Has Your Baby Sufficient Iron?
Iron is a mineral that babies need for good growth and development. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin i.e. a protein that carries oxygen to all cells in the body. Our bodies require iron to make hemoglobin. Iron gives colour to red blood cells. When you are deficient of iron, red blood cells become small and pale. They can’t carry enough oxygen to your body’s organs and muscles. This is called anemia. A low iron level can cause decreased attention span, reduced alertness and learning problems in growing babies. A low iron level can cause the body to absorb too much lead.
Babies and toddlers are at higher risk of iron deficiency, mainly due to increased iron needs during rapid growth periods. Without any doubt it can be said that, a baby whose diet does not provide enough iron will eventually develop iron deficiency anemia.
Consult your doctor if you suspect iron deficiency in babies. Iron is toxic if taken in large doses. Avoid the idea of self-analysis and give your baby prescribed iron supplements. An overdose of iron even causes death. In infants, almost 20 mg per day is the safe upper limit.
Normal Iron requirements
Normally in babies, total body iron changes less during the first four months of life. Even though blood volume increases, total hemoglobin iron increases only in less amount, as hemoglobin concentration falls in this stage. Consequently, iron deficiency in this age group is uncommon, except in the presence of gastrointestinal blood loss. That is the reason, the need for iron supplementation in the first few months is doubtful. By 4 months of age, neonatal iron stores are reduced by half, and exogenous iron is required to maintain hemoglobin concentration during the phase of growth between 4 and 12 months.
Absorption of about 0.8 mg iron per day from the diet is required, of which 0.6 mg is needed for growth, and 0.2 mg to replace losses. The reference nutrient intake for iron is 4.3 mg/day between 4–6 months and 11 mg/day between 7–12 months.