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Thread: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    3

    Default Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    I am under a lot of pressure from public health nurses to give my baby infant cereal. She is 15 months old and just started eating solids around her 1st birthday. I'd like to raise her as a vegetarian, but she won't eat any tofu, beans, greens, etc. She loves yogurt, but most other foods she chews for a while and then takes out of her mouth. I had her iron levels tested at 11 months, and they were fine, but that was 4 months ago, and I'm getting worried again. Her lower eyelids don't seem quite as red as they used to. I'm not really eager to have the test done again - it was very traumatic for her. I did give her infant cereal mixed in with the yogurt for about 3 weeks in the summer, but she became very constipated around that time, so I dropped it. The nurses say that it might have been the dairy, but she was fine before I added the cereal.... I know LLL says that infant cereal can actually inhibit the absorption of iron (do you think I've screwed her up with those 3 weeks?), but the nurses keep telling me that anemia will give her lifelong learning disabilities and neurological damage, and I feel scared that I'm not doing the right thing. Even Jack Newman says that babies need extra iron after 6-9 months. Should I give up on vegetarianism and give her organic free-range meat? What if she won't eat that either?

    Are iron supplements necessary for the [I]mostly[I] breastfed one year old?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Charleston SC
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    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    HeLLLo
    There are many moms on here that are vegs, paint-the-moon, and jsmom just to name a few. You may want to pm them to talk them about what they do as their babies are very healthy.
    If you are really worried and do not want to give her the cereal, which very often makes babies constipated, then I would encourage you to test again. I bet that it would be very reassuring. My ds is almost 17 months and he only eats chicken, I do not think that you get much Iron from that, and he is fine. Keep in mind when they are sick it is very normal for their iron level to drop, every time Thomas is sick his levels are low.
    Sure, I would look into a baby vitamin, Thomas can not have milk or much dairy BC of an allergy so I really have been needing to look into a baby vitamin for him for some extra calcium, I will let you know what I find out.
    Please do not worry about the nurse, I am sure that she is well intentioned and just doing her job. Here at LLL we believe that each mother is the expert on her baby. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job,most likely she is just fine aLLL the best! Brittan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    If the mainstay of your daughter's diet is still breastmilk and you are worried about her iron intake, then perhaps the easiest way to go about this is to make sure YOUR iron intake is adequate. The iron that shows up in breastmilk is far more "bioavailable" than in formula, fortified infant cereal, etc. So if there's enough iron in your breastmilk and she is getting plenty of breastmilk, I would think her iron levels would be okay.

    I suspect the public health nurses you've been talking to aren't familiar with extended breastfeeding or the concept that a toddler might still be living primarily on breastmilk. So from their point of view, given your daughter's rather limited solid-foods diet, she must be malnourished.

    This is just logical "guesswork," really -- if it doesn't sound right to you, or if you have concerns about any symptoms of low iron levels, please discuss them with a healthcare provider, as no one on these forums (least of all myself!) is qualified to give medical advice.

    --Rebecca

  4. #4
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    Hi Raven,
    Are the nurses' concerns related to something specific they've observed with your daughter? Or might this be a more general recommendation to ensure she is getting enough iron? Of course you are worried if they start tossing about words like "lifelong learning disabilities and neurological damage"!
    Although the amount of iron in breastmilk is small, it is well-absorbed - between 20 and 40 percent. Only 10% of iron in cow's milk is absorbed and 4% from iron-fortified formula. Human milk also has high lactose and vitamin C levels to help absorbtion of the iron. Normal iron levels from age 6 months to 6 six years range from 10.5 to 14.0.
    The Breastfeeding Answer Book does say that iron drops and iron-fortified foods can sometimes cause digestive upsets and can reduce the efficiency of iron absorbtion. (When iron supplements are given, the iron-binding abilities of two protiens in your milk are overwhelmed, allowing bacteria to thrive.)
    The BAB also says that levels of iron in breastmilk are constant and are not affected by the mother's diet or by taking iron supplements.
    I know there are some articles on raising vegetarian families on the LLL website. I've just got to track them down now that things are re-arranged! I'll try to post them later.
    I hope this helps!
    Mary

  5. #5
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    This is what I can find this morning...
    http://www.llli.org/NB/NBJulAug00p131.html

    Hope it helps a little,
    Mary

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    1,064

    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    Have you tried oatmeal? The baby kind, of course, is fortified, but I think regular adult oatmeal is also a fairly good source of iron. If you want to try cereals again, you can try mixing in some fruit to avoid the constipation. This worked well for my DS. Pureed prunes work well, or also pears and peaches.

    I think in your situation I would consider retesting. You could wait until her 18 month check-up or do it sooner if you are really concerned. You may find that her iron is just fine and you don't need to go through the hastle of trying to adjust her diet. My DS was exclusively breastfed for 21 months and his iron was fine (last tested at 20 months). For some babies, however, this is not the case. If you know whether or not there is really an issue, then you can worry about how want to deal with it (i.e. cereal, meat, other plant sources of iron, etc.). When she was tested last, were they doing other blood tests at the same time? I ask because I think I remember our doc saying they could test for iron with just a finger prick rather than drawing blood from the arm, but I'm not positive about that.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    Watermelon is a good source of iron. My baby loved it even before he had any real interest in food....

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    24

    Default Re: Iron supplements for mostly breastfed, veg 15 mth old?

    I would re-test, then you don't have to guess and worry anymore.
    I'm usually a quiet vegetarian but I really hate those guilt-mechanisms that people use because they think humans, esp babies must eat meat.
    My older son never had low iron levels. He is 7 now and eats meat by his own decision, but didn't until age 3 or 4.
    However there was a baby at my younger son's daycare that was breastfed and anemic at 5 months, they started giving oatmeal and it heightened his levels. It depends on the baby individually, too I guess.

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