Once the initial baby haze has lifted and you are settling into your role as a mother, the importance of iron has a new focus – your child. As important as iron was during pregnancy, it continues to be a vital part of keeping you, and your children, healthy.
Iron and Your Baby
As your baby grows it needs iron to develop. Iron deficiency (ID) is the most common nutritional deficiency affecting infants.
This is because their iron needs are greater since they grow so quickly, and have limited dietary sources of iron. 1
Some factors which can contribute to your baby having ID, or developing iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) are: 2
- If you were iron deficient during your pregnancy
- If you smoked during your pregnancy
- If you have diabetes
- If your baby was premature
- If you exclusively breastfeed for more than 4-6 months
Iron and the first six months
During the final trimester of your pregnancy, your baby had the chance to store iron. 3 After birth, your baby uses this iron to allow it to keep growing. 2,4 These stores are vital because the amount of iron required after four months often exceeds that found in breastmilk, 3,4 and your baby’s gut is still developing so it is not yet ready to absorb iron from food. 5 After 4-6 months your baby will have used up their stores of iron, so they will need to start getting iron from their diet. 3 If your baby was delivered early they may not have had as much time to store iron before they were born as they needed. 3
Iron for growth, learning and behaviour
As your baby’s iron stores decrease after 4-6 months, the amount of iron it needs from their diet increases to 11 mg/day. 3 After they turn 1 years old, their growth slows down, so their iron requirements drop to 7 mg/day. 3
Like their physical growth, your baby’s brain is also growing and developing rapidly. In fact, your baby’s brain is growing so fast that it doubles in size in the first year, and is almost the size of an adult brain by the time they are two. 5
Iron is vital for a developing brain. The part of the brain that is important for learning and memory, the hippocampus, is very sensitive to low iron levels, and not having enough iron can prevent it from developing properly. 5
ID can affect many areas of your child’s development, including their coordination, social and emotional skills and IQ. 1 Making sure your child has enough iron, and plenty opportunities for learning, will help to give them the best start in life. 6
The good news is there is a solution for your growing baby. FERRIMED® is available in a pleasant tasting syrup that may be used from birth, and is clinically proven to be effective in the treatment of ID and IDA. 7 It does not interact with other medicines or food and is well tolerated with limited potential for side effects. 7-9 Unlike other iron supplements, FERRIMED® contains ferric iron which allows the body to absorb only the iron it needs. 8,9 Trust FERRIMED® to supplement your growing child’s needs by preventing or treating ID / IDA. 7
Feeding and Weaning
Just as your baby puts extra demands on you for iron during pregnancy, as it continues to grow, so does its need for iron. 2
After about 6 months, it is important that your baby gets iron from their diet to maintain their iron status. 2
Iron and breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, you need to make sure you have enough iron to produce quality breastmilk. 2,10 Anaemia, which could be due to ID, increases your chance of suffering from insufficient milk syndrome. 2,11 This can mean your baby doesn’t gain weight properly, wants to feed regularly and weans at an earlier age. 11 Anaemia can also affect the nutrients of breastmilk, as well as the substances that are needed for your baby’s immune system. 10
Iron and weaning
At around 4-6 months, your baby begins to eat foods rich in iron, and the amount of iron it needs from their diet increases to 11 mg/day. 2,3 After they turn 1 years old, their growth slows down, so their iron requirements drop to 7 mg/day. 3
If your baby was full-term and you are breastfeeding, it is recommended that, starting at 4 months, you give them an iron supplement of 1 mg for every kg of their body weight, every day, until they are eating enough iron-rich foods. 3
The teenage years are full of change as your children’s minds and bodies prepare for adulthood. All of this growth and change needs iron. 12
Girls need the most iron
ID is more common in girls than in boys, simply because their need for iron is greater. As their bodies are growing and need more iron, girls also start losing iron on a regular basis with the start of their menstrual cycles (periods). The amount of blood lost during a period varies between girls, and is the main factor determining the amount of iron your daughter needs. 12,13
Iron and growing boys
A teenage boy may be emptying out the fridge, but what he is eating is important. Boys need to provide fuel for a bigger change in size than a teenage girl. Growth spurts are accompanied by an increase in the amount of blood flowing through their body as well as an increase in lean muscle mass. 12
Iron and diet
There is an increased number of overweight children today than ever before. Overweight teenagers are twice as likely to be iron deficient than those who are a normal weight. Girls are at a particularly high risk of ID if they are overweight as their bodies tend to grow faster and mature earlier than girls who are not overweight, making it even harder to get enough iron to meet their needs. 14
Iron for learning and sport
Iron is important for learning, and low iron levels affect learning and behaviour before IDA has even developed. 14
Iron is utilised by the body for oxygen transport and energy production, and it is therefore essential to athletic performance. 15 Sport is a great way to keep fit and busy. However, a lot of exercise may have an effect on your iron stores, and insufficient iron stores (ID) has a negative effect on the amount oxygen that is transported and utilised by your body, negatively affecting athletic performance. 15
Making sure teenagers follow a healthy diet and consume enough iron can help them fulfil their academic potential, and allow them to perform at their best on the sports field.
- Lozoff B, Beard J, Connor J, Felt B, Georgieff M. Long-lasting Neural and Behavioural effects of iron-deficiency in infancy. Nutr Rev 2006;64(5 Pt 2):S34-S91.
- Rao R, Georgieff MK. Iron in foetal and neonatal nutrition. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med 2007;12(1):54-63.
- Baker RD, Greer FR. Diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0-3 years of age). Pediatrics 2010;126(5):1040-1050.
- Breymann C. Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol 2013;8(6):587-596.
- Radlowski EC, Johnson RW. Perinatal iron deficiency and neurocognitive development. Front Hum Neurosci 2013;7:1-11.
- Lozoff B, Smith J, Clark K, Perales C. Home intervention improves cognitive and social-emotional scores in iron-deficient anemic infants. Pediatrics 2010;126(4):e884-e894.
- Geisser P. Safety and Efficacy of Iron(III)-hydroxide Polymaltose Complex. Arzneimittel-Forschung 2007;57(6a):439-52.
- Borbolla JF, Cicero RE, Dibildox M, Sotres D, Gutiérrez R. Iron hydroxide polymaltose complex vs iron sulphate in the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia in infants. Revista Mexicana de Pediatria 2000;57(2):63-67.
- Yasa B, Agaoglu L, Unuvar E. Efficacy, Tolerability, and Acceptability of Iron Hydroxide Polymaltose Complex versus Ferrous Sulfate: A Randomized Trial in Pediatric Patients with Iron Deficiency Anemia. Int J Pediatr 2011;2011:1-6.
- França EL, Silva VA, Volpato RMJ, Silva PA, Brune MFSS, Honorio-França AC.Maternal anemia induces changes in immunological and nutritional components of breast milk. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2013;26(12):1223-1227.
- Henly SJ, Anderson CM, Avery MD, Hills-Bonczyk SG, Potter S, Duckett LJ. Anemia and insufficient milk in first-time mothers. Birth 1995;22(2):86-92.
- Beard JL. Iron requirements in adolescent females. J Nutr 2000;130(2S Suppl):440S-442S.
- Zimmermann M, Hurrell R. Nutritional iron deficiency. Lancet 2007;370:511-520.
- Nead KG. Overweight Children and Adolescents: A Risk Group for Iron Deficiency. Pediatrics 2004;114(1):104-108.
- Peeling P, Dawson B, Goodman C, Landers G, Trinder D. Athletic induced iron deficiency: new insights into the role of inflammation, cytokines and hormones. Eur J Appl Physiol 2008;103(4):381-391.