Does your infant need iron? Oxygen is essential for the life of every cell in the body. When we breath, the oxygen in the air goes into our lungs. From our lungs, the oxygen is transported by our blood throughout the body. Actually hemoglobin; the red pigment found inside the red blood cells do this job.
So what does iron do? Iron is a main component of hemoglobin. One hemoglobin molecule has four iron molecules.The oxygen temporarily binds with the iron molecule and is transported to our organs and tissues. Without iron, our body cannot produce hemoglobin. Low levels of this red substance in the blood is called anemia.
Your baby probably doesn’t need to take supplemental iron drops (at least not for the first four months). It depends on whether she’s formula fed or breastfed and whether she’s eating solid food. It’s important for babies to get enough iron, because iron deficiency can cause serious delays in growth and development and have long-term effects. In general though, healthy, full-term infants get enough iron from their mother in the last trimester of pregnancy to last them for the first four months of life. Premature babies have less of an iron reserve and need supplements because they don’t get sufficient iron stores from Mom in the last trimester. The earlier a premature baby is born and the faster that baby is growing, the sooner she’ll need iron supplementation.
Once your baby starts eating solids (not all the little goodies she finds on the floor) is right around the time iron levels start to run out that she swiped from mom. You can help her meet the requirement by feeding her iron-fortified cereals, puréed beef, and other iron-rich foods. If your baby is breastfed and not eating solid food at 4 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends an iron supplement of 11 milligrams (mgs) per day. That’s because unlike formula, breast milk contains little iron, and your baby’s own dwindling iron stores won’t be sufficient to make up the difference. Once she starts eating iron-rich foods, she probably won’t need the supplement.
It’s important not to give your baby cow’s milk until after her first birthday because it interferes with the body’s absorption of iron. Cow’s milk is not high in iron and can replace foods with high-iron content. It can also irritate your baby’s intestines, causing a slow loss of blood and therefore iron in the stool.
Make sure you address any questions or concerns you have with your doctor. Your baby is being screened for iron deficiency at her pediatricians or doctors office, so this is not something you need to stress about.
Until next time,
Brett Davis, Physician Assistant, Sophia’s Dad