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Home Wellness Research Diet and Health Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Toddlers

Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Toddlers

Thursday, 30 October 2008 13:38

A recent report from American Family Physicians states that the number one reason for iron deficiency in infants is a diet supplemented with cow’s milk. They recommend children in the first year of life do not get cow’s milk at all.

Breastfeeding is the ideal feeding practice for many well-documented reasons, including lowering the risk of iron deficiency anemia. Although breast milk is low in iron content, about 50 percent of the iron is bioavailable to the infant. Exclusive breatfeeding beyond 4-6 months may no longer provide adequate iron intake and a diet which includes adequate sources of iron and vitamin c (which enhances iron absorption) is recommended.


Infants started on formula at birth and those switched from breast milk to formula should receive iron-fortified formula. If a child is fed iron-fortified formula, the AFP states that parents should not give their children vitamin drops with iron. This combination provides too much iron and is not healthy.

Toddlers (12 to 24 months of age) who drink a lot of cow's milk, have a diet low in iron, or already had iron deficiency as an infant are at risk.

After a child is 12 months old, if the mother stops breastfeeding or using iron-fortified formula, they suggest parents feed their toddlers foods rich in iron such as: meat, chicken, fish, whole grains, enriched bread and cereal, dark green vegetables, and beans. Foods high in vitamin c remain important because it helps the body absorb iron.

Finally, the authors recommend that parents keep all products with iron stored out of the reach of children because they can be poisonous if taken in very large amounts.

I.C.P.A.’s editor’s comment: Two ways to reduce iron deficiency in infants can be addressed pre and perinatally:
1- Encourage the mother to up her intake of iron rich foods throughtout pregnacy and while breastfeeding. Dark greens are the best and easiest source of iron consumption and products like chlorella, spirulina and other powder greens make daily consumption easy. (1)
2- Avoid early umbilical cord clamping in the newborn: “Higher red blood cell flow to vital organs in the first week was noted & term infants had less anemia at 2 months” (2)

Kid Bit on-line references:
http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html