Is your breastfed babe getting enough iron?
Our baby is seven months old and breastfeeds. We started her on cereal at five months. As we introduce her to different foods, she's getting less iron-fortified cereal -- no more than one serving, which the box claims to meet 45 percent of the daily requirement. I would guess that she is getting 75 percent of her calories from breastmilk, as it is her primary food. Short of getting her heel pricked on a regular basis, should we feed her more cereal in addition to the new foods, or does my breastmilk give her enough?Question:
It sounds as if you've been doing a fantastic job of meeting your baby's nutritional needs. Full-term babies are born with good iron reserves. Breastfeeding your baby helps to keep her hemoglobin levels up, since the iron in your milk is so well utilized. (Between 50 and 75 percent of the iron in breastmilk is absorbed, compared to around 5 to 10 percent iron absorption from most other foods.)
Often a baby's iron level is checked by her Health Care Provider around the ninth month. If your baby's levels are in the normal range, which for a child between six months and six years ranges between 10.5 and 14 gm/dl, (Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, Behrman, Kliegman and Arvin, 1996), and she is otherwise healthy, it probably will not be necessary to continue retesting her iron levels.
Iron-rich foods are often recommended once your baby begins eating solid foods. Your milk's iron stores may begin to diminish in the second half of your baby's first year of life, but the iron in your milk is still very well absorbed by your baby. Not all babies will accept iron-fortified cereal. There are other foods you might want to offer your little one that are good sources of iron and she may find more tasty and enjoyable. Red meat and the dark meat of chicken or turkey are good choices, with close to 20 percent of their iron able to be absorbed and utilized. Combining iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C (in the same meal) can help with the iron absorption. You might want to offer a small serving of orange juice (if your baby is not sensitive to citrus) along with pureed or diced chicken. Best wishes!