Do Breastfeeding Babies Need Extra Iron at 4 Months?0
Interview with Susan Burger, MHS, PhD, IBCLC
Should exclusively breastfed babies be routinely supplemented with extra iron? Yes, according to the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in its recently issued Clinical Report. It justifies this recommendation by citing its “concerns that iron deficiency anemia and irodeficiency without anemia can have long-lasting detrimental effects on neurodevelopment.”
As a mother myself and as someone who worked for many years on large-scale public health nutrition programs for mothers and children in developing areas, I certainly want the AAP to fully investigate and make solid recommendations about the potential impact of iron deficiency on cognitive development.
In the late 1980s when I did my doctoral studies in nutritional sciences at Cornell, it was common knowledge that much of the iron that is stored by the fetus occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy. The closer to 40 weeks of gestation, the better the iron stores at birth. More recent evidence has been accumulating that clamping the umbilical cord sooner than 2 minutes after delivery may deprive infants of a last and relatively substantial contribution of iron from the placenta to the newborn’s iron stores.