Does your child suffer from iron deficiency? Learn how to recognize it

You will have noticed that many of the foods addressed to children and infants are fortified with iron. Iron is an essential nutrient for the formation of haemoglobin, namely the component of erythrocytes carrying oxygen to the various tissues of the human body.

Red blood cells through blood circulation are carried to all tissues and cells providing oxygen. It is, therefore, necessary to obtain the required amounts through the every-day diet.

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How much iron does a child need?

Children need different amounts of iron depending on the age. For instance, a 7-12 months old infant needs 11 mg / day, while a 2-4 years old child needs 7 mg / day. At these ages, you must pay attention to 6-12 months old infants who breast-feed and therefore do not consume sufficient quantities or variety of solid foods, as maternal milk is poor in iron. However, if the infant consumes any 1st-stage infant formula, then these are fortified with iron. Moreover, attention is needed for children over 1 year old, who do not eat enough iron-rich foods, since 2nd-stage infant formulas are not necessarily fortified with iron. Indeed, if your child consumes a large amount of fresh cow's milk, which is very poor in iron, then there is the risk that it will not be particularly hungry to consume other foods in sufficient quantities. Furthermore, note that increased amounts of milk can reduce the absorption of iron from diet.


What are the symptoms?

Many children with mild iron deficiency may not have symptoms because the process of the iron storage reduction occurs gradually. However, as the condition evolves or in cases of iron-deficiency anaemia (significant iron deficiency), it is usually accompanied by

  • Feeling of fatigue and sleepiness
  • Weakness
  • Palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite and
  • Headache


If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your paediatrician for a blood test, to make a diagnosis. Under NO circumstances use supplements without prescription of the paediatrician. Excessive iron intake can cause health problems.


What foods are rich in iron?

You must have already heard or read that iron contained in animal products, namely the haem, is more easily absorbed. However, you must know that plant sources are equally important and can supplement the needs of a child. You do not have to serve red meat every day to cover your child's needs in iron. When you serve plant sources of iron with foods rich in vitamin C, you can significantly improve its absorption. Foods rich in iron are:

  • Red meat
  • Dark meat of poultry
  • Some fish
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Some nuts (always to be given mashed, to prevent choking)
  • Dried fruits
  • Green leafy vegetables

The nutritional information and recommendations on infant-toddler diet are indicative and refer to general guidance for this age group. Time that every child can be introduced to solid foods or add more to it’s diet, must be individualized. We recommend to set advise from your pediatrician about the specific nutritional needs of your child.