Can I prevent my baby from becoming anemic?
You can prevent your baby from developing iron deficiency anemia. Here's how:
If your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight, talk with his/her doctor about iron supplements. Untilhe/she is a year old, give your baby breast milk or iron-fortified formula, not cow's milk. If your baby is 4 months old and breastfed and not yet eating solid foods, the pediatrics recommend giving him/her an iron supplement of 11 milligrams (mg) per day until he/she starts eating iron-rich foods. Once your baby starts eating solids, feed him/her iron-fortified cereal, and eventually iron-rich foods like lean meats, poultry, and fish; iron-fortified pasta, rice, and bread; leafy green vegetables; egg yolks; and legumes. Offer plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C, such as kiwi, avocado, and cantaloupe). Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron.
How is anemia treated in babies?
It's important to boost your baby's iron intake once he/she is eating solids, but dietary changes aren't always enough to correct anemia. He may also need an iron supplement, usually given in the form of drops.
Iron is absorbed best on an empty stomach. But because iron can cause tummy upset (and has an unpleasant taste, besides), your doctor may suggest giving the supplement to your baby with food, breast milk, or formula. Your doctor will probably recheck your child's hemoglobin/hematocrit levels after he/she has been on the supplement for a month or two.
It usually takes a couple of months for the blood count to return to normal, and then another six to 12 months to replenish iron stores. After that, they can probably be maintained with an iron-rich diet.
Should I give my baby an iron supplement, just in case?
Iron supplements are helpful in many instances, but too much iron can be poisonous, so always consult your doctor before giving your baby iron supplements. Doctors often recommend extra iron for breastfed babies starting at age 4 months.
If you do have iron supplements in the house (or vitamins that contain iron), make sure you keep them locked up and well out of your young child's reach. Iron is a leading cause of accidental poisoning.