections.
- Babies who are on a restricted diet due to a health condition.
- Lack of iron in a baby’s regular meal plan.
- Babies exposed to lead.
- Overweight babies.
Iron deficiency not only affects the child’s growth, but also his performance in school and extra-curriculum activities. Therefore, parents should carefully look for iron deficiency symptoms. Provide iron supplements if you observe the signs of lack of iron in your child.
What Symptoms Indicate Iron Deficiency?
Every baby requires a steady supply of iron to develop physically and mentally. If an infant does not get sufficient iron from food, his physical activeness is affected. Lack of iron also slows down the baby’s physical grown and brain development. The following symptoms indicate that the child has iron deficiency:
- Pale skin
- Slow weight gain
- Reduced or no appetite
- Irritable behavior
Some iron deficiency symptoms are similar to the symptoms of calcium deficiency. Therefore, you have to consult with the doctor to ensure your baby has that health issue. Iron deficiency can affect your child’s performance in school. It can be pretty daunting for the child to concentrate on studies and get tired too easily!
What should You Feed the Baby to Meet his Daily Iron Needs?
Iron is a mineral and it has two types. The Heme iron can be absorbed quite easily and it is gained from meats. The non-heme iron is available in plant-based foods. Vegetables, legumes, and cereals are a great source of iron. The non-heme iron is not as easy to absorb as the heme iron is.
You should feed the following foods to the baby to prevent iron deficiency:
- Iron-fortified baby formula, which provides enough iron to meet the infant’s daily iron needs.
- Cereals and grains, such as whole-grain bread, iron-fortified cereals, pasta, and rice
- Chickpeas, dried peas, lentils, and beans
- Spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beans, green peas
What if you are feeding iron-rich foods and the baby still shows the signs of iron deficiency? You should add vitamin C-rich foods to your baby’s diet. Juices and other vitamin C-rich foods will increase the iron absorption rate in your baby’s body. A few orange slices or orange juice is perfect to increase iron absorption.
Can you feed cow’s milk to prevent iron deficiency?
Some people believe that cow’s milk is more beneficial to prevent iron deficiency in infants. That’s not true! Cow’s milk does not provide more iron than breast milk. Besides, babies find it tough to digest because of the protein content. You should rather prefer an iron supplement instead of feeding cow’s milk to the baby.
What Should Parents Do to Prevent Iron Deficiency?
A baby is less likely to have an iron deficiency if you are feeding iron-fortified formula milk. It is a bit early to feed the baby formula to a 3-4 months old child. Therefore, breastfeeding mothers should consider iron supplements. Continue reading to learn more ways of preventing iron deficiency in infants and children:
You should consult with the doctor to feed iron supplements to the baby from 4 months age. This supplementation should continue until your child starts consuming iron-rich foods. You can blend iron-rich ingredients in an infant’s complementary foods. These foods include pureed meat, iron-fortified cereal, iron-rich veggies and fruits.
Regular intake of the iron supplement will effectively reduce the risks of iron deficiency. Do not feed the supplement when you start feeding iron-rich supplements. Calculate the amount of iron your child is receiving. Thus, you can better decide whether to continue feeding iron supplement or not.
Premature babies are born earlier and therefore they are quite weak and underdeveloped. You have to feed the iron supplement to the child until he is 1 year old. You should also feed iron-fortified baby formula along with breast milk daily.
It will help you in making the child stronger and his growth rate will also increase. The doctor may also recommend some other supplements. So, consult with the doctor to learn how to feed iron supplement with other supplements.
Pick iron-rich foods carefully
Babies can consume complementary foods after 6 months. It does not mean that the child is ready to consume solids. Provide mushy foods to your 6 months old infant. Prepare smoothies and vitamin C-rich fruit juices daily. Thus, your baby’s iron absorption rate will increase and he will get healthier.
Monitor your child’s milk intake
A 1-5 years old child should not consume more than 710ml of milk per day. It doesn’t make the child stronger. Your baby will rather suffer from iron deficiency and get weaker. So, avoid overfeeding milk!
Provide vitamin C-rich foods daily
As mentioned several times before, vitamin C is quite vital to prevent iron deficiency in babies. You can easily find vitamin C-rich foods in the market. Several fruits and vegetables provide an ample amount of vitamin C to meet the child’s demands. It is also essential for the healthy skin and hair of the child.
How to Feed Iron Supplement to the Baby?
Follow the below-given tips to feed iron supplement to the baby:
1. Feed the supplement on an empty stomach!
Always feed the supplement on an empty stomach. Your baby should receive the supplement at least 1 hour before his meal. If the baby experiences stomach ache, then you can feed iron supplement with food.
2. Provide iron supplement with orange juice
Orange juice is rich in vitamin C and is essential for iron absorption in the body. Therefore, you should feed iron supplement with orange juice. It will quickly treat the iron deficiency problem.
3. Avoid certain beverages
The child might start drinking tea or coffee when he is 1-2 years old. Iron deficient kids should not consume caffeinated drinks. Antacids are also responsible for reducing iron absorption. So, make sure your baby does not consume such drinks until he has an iron deficiency problem.
4. Keep your baby well-hydrated
Iron supplements can cause nausea, heartburn, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea. You can avoid these side effects if you feed fiber-rich foods and fluids throughout the day.
5. Feed the iron supplement for at least 3 months
You should stop feeding iron supplement to the child only when the doctor suggests. It usually takes 3-6 months to replenish the body’s iron supply.
Do Iron Supplements Have Any Serious Side Effects?
Excess of baby iron supplement can have some serious side effects. However, normal dosage of this supplement can cause:
- Stomach ache
- Black stools
These side effects do not last too long and your baby feels comfortable within a few days.
Iron as a mineral plays a crucial role in a child’s overall development. It makes your child stronger and smarter. Therefore, you should do everything it takes to prevent iron deficiency in infants. We have already shared some simple ways to prevent this health issue. So, follow the suggested tips to keep your child healthy.