In a recent article titled The Truth About Feeding Your Baby, author Gina Bevinetto Feld writes that meat may be a good first food for babies because “it’s a particularly rich source of iron and zinc, both of which breast milk doesn’t provide enough of, and your baby’s stores of them become depleted by 6 months of age.” (emphasis added) 

Notice, there is some incorrect information in that sentence!

This is an issue that is misunderstood by some people.  Babies are born with stores of iron that will last for about the first 6 months of life.  However, a healthy breast-fed baby with a mother who eats a healthy diet is at no risk for low iron.  Typically, only at-risk babies such as those who were premature or of low birthweight have any issue with iron deficiency.  Those at-risk infants often need an iron supplement.  

Iron is absorbed from breastmilk at a much higher rate than with formula.  And, research has shown that breastmilk changes to adapt to the baby’s age and stage of development, so that it contains just the right content of fat, energy, and vitamins.  Recent research shows that iron supplementation across the board (to babies who don’t need it) can cause iron overload, and complications such as stunted growth, decreased head circumference, and diarrhea.  However, standard multi-vitamins for toddlers, and prenatal vitamins for breastfeeding mothers, are still fine to use, and a good idea.

It is a good idea to have your baby’s iron checked at some point after the age of 6 months.  Selah recently had her 9 month checkup, and her iron level was found to be perfect.  She is fully breastfed, and has never had a bite of rice cereal, meat baby food, or supplements at all.  Rice cereal has great nutrition for formula fed babies, but it is not necessary for a fully breastfed baby.

Here are some helpful websites I found about this:

http://www.askdrsears.com/html/2/T020800.asp

http://www.breastfeed.com/articles/feeding-baby/the-truth-about-iron-2714/

http://www.naturalbabyworld.com/baby-iron-supplement.html

In America today, it is rare for mothers to breastfeed their babies beyond the age of 6 months. The Natural Mommy has a great article about the importance of breastfeeding (along with lessons about vaccinating).  Statements like this certainly don’t help to to increase the general view of breastfeeding in our culture!

What do you think?

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