How To Manage An Iron Deficiency In Children
Iron is a very important nutrient which is necessary for your child’s growth and development. If you have just found out that your child has an iron deficiency you may be feeling quite upset about it. However, it is actually a lot more common than you might think.
An iron deficiency is a medical way of explaining that your child is not ingesting enough iron in their diet. The good news is that it can be addressed and managed with the support of your doctor and family.
Iron deficiencies can come in different ranges. In some cases, your child may be borderline deficient and this can usually be treated quite easily by altering elements of your child’s diet. In other cases, the deficiency may lead to anaemia. In cases of anaemia the blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells and if left untreated it can seriously impact your child’s growth, development and organ functioning.
There are quite a few signs and symptoms that your child may be experiencing if they have an iron deficiency. Before blood tests have been carried out your doctor may suspect an Iron deficiency if they notice that your child has very pale skin, is showing signs of persistent fatigue, displays rapid breathing patterns and has a poor appetite. They may also have strange food cravings such as ice or dirt from the garden.
Infants are most at risk for iron deficiencies because they require greater amounts than toddlers do. A 6-12 month baby requires 11mg of iron per day which is roughly the same as is required for a teenage boy. Both breastfed and formula-fed babies will require complementary foods from when they are six months old.
Iron-rich foods should be included in their diet to ensure that they receive adequate amounts of this nutrient. The same can be said for children who are given cow’s milk too early. These babies may be at risk of an iron deficiency as cow’s milk does not contain enough iron until they reach the twelve-month mark and require significantly less. Premature babies are more at risk of an iron deficiency and they may be given an iron supplement to counteract this.
Prevention is always easier than cure; if an iron deficiency is something that concerns you, we recommend including plenty of iron-rich foods in your child’s diet when they start solids. Pureed meats, fortified cereals, beans, fish and dark leafy green vegetables are great sources of iron. It also important to ensure that your baby is not filling up on too much milk when they turn one. They may want less solid food as a result and the milk may not contain enough iron. It is also important to include plenty of Vitamin C in the diet. Foods like oranges and bell peppers are rich in this vitamin and it helps the body absorb iron.
If your child has a confirmed iron deficiency your family doctor will most likely recommend dietary changes. They will recommend including more iron-rich foods and you may have to think outside and box and be creative with your hidden-vegetable recipes for fussy eaters (we know how difficult it is). They may also recommend an Iron supplement which should only be given under medical supervision and direction.