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Thread: Study on iron levels at 6 months

  1. #1

    Default Study on iron levels at 6 months

    There was a study published recently comparing iron levels in babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months to those who started solids at 4 months. Here are a couple of articles about it:

    Babies breastfed for 6 months may have lower iron levels

    Starting Solids: Introducing Cereal At 4 Months Can Boost Babies' Iron Levels

    They seem to be saying it's better to start solids at 4 months, don't they? But if you take a closer look at the text...

    In the study, mothers of 100 infants in Iceland who were exclusively breast-feeding their babies were randomized to begin giving other foods at either 4 months or 6 months old. The researchers... measured the babies' growth rates and iron levels when they were 6 months old.

    Results showed that higher iron levels were seen in the infants who began eating other foods at 4 months old.
    Okay, complementary foods starting at 4 months led to higher iron levels at 6 months. What were the complementary foods?

    For the babies given other foods, the main source of iron was infant cereal, though infant formula and fruit purees also contributed.
    I.e. mostly iron-fortified cereal.

    But, while the babies given complementary foods had higher iron levels,

    Both groups of babies had sufficient iron levels, and there were no differences in rates of anemia, the researchers said.


    There was no difference between the groups in terms of the babies' weight gain or growth.
    The researchers' conclusion was "The biological importance of this finding remains to be determined."

    So, to sum up,
    • Babies who are given supplemental iron have higher iron levels
    • These higher iron levels don't appear to make any difference to babies' health

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    Very interesting Karen!

    My son was just diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia at 12 months This in spite of the fact that he gets iron-fortified cereal every day. Really makes me feel crappy that I didn't give him a multivitamin with iron in them. I just figured since the iron in breast milk is so well-absorbed that it wasn't necessary, but looks like in my case, I was wrong. Cue the mommy guilt now.

    I'm glad to know this isn't an issue for most breastfed babies. Wish I knew why it has been one for us though! Oh well, he's on iron supplements now so presumably that will correct the problem.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 38 months ; now trying to wean. for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    A great example of how things get mangled from the research end to the media reporting end of things. The slow progress of scientific knowledge doesn't fit well with the need for a catchy headline...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*manitobamommy View Post
    A great example of how things get mangled from the research end to the media reporting end of things. The slow progress of scientific knowledge doesn't fit well with the need for a catchy headline...

    It fits so well with the "watch your language" problem. If we call breastfeeding "superior", then formula feeding defaults to "normal" instead of "subpar". If we say breastfed babies have "lower" iron than those who get early formula or solids, then again formula feeding or early solids defaults to "normal" instead of "unnaturally elevated".

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    very interesting!
    Can't believe I've been and a full-time SAHM to Elena (5/2010) for over 2 yrs!
    Mami de mi preciosa Elenita
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Ontario, Canada

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    So what is the level that should be 'aspired to'? I don't like the suggestion that "higher" is automatically "better". If it's above and beyond what they need to be healthy, then it's overkill no? Extra taxing on the body to deal with the 'excessive' iron? What about the babies that were only breast fed? Were their iron levels appropriate?
    Mommy to our DD1 early bird (34 weeks, 2 days, 7lbs, 14oz)! Oct. 2nd, 2008 Emergency C-Section, Frank Breech, HEALTHY Girl!
    Weaned @ 17 months
    Our DD2 early bird (37 weeks, 3 days, 7lbs, 12oz) Aug. 10th, 2010 Our Successful VBAC, growing like a bad weed!
    Weaned @ 15 months
    Our DD3 early bird (37 weeks, 3 days, 7lbs, 6oz) Feb. 16th, 2012 Our 2nd VBAC and lightening speedy birth!

    Loving being a Mom of 3, 40 months apart!!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    See this article on Kellymom.com, quoted below (http://kellymom.com/nutrition/vitamins/iron/) - Personally I avoided all iron supplements for baby and he never had any iron issues. To make sure my milk had iron I ate plenty of green leafy vegetables.

    "The introduction of iron supplements and iron-fortified foods, particularly during the first six months, reduces the efficiency of baby’s iron absorption. As long as your baby is exclusively breastfed (and receiving no iron supplements or iron-fortified foods), the specialized proteins in breastmilk ensure that baby gets the available iron (instead of “bad” bacteria and such). Iron supplements and iron in other foods is available on a first come, first served basis, and there is a regular “free-for-all” in the baby’s gut over it. The “bad” bacteria thrive on the free iron in the gut. In addition, iron supplements can overwhelm the iron-binding abilities of the proteins in breastmilk, thus making some of the iron from breastmilk (which was previously available to baby only) available to bacteria, also. The result: baby tends to get a lower percentage of the available iron."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Default Re: Study on iron levels at 6 months

    Tanya- Great link. I remember reading that just before giving fortified foods at the suggestion of my ped. I brought in the article to my ped and she brushed it off, but stopped pressuring me to give rice cereal. Personally, I think this should be given to ALL pregnant moms, talked about in birthing class and reviewed on the way out of the hospital with baby. It never will be though since formula and cereal companies give $ to hospitals. . . Okay off the soapbox. But really, I was forced to take home iron-fortified formula samples! They packed them in my bag for me at the hospital though I was a bfing mother. Crazy!

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