Babies are born with iron stores they get from their mother’s blood in the womb. When babies a fully breast fed or formula fed, they also get the appropriate amount of iron they need. At about 6 months, when babies start eating solids and, ultimately, breast milk and formula amounts decrease, iron levels can go down.
Iron is very important for all people, especially babies and children. Our bodies need iron to make hemoglobin, which takes oxygen through the blood to all our cells. When you don’t have enough iron, red blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen to your body’s organs and muscles. Our bodies do not make iron naturally so we rely on iron from the foods we eat. Babies and children need iron for their brains to develop normally.
Indicators of low iron levels in babies/kids is-
- Slow weight gain
- Pale Skin
- No Appetite
We started our son on iron fortified oatmeal as soon as he started solids at about 6 months. We really like this brand. It seemed to me that the iron-fortified cereal caused our son a lot of constipation, so I stopped giving it to him. Looking back, I wish I had kept it up and just mixed in some fruit purees to counteract the constipation.
At his one year Pediatrician appointment, the doctor said it was time to check my son’s iron. The nurse came in, gave him a little prick on his finger, and took a drop of blood to check his hemoglobin level. The results came back with levels of 10.2 g/dL (or grams per decilitre) . The doctor said they ideally wanted a level of 11g/dL . We were given a prescription for liquid iron supplements. We tried 4 times to get our son to take these supplements and he spit it out immediately. My husband and I tried it and it tasted TERRIBLE. We decided that we would just work hard to up his iron rich foods and go from there.
6 months later at my son’s 18 month check up, his Pediatrician said we should really check our son’s iron levels again. So we did. His iron levels came back as 8.6 g/dL. It was pretty upsetting 🙁 We thought we were doing so well adding iron foods into our son’s diet. Our Pediatrician said we absolutely had to start iron drops because those levels are not good!
So, that night I went home and did as much research as I could into Iron, Iron absorption, and high iron foods. In my research, I learned that calcium can block the absorption of iron and Vitamin C aids in absorption of iron. So, the cup of milk that my son had with each of his 3 meals may have been hindering him getting all the iron he could. We shifted his milk so he got a milk cup at morning snack (9 am) and lunch (12 pm) instead of first thing in the morning and with dinner. We started giving him his liquid iron supplement mixed in about 3 oz of orange juice in the morning with breakfast (about 6:30 am) and with dinner (6 pm).
We went back to the doctor after a month to get iron levels tested again. I was so incredibly nervous as we headed in. I was hoping that we got better, but worried that it wouldn’t have been better! He was up to 9.2 g/dL, which is a step in the right direction.
Another 2 months we went back and we were at 10.6!! Since his iron was up to where it needed to be, we were told we could stop the Iron supplements. That made me feel so much better knowing that we no longer had to be concerned about that!