What are the most significant symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia?

Pale skin
Tiredness, fatigue
Getting exhausted quickly
Loss of appetite
Slow down of growth
Behavioral disorders
Brittle nails
Urge to eat soil or paper

However it is also possible for a baby with anemia not to have any of these symptoms.

What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

Most common iron deficiency seen in babies arises due to feeding the babies with cow's milk instead of breast milk. Also another cause of iron deficiency is not to feed babies adequately with iron rich foods like red meat, egg yolk, chicken, fish, legumes and molasses while introducing solids. Some babies who are breast-fed cannot absorb the iron in the milk and this may cause iron deficiency as well.

How does iron deficiency occur?

Iron deficiency anemia occurs due to inadequate iron intake required for making the protein called hemoglobin and due to inability to absorb iron, loss of blood or increased need for iron. In some cases, the reason for iron deficiency can be genetic as well.

Iron-deficiency anemia does not occur over-night. An extended period of time is required for anemia to occur.

Is iron-deficiency anemia dangerous?

It can be... A child who has iron deficiency for a long time may suffer permanent and physical problems. Also iron deficiency can make a child more susceptible to infections.

Is my little gourmet at risk for anemia?

In babies from 9 months to 24 months, iron-deficiency probability is higher.

If your baby is born prematurely; Full-term infants are born with iron stores that can last to six months. This store is especially accumulated during the last months of pregnancy. If your baby was not patient enough to spend the last month in your womb and was born prematurely, iron-deficiency can occur. However if you notice this and take required measures, you won't need to worry at all.

Babies who drink cow's milk before the age of 1; Cow's milk is quiet low in iron. It also interferes with the body's absorption of iron. Cow's milk can also cause bleeding in baby's intestine and this may lead to iron-deficiency.

Breastfed babies who eats solids; When your little gourmet starts eating solids, he will need additional iron.

In toddler period (one to three years old) the main problem is excessive milk consumption. This condition also called as "milkaholic syndrome" is characterized as drinking the milk bottle all the way as milk stay's hunger of the child easily. And as this makes up for the major part of the diet, it prevents intake of other iron-rich foods.

Pre-school (age 4-7) and school age (age 7-12)  Iron-deficiency occurs rather less during this period but in school age children, gastrointestinal diseases are observed frequently, mostly due to causes other than nutritional mistakes (peptic ulcer, chronic inflammatory intestine, reflux esophagitis etc.). These kids should be examined in detail for persistent iron-deficiency anemia. 

Adolescence period (age 12-18) besides rapid growth, blood loss in girls due to menstruation, vegetarian and semi-vegetarian diet, inadequate nourishment, diets for losing weight, eating disorders (anorexia nervosa etc.) are the common causes of iron-deficiency.

What can I do to prevent iron deficiency?

A diet high in iron-rich foods will be beneficial for pregnant women.

When your baby is 4 months old and no solids have been introduced yet, some experts recommend iron supplements. You may consult your doctor in this respect.

When you introduce solids to your little gourmet, you may need to support him with iron supplements as well. Prepare a diet that is high in iron-rich foods. Keep in mind that red meat, chicken, fish, egg, molasses, green leafy vegetables must definitely be included in the diet.

Also remember to give your baby plenty of fruits that are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Kiwi, avocado and cantaloupe will be of great help.

You should not give cow's milk to your baby until he is a year old.

After the age of 1, daily cow's milk consumption shouldn’t exceed half a liter a day. This is because excessive amounts of cow's milk will both create feeling of fullness and latent bleeding in intestines.

Dear moms, be aware of this:  Vitamin C has a positive impact on iron-deficiency whereas tea has negative impact. In other words, if for breakfast you are going to serve eggs, a good source of iron, give your child orange juice instead of tea as this will increase body's absorption of iron.

It is recommended that you have your baby's iron level checked when he is 12 months old. But if your baby was born prematurely, you may have this analysis made earlier. Besides, if you notice any symptom of anemia due to iron-deficiency, you may get it checked as well. Your doctor will make a blood test to measure your baby's level of iron and will decide accordingly.

What should I do in case of iron deficiency?

Consult your doctor. Your doctor may give you iron supplements in the form of drops. It is known that iron is absorbed best on an empty stomach. Bu this may upset your baby’s little tummy. Therefore your doctor may suggest giving the supplements to your baby along with food and you should follow your doctor’s opinion on this.  

Your doctor will probably re-check your baby's iron levels every two-three months. Don't worry if you don’t see good results immediately. It usually takes some time to replenish iron stores. Don't ever think of giving your baby iron supplements just in case. Too much iron is harmful as well. You must always consult your doctor before giving your baby any iron supplements.

What are the iron-rich foods?

A medium size tomato meets 47% of our daily Vitamin C need and 22% of our daily Vitamin A need. Isn't this great? Its high level of Vitamin C content is amazing. If you wish to increase iron intake of your baby, add tomatoes to your diet list.

Another helpful food is onion. However you should be very careful when eating onion as it may cause gas problem .

Note that green cabbage and red cabbage also increase body's absorption of iron.
Now let’s list the iron-rich foods: Breast milk,  red meat, chicken, fish, egg, molasses, green leaf vegetables, winter squash, Jerusalem artichoke, cauliflower, sweet peas, broccoli, lentils, almond, egg yolk, sesame, dried grapes, dry prune, dried apricots, sweet potato, broccoli, wheat gem.

Foods that increase absorption of iron: Citrus fruits, green vegetables, peach, apple, banana, tomatoes, kiwi, avocado, and cantaloupe.