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Iron and your baby & child

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Iron and your baby & child
This is such an important topic and I find myself talking about iron and why it's important most days. Babies have a store of iron in their liver that is built up during pregnancy and lasts till around 6 months of age. If they're premmie they may be prescribed iron supplements till they've caught up developmentally.

We all need iron, but it's essential for babies for many reasons. It is an essential component of haemoglobin which transports oxygen in the red blood cells and so is necessary for optimum growth and development.

prematureThe signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia in children may include:

  • Behavioural problems including sleep issues

  • Repeat infections

  • Loss of appetite

  • Tiredness

  • Breathlessness

  • Increased sweating

  • Strange ‘food’ cravings (pica) like eating dirt

  • Failure to grow at the expected rate.

finger foodMajor risk factors for the development of iron deficiency in children include:

  • Prematurity and low birth weight

  • Late introduction of solids - past 6 months

  • Introduction of cow’s milk as the main drink before 12 months of age

  • High intake of cow’s milk

  • Low or no meat intake and unbalanced vegetarian/vegan diet

  • Poor diet in the second year of life

  • Possible gastrointestinal diseases

  • Lead poisoning.

How do you know your baby is low in iron?

  • It's impossible to tell just by 'looking'. A pale looking child is not necessarily an anaemic one. It requires a blood test, thorough physical examination as well as a medical history.

  • To absorb iron we also need an adequate intake of foods that contain vitamin C and preferably at the same meal e.g. red meat and broccoli, scrambled eggs and spinach. This is especially important with non-haem sources e.g. pulses, lentils and chickpeas.

  • Tea and coffee contain tannin and can hinder iron absorption so young children should not be given tea or coffee. This is especially important with non-haem iron diets and if tea or coffee is drunk at the same time as a meal.

I'm going to look at how to get enough iron into your baby's diet in another blog (soon) and break it all down into an easy way of looking at amounts of iron needed each day. Read it here:

For the National Health & Medical Research Council recommendations for infant and child intake of iron visit this link:

Some further reading below

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