Is your child getting enough iron?

Iron plays a sufficient role in infant motor skills and well as mental development.

Young children and toddlers are at higher risk for iron deficiency compared to others. Often iron deficiency is seen between six months and 3-years of age due to the rapid growth during these stages and inadequate intake of dietary iron.

Some infants and children are at greater risk than others. Michigan State University Extension says that the following groups are at the highest risk of iron deficiency:

  • Babies who are born prematurely or small
  • Babies given cow’s milk before aging 12 months
  • Breastfed babies who after age 6 months are not given plain iron fortified cereals or another good source of iron from other foods
  • Formula fed babies who do not get iron fortified formulas
  • Children between ages 1- and 5-years-old who get more than 24 ounces of cow, goat or soymilk per day.
  • Children who follow specialized diets are also at increased risk

In order to reduce the risk of iron deficiency in babies there are several steps that can be taken. Breastfeeding your baby for at least 12 months and introducing plain, iron fortified cereal around four to six months of age. As your baby gets a little bit older introduce pureed meats, just two servings per day are enough to meet your baby’s needs. When your baby is six months of age or older, try offering foods rich in vitamin C, paired with foods rich in non-heme iron. Don’t give low iron milks to your baby until they are 12 months. If your baby was born prematurely or small, talk to your health care provider about supplementation with iron drops.

As your baby moves into the toddler years make sure their diet is rich in iron. Iron fortified breads, cereals and lean meats are excellent options to ensure your child gets the iron they need. Be cautious of toddlers who drink over three, eight ounce servings of milk per day as calcium can decrease the amount of heme-iron absorbed at a meal.

Adequate screening is an important tool in assessing iron status and should be a part of well-child visits. Iron deficiency can delay normal infant motor skills and well as mental development. It is important to make sure all infants and toddlers are meeting their needs for iron.

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