Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle, Washington
Health Information
Overview Health Conditions and Concerns Conditions A-M Conditions N-Z Healthy Lifestyle Tips Bastyr Health-E News News and Events Recommended Reading List Recipes National and Community Resources
Schedule an appointment today
Children's Health | Babies Need Iron for a Brighter Future
Happy baby

Getting enough iron early in life may predict future educational attainment and happiness.

Babies Need Iron for a Brighter Future

Getting enough iron early in life may predict future educational attainment and happiness in adults, reports a study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Why iron?

Iron is a part of the hemoglobin molecule that carries oxygen throughout the body. It also functions in energy production, immune system health, and proper brain and nervous system development. Without enough iron, people can become anemic, which can cause fatigue, increased susceptibility to infections, learning difficulties, developmental delays, and behavioral problems in children.

Less iron means more problems

The new study compared educational achievement, employment, marital status, and physical and mental health of 122 adults (average age 25 years) who had been iron deficient as babies with those who had had sufficient iron levels as babies.

Adults who had been anemic as babies were significantly less likely to have finished high school and were more likely to be single. They also reported having poorer emotional health, including more negative emotions and feelings of detachment or dissociation. No differences in employment or physical health between the groups were noted.

“Early brain effects of chronic severe iron deficiency in infancy may disrupt fundamental neural processes underlying sensory, cognitive, socioemotional, and motor development and contribute to diverging developmental trajectories,” commented the researchers. On the bright side, they noted, “Poor long-term outcomes, at least on measures of overall functioning, may be prevented if iron treatment is provided before iron deficiency becomes chronic and severe.”

Beefing up baby’s iron

Babies are born with some iron reserves, and breast-feeding provides full-term babies with enough iron for the first six months of their lives. After that, they need to get extra iron from fortified cereals or other iron-rich foods. Formula-fed babies should receive an iron-fortified formula for the first 9 to 12 months of life. Since cow’s milk can inhibit iron absorption, ask your pediatrician whether your child should avoid cow's milk during the first year of life.

Children between 6 and 24 months are especially vulnerable to iron deficits due to their rapid growth, so getting enough iron at this time is crucial.

Some baby-friendly sources of iron include:

Iron-fortified cereals:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Dried fruit
  • Fish (non-shellfish for babies under one year)
  • Poultry
  • Beef

Eating iron-rich foods with these vitamin C-rich foods increases iron absorption:

  • Mango
  • Cantaloupe
  • Berries
  • Papaya
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy greens
  • Winter squash

Your pediatrician may recommend giving your child an iron supplement. It’s important to give the right amount of iron, as too much can also be harmful. Iron overdose is a leading cause of poisoning among children less than five years. Keep all iron-containing products out of reach of children.

(J Pediatr 2013;10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.05.015)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, R.I., where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

Learn More About It

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 |

Find a Provider

Want to find the provider that's right for you? Learn more about our health care providers.  »

Bastyr Center Disclaimer

The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


Appointments: 206.834.4100
Bastyr Center clinic appointments

Submit a contact request or call us to schedule an appointment »

Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego

Are you looking for Bastyr University Clinic, our new teaching clinic in San Diego? More »

Learn More About Our Services

Natural medicine can treat many types of conditions including:

More treatable health conditions »

Bastyr Center healthcare providers

Interested in finding a provider who's right for you? We recommend that your first visit at BCNH be with a Naturopathic Medicine Provider. »

Home  | Health Information  | Health Care Services  | Our Providers  | Patient Care  | Dispensaries

About BCNH  | Contact Us  | Appointments  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map | Bastyr University