Iron is the big news coming out of the American Academy of Pediatrics national convention this week. We know that iron is a necessary nutrient for brain development. And iron deficiency in childhood can have lifelong, irreversible effects (kinda scary, huh?)
Thus, the Academy’s nutrition committee is recommending iron supplementation for babies who are born prematurely and those who are still breastfed between 4-6 months of age. The policy statement is rather complex, so here is a recap of the major recommendations in plain English!
- Babies who are born full term and are fed with an iron-containing formula do NOT need iron vitamin supplements. Parents should introduce iron-rich foods into their babies diets, though, when they do start solid foods. (See the list at the end of this post for food ideas!)
- Babies who are exclusively breastfed or those who get some breastmilk supplemented with formula DO need an iron-supplement starting at 4 months of age until 6 months of age when they start eating solid food, which contains iron. Your child’s doc can recommend an iron supplement that is the right dose for your baby.
- Babies from 6-12 months of age should get about 11 mg per day of iron in their diets. The AAP nutrition committee recommends starting red meat sooner rather than later and high-iron containing vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals to get those dietary needs met.
- Toddlers from 1-3 years of age need 7 mg per day of iron in their diets.
- If you have a toddler who definitely does not eat iron-containing foods (and those toddlers can be picky, as we know), then talk to your child’s doc about an iron vitamin supplement.
- Babies who are born prematurely (under 37 weeks) should get an iron supplement (2mg/kg–your doc can give you the dosing) by 1 month of age. Preemies who are breastfed should continue to get that iron supplement until they are weaned to formula or they begin solid foods at 6 months of age.
- All children should be screened for iron deficiency anemia at 12 months of age.
Bottom line: Many babies get the iron they need, but make a concerted effort to offer iron rich foods once your baby starts eating solid foods. And, if you have a preemie or you are exclusively breastfeeding, be sure to ask your child’s doc about iron supplements.
Iron rich foods: (heme iron is easier for the body to absorb). Check out Baby 411 and Toddler 411 Nutrition chapters for a detailed list!
2.5 oz lamb 1.2 mg heme iron
2.5 oz chicken 1.0 mg heme iron
3 oz dk meat turkey 2.0 mg heme iron
3 oz pork 0.9 mg heme iron
3 oz clams 23.8 heme iron
4 oz cream spinach 0.7 mg nonheme iron
1/2 c instant oatmeal 7 mg nonheme iron
1/2 c seedless raising 1.6 mg nonheme iron
1/2 c cooked lentils 3.3 mg nonheme iron