Why Would Breastfeeding Cause An Iron Deficiency? What Are The Symptoms And Treatment To Prevent Iron Deficiency?

I have heard it often from many mothers that their breastfeeding infants are dealing with iron deficiency problems- “He is an iron-deficient kid.” or “She might be dealing with anemic.” In fact, I have seen my sister taking her baby to the childcare clinic for a well-baby checkup to learn whether her baby is deficient in iron. 

Mother’s milk has little iron than other meals. Therefore infants who are exclusively dependent on breastfeeding are at increased risk of iron deficiency after four months ago. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants and young children, 0 through 3 years are more prone to iron deficiency conditions. It is recommended to parents that breastfed infants should be given 1 mg/kg/day of a liquid iron supplement until iron-containing solid foods are introduced at about six months of age.

If the kid is dealing with a problem like deficient in iron cells, then should she head towards iron supplementation. There are many situations when a baby’s doctor simply give the prescription for iron supplementation at 9 months because of the belief that “All breastfed babies are iron deficient.” But actually, are so many babies truly iron-deficient?

As a matter of fact, every child is different, whether it is about their mood swings, constipation issues, fussy eating, or picky about their clothes. Therefore, every parent is advised to check with their child’s pediatrician about the duration of iron supplements during the first year.

Let’s read about the causes of iron deficiency anemia and how parents can help their breastfeeding infant to cure this particular health issue!

What is iron-deficiency anemia?

Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies and causes of anemia in childhood. Though prevalence rates of anemia among well-being infants 6 to 18 months of age are as low as the 2-4 percent in the United States. It has been predicted that iron deficiency anemia affects more than half of the children in some developing countries as compared to other places. So, what does it mean anemia? 

Well, anemia means to have smaller or fewer red blood cells than normal blood cells. Being a key pillar of Hemoglobin, Iron is a part of red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body.

When infants don’t get enough iron in their diet to make a normal amount of hemoglobin in their blood cells, they suffer from iron deficiency anemia.

What are the possible and most common complications of iron-deficiency anemia in a child?

Possible complications with iron deficiency anemia

Iron-deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies found in children, with 20% to 50% of the world’s population. And anemia is just the manifestation of the iron deficiency prevalent in children. There are also some other forms of mild to moderate iron deficiency in children where tissue function becomes impaired. 

In most of the children in the United States, iron deficiency happens slowly and causes very few severe symptoms. But when the deficiency worsens, infants become weak, pale, get tired easily, and start eating very little food quantity than they are supposed to. In fact, the weight of the infants also very poor, deal with frequent respiratory and intestinal infections. Sometimes, in some cases, infants also develop pica, which needs to be monitored properly. 

What are the causes of iron-deficiency anemia in a child?

Iron deficiency from breastfeeding babies

If you’re breastfeeding, your baby is more likely to be a victim of iron-deficiency anemia. Have a word with your baby’s doctor about other main causes of iron-deficiency and what should be given to breastfeeding kids to stay healthy and calm. 

Being a mother and an aunt of two kids, I have gathered some information about the main causes of iron-deficiency anemia in a child for all the mothers and newly-made parents.

Honestly, I got real help from this information because when my baby was suffering from iron-deficiency, I actually did a thorough study of the causes to help him heal properly. Let’s read about the main causes!

Diet Low in Iron

There is no denying the fact that a child gets iron from the food he consumes during the day. Many eatables don’t contain the exact amount of iron that a kid needs in the developing age. A full-term newborn baby just depends on breastfeeding. Mother’s milk has less iron than any eatable products given to him after 4 months. 

There are many mothers who are already suffering from other health problems or with anemia, which causes iron deficiency in kids as well. On the other hand, newborns born to a healthy mother have an iron that they require during the last 3 months of pregnancy.

AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics advises that mothers continue feeding their baby for the first 6 months to keep them healthy and calm. But as stated above, not all mothers are healthy, which is why so many infants that are breastfed only may not have enough iron.

Moreover, the ones who have grown up that much so that they can have other meals may also not get enough iron from their diets. This is because they don’t consume a meal that has a high quantity of iron. 

Body Changes

In the growing period from infant to toddler, the body goes through a growth spurt. When a baby starts growing over time, his body seeks more iron to make more red blood cells than small infants. This is also the second reason why children suffer from iron-deficient problems. 

Gastrointestinal Tract Problems 

Another major cause of iron-deficiency in children is some forms of gastrointestinal tract problems or surgeries. These problems give rise to poor absorption of iron, which is why children fall ill easily and become a victim of severe diseases.

Any abnormalities in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract could alter iron absorption and cause iron-deficiency anemia.

What are the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia in a child?

Parents also require to be equipped with the information, especially about the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia in their child. If somehow they missed the causes of anemia, at least with a little knowledge of iron-deficiency anemia symptoms, they can help their infant to fight with this problem.

Below shared are the most common symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia:

  • Lack of energy or tiring easily (fatigue)
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sore or swollen tongue
  • Pale skin
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Wanting to eat odd substances, such as dirt or ice (also called pica)

How is iron-deficiency anemia treated in a child?

Well, the treatment of iron-deficiency anemia will depend on the infant’s symptoms, general health, age, and some other reason. Every child is advised with different treatment to curb the spread of iron-deficiency anemia in less time. 

Some infants are suffering from severe conditions, while others dealt with normal symptoms that can be cured easily. To fight with iron-deficiency anemia, the AAP suggests some treatment that every parent should take a note of it. Let’s toss around the treatment needed to prevent iron-deficiency anemia in a child!

Iron Supplements

Suppose your baby is on full-term breastfeed or partially breastfed, especially at the beginning of 4 months of age. In that case, mothers are advised to give them a daily iron supplement until they begin eating iron-rich foods.

Remember that it should be given to infants after discussing it with childcare specialists. Iron supplements can irritate the stomach and discolor bowel movements. 

Baby Formula-Feeding

The infants that are formula-fed doesn’t require iron supplements. The baby formula gives enough iron that an infant requires in the growing age.

One more thing that should be taken care of is don’t give infants whole milk less than 12 months old. It can cause constipation and other severe problems. 

Iron-Rich Diet

Eating a diet with iron-rich foods can help treat iron-deficiency anemia. If your infant has started eating food, you should give him an iron-rich diet. Good sources of iron include:

  • Iron-enriched cereals, pieces of bread, pasta, and rice
  • Fish, such as shellfish, including clams, mussels, and oysters, sardines, and anchovies
  • Meats, such as beef, pork, lamb, liver, and other organ meats
  • Poultry, such as chicken, duck, turkey (especially dark meat), and liver
  • Legumes, such as lima beans and green peas; dry beans and peas, such as pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and canned baked beans
  • Leafy greens of the cabbage family, such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens, and collards
  • Yeast-leavened whole-wheat bread and rolls

Bottom Line

My sole interpretation from this information is that there is no problem with continuing exclusive breastfeeding until your baby is ready for an iron-rich solid diet. Remember that if your infant needs iron in the growing period of time, you can give him iron supplements but not before having a discussion with childcare specialists. At some point in time, your baby will gradually begin to have more iron than that provided by breastmilk alone.

Therefore, be prepared to offer foods naturally infused with iron and Vitamin C. If there is any question of anemia, you can always comment in the comment box. I will be pleased to resolve your queries and help your kid fight with iron-deficiency issues. Good Luck and Keep yourself and your baby healthy and fit!

We're a group of writers, mostly parents, some medically certified, who publish helpful articles for all stages of your child from newborn, infant, toddler, to a big kiddo.

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