Legal Articles

April 25, 2013

Breastfeeding past one year contributes to iron deficiency

Breastfeeding has long been accepted as the best method of nourishing infants. It provides numerous health benefits to both the mother and the baby. From breast milk, babies receive vital antibodies that help them fight off disease from breast milk, their risk of developing allergies is reduced, and there is a chance it could contribute to a higher IQ. However, new studies have found that breastfeeding prolonged past the age of one could put the baby at risk of having low iron levels.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Jonathon Maguire of St. Michael’s Hospital at the University of Toronto, said, “What we found was that over a year of age, the longer the child is breastfed, the greater the risk of iron deficiency.” However, there was no statistical evidence that this would lead to any long term trend of anemia.

Iron essential for normal development

Iron is essential for the body’s proper development and is especially vital for an infant’s growing body. Experts say it is especially important “for normal development of the nervous system and brain.” In the study, data for 1,650 children between the ages of 1 and 6 was analyzed. They found that the odds a child would develop iron deficiency “increased about 5 percent for each additional month of breast feeding.”

Oral iron supplement recommended after 4 months of age

This study, combined with others, explains why the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests exclusively and partially breastfed babies receive an oral iron supplement after 4 months of age. Iron levels should be checked at age 1 and if deficiency is detected, consumption of iron-rich foods, such as fortified cereals, beans, spinach, and lean beef, is recommended.


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