Being a Mother
Once the initial baby haze has lifted and you are settling into your role as a mother, the importance of iron has a new focus, your child. Although it is essential that you maintain your own iron levels, you are also now in charge of the iron your child needs to be their best.
Iron and Your Baby
As your baby grows its needs for iron change.1 During the last trimester of your pregnancy your baby stores a lot of iron. After birth it uses this iron to allow it to keep growing for the first 4-6 months of life.2 After about 6 months your baby will need to get iron from its diet.
Iron is not only important to fuel your baby’s rapid growth, but it is also important for your baby’s brain development.3 This will allow your baby to learn and amaze you with new skills such as smiling and rolling over.
Feeding and Weaning
Just as your baby put extra demands on you for iron during pregnancy, as it continues to grow, so does its need for iron. After about 6 months, it is important that your baby gets iron from their diet to maintain healthy development.2
If you are breastfeeding you also need to make sure you have enough iron to produce good quality breastmilk,4 and to help you avoid fatigue. Fatigue is a feeling of exhaustion worse than the normal tiredness of having a new-born baby. Suffering from fatigue can reduce the amount of breast milk you make.5 Making sure you have enough iron can help you feed your baby for as long as you choose.6
The Early Years
Although the changes might not be as obvious as during the first year, your child is still growing and learning at an impressive rate. Anaemia is most common in preschool children,7 and this could be due to iron deficiency caused by their fast growth and that they may not be getting enough iron in their diet.8 The amount of iron your child needs changes with time:
|Age||Amount of Iron Needed A Day|
|1-3 years old||7 mg1|
|4-8 years old||10 mg9|
|9-13 years old||8 mg9|
Iron is also needed for a healthy immune system,10 and as they start nursery or school it is important that your child can fight off as many germs as possible. To find out how you can increase the amount of iron in your child’s diet, see our section on “Choosing your food wisely”. If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from low levels of iron you should talk to your doctor.
Before you know it your baby has gone from cute toddler to hormonal teenager. Their mood swings are in part a result of rapid change in their bodies. The teenage years are full of challenges, and making sure they have enough iron to meet their needs can help your child through them. Growth spurts, school sports, starting periods and taking control of their diets (becoming vegetarian/dieting) all increase their risk of having low iron levels, or developing iron deficiency anaemia.