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What is Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Babies

What is Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Babies

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The major function of blood is to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. This is carried out by the Red Blood Cells (RBCs), which work as oxygen carriers. Oxygen binds with the hemoglobin present in the RBCs to transport blood all across. Every cell in our body needs sufficient oxygen, which is why, we need to have sufficient RBCs.

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

As per WHO, Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet the need of the baby.,

Role of Iron in the Body. Iron is required in the body for the formation of hemoglobin. Though there are many types of anaemia but Iron Deficiency anaemia is the most common.

Iron Requirement in Babies. During their foetal lives, babies develop a reservoir of iron to fulfill their needs up to the age of 6 months. After that, their iron requirements have to be fulfilled by diet. Though mother’s milk provides the baby with iron, it is not enough to meet her high demands. So, iron from complementary food becomes the major source of iron after the age of 6 months. Mothers need to monitor and plan the diet of the baby keeping in mind their iron needs.

What Factors Lead to Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Babies?

Babies can suffer from Iron Deficiency Anaemia due to the following reasons:

Rapid Growth Calls for Increased Iron Intake. Babies grow rapidly due to which their iron needs are high. Sometime this need is not fulfilled by ordinary diet especially when consuming foods that are low in iron.

Less Absorption of Iron in the Body. Babies need absorb only 10% of the iron they eat. Sometimes, due to various illnesses or a diet which is deficient of vitamin C, the absorption of iron in the body becomes less, leading to deficiency.

More Intake of Cow’s Milk. Infants less than 12 months of age who drink cows milk rather than breast milk or diets deficit in iron , are at a higher risk of developing Iron Deficiency Anaemia. This is because cow’s milk contains less iron than other foods.

What Symptoms Does an Anemic Baby Have?

Anaemia in babies usually goes unnoticed until it reaches a more severe state. It manifests as lethargy, fatigue, weakness and lack of interest in routine activities. The appetite of the baby goes down. Other noticeable symptoms at a more severe level may include:

Blue-tinged or very pale whites of eyes

Blood in the stools

Brittle nails


Pale skin color (pallor)

Shortness of breath

Sore tongue

Unusual food cravings (called pica)

What Blood Tests Are Recommended to Check Anaemia in Your Baby?

If your baby is showing signs of anaemia, she may be required to undergo a blood test. The various blood tests can be:

Measure the Number of Red Blood Cells: Hematocrit is a blood test used to measure the number and size of RBCs in the blood and is done as a part of Complete Blood Count

Measure the Amount of Iron in Body: Serum Ferritin is a blood test that shows the amount of iron stored in the body.

Measure the Amount of Iron in Blood: Serum Iron is a blood test that shows how much iron is present in the blood.

Test if there is too much or too less iron in the blood: Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC is a blood test that measures the ability of a protein called transferrin to carry iron in the blood

Do Oral/Injection Supplements Treat Anaemia?

Your pediatrician may prescribe iron supplements for your baby, which can be given orally. If your baby cannot take them orally, they can also be given through intra-venous or intra-muscular injections. Iron supplements may induce mild stomach upsets.

Which Foods are Rich in Iron?

Iron strengthens and protects all the body. Some of the foods rich in iron have been listed below

Vegetarian Food Sources: Iron rich food sources include rice flakes, whole grains, sprouts, dates, jaggery, apricots, prunes, raisins, green leafy vegetables like spinach, mint etc. Include these in the diet by the way of soups, salads, fruit shakes etc.

Non-vegetarian Food Sources: Iron rich food sources include eggs, liver, chicken etc. Iron from non-vegetarian food sources has a high bio-availability and is absorbed better by the body. These can be incorporated in the diet as soups, gruels etc

Other Sources: Vitamin C increases iron absorption. Therefore include Citrus fruits like amla, lemon, fruits like oranges etc in your baby’s diet.

How to Detect Iron Deficiency Timely?

Iron deficiency anaemia usually affects babies who are 9 - 24 months old. It is advisable for all babies between this age group to get a screening test done for iron deficiency. Babies born prematurely may need to be tested earlier.

Can Iron Deficiency Be Dangerous?

Iron is a very important mineral and it is required in significant amounts by the body. The consequences of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in babies can lead to cognitive delays, increased morbidity and mortality.

Wholesome Diet Prevents Iron Deficiency Anaemia.

As per ICMR 2010, foods rich in iron must be included in your baby’s diet. Along with this, foods rich in nutrients that enhance iron absorption, like vitamin C, Vitamin D, zinc etc. should also be included. Inclusion of supplementary foods fortified with iron in the daily diet can also be a good way of preventing anaemia in babies.

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