Was Your Baby Iron Deficient/anemic?

Updated on June 28, 2010
M.K. asks from Berkeley, CA
14 answers


My 9 month old was just diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. Like some of the other mothers who've posted about this, I'm pretty anxious, and struggling with guilt - the studies out there are frightening!

The baby's on supplements now and we'll get him rechecked in a month, but in the meantime, I'm hoping to hear from anyone who went through this, whose babies are now older - how did they do? Have they had any developmental issues? How low was their iron to begin with?

Thank you so much.

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answers from Los Angeles on

No need to worry at all, it is very common. I was low on iron when I was pregnant and took iron supplements. My daughter, who is now 18, was iron deficient and my ped had me give her iron supplements (drops) (she was just months old, but it's been a while so I forget how many exact months). Anyway, She is perfectly fine and healthy and I never noticed an ounce of any developmental issues.

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answers from Reno on

One of the scariest things we dealt with, with any of our 4 kids, was a serious bout of anemia with our youngest. At 13 months, she'd just had a check-up, and they told us that everything was fine. We'd been noticing that her color was off - she looked orange - so they did all the tests for jaundice and liver function (which were normal) and told us that she was probably eating too many carrots and sweet potatoes.

A friend, who's a nurse, saw her at church that weekend and said, "Do me a favor, and go back and ask for a blood test tomorrow." We did, and we got a panicked call from the lab that night at 9 p.m., asking us to get her to the ER right away. At the ER, they tested her again, and said, "This doesn't make sense. With levels like these, we'd expect her to be unconscious. Take her back to her regular doctor in the morning." She was happy, alert and playing, even though we'd had to wake her to bring her down. We discovered later that they'd privately decided that she wouldn't survive the night, and thought it was best if we were in our own home.

The next day, we took her to her dr first thing. He looked at the paperwork they'd faxed to him, and said, "This can't be right," and did another blood test. He finally said the word "anemia" after that test came back. He sent us immediately to the hospital for a transfusion. "Don't even go home to pack," he said. "Get anything you need later."

At the hospital, they did another blood test! (By then, we were thinking, "She's anemic, and you're taking MORE blood?") They hooked her up to the transfusion apparatus, and told us they had to do the procedure very slowly, over at least 14 hours, to prevent heart failure. I was thinking, "Heart failure? She's a happy, energetic 1 year old!" We were starting to freak out.

Then someone finally sat down and gave us some details. They kept doing the test over and over because they couldn't believe the results. Her iron was so low that they thought the level would automatically be fatal, that her blood simply couldn't carry oxygen any more. "Normally, you see levels like this in elderly patients, and it almost always results in coma and death," they told us. "In order for her to be awake and functioning, this has been going on slowly for a long, long time, giving her body time to adjust to the decreased oxygen." The next symptom, since she hadn't shown any others (aside from her color) so far, would be that she'd simply stop breathing, they told us. "And what if that happened while she was asleep?" I asked, and the answer was, "It's unlikely that she could be revived." They had no idea what had caused it or what would happen now. I'd never had a child hospitalized before, and I was pretty much losing my mind.

The nurses weren't quite sure how to keep her down and quiet for 14+ hours with a tube in her arm. "I've never done this procedure when the patient's awake," they told us. They did not want to sedate her. Finally, they wrapped a small board around her arm to keep it straight, and wrapped that in so much gauze that it looked mummified, so she couldn't pull out the tube.

The nutritionist went over her diet, and couldn't see a problem. We were still giving her formula instead of milk, and the nutritionist said, "This is what I gave my own kids." They tested her for human parvovirus, a relative of the parvo disease dogs get, since that was their best guess, but it came back negative. They called in a specialist from a hospital hundreds of miles away, and the specialist couldn't find the cause, either. They still, 10 years later, have no idea what caused it.

She went through the transfusion like a champ, and has never had any ill effects from the whole nightmare. She's extremely energetic and very bright. (When I took her out of public school to being homeschooling, they were preparing to test her for the "gifted and talented" program. Her teacher said, "I've never seen a stronger candidate for the program.")

She's 11 now, and has never had a recurrance. She's strong, healthy and happy, loves dancing, singing, horseback riding, pretty clothes/hairstyles/shoes/makeup, just like any typical girl.

I know you're probably terrified, but don't feel guilty!!

Your son should respond to the supplements. Ask his dr if anything occurs to you, enjoy him, and keep positive! :)

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answers from San Diego on

Your daughter will be fine. We had the same thing happen and our daughter is an amazing 6 year old now. I followed the peds orders of strict breastfeeding until 6 months. Well I believe this caused her to have low iron. My second daughter I started with the rice cereal at 4 months and no iron problems. Rest easy and don't feel guilty! :-)

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answers from Los Angeles on

My son went through the same thing at his 12-month check-up. Our pediatrician had us focus on his diet. We began feeding him black beans, beef, dark leafy greens, oatmeal with blackstrap molasses and raisins and within a month, his iron levels were normal. I often cooked the meat and veggies (especially tomatoes) in our cast-iron skillet as that helps the foods absorb more iron. Our son is doing great now and completely fine. Hope that helps!

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answers from Los Angeles on

We just went through this with my son. He started a massive growth spurt once he was put on the supplement - I guess he was making up for lost time.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi there, I also went thru having to give my little girl iron supplements when she was about 9 months old, my Ped at the time said it was quite common. She is now 4 1/2 and has not had any issue with development, she began walking at 9 months, she started talking before the age of 1, she memorized songs at 18months (even God Bless America). Now at 4 1/2 she reads by herself and is one of the smartest kids in her Pre-K class.
Please know that you baby will be fine and with your care he will thrive. One bit of advise the iron supplements can stain their little teeth, I always made sure that I put the dropper as far back as I could into her mouth to avoid that issue.

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answers from Dallas on

Mine was, and so were a few of my nephews (all were breastfed). They turned out fine a few months later, just keep giving the supplements (Polyvisol with Iron) and if you are nursing make the right changes to your diet as well to make sure you are not anemic. Taking the iron with vitamin c helps with absorption. If you have to take an iron supplement, do not take it with calcium as it will prohibit the iron absorption.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

My little girl was about 11 or 12 months when they did an iron test and she was low, I think the number was around a 9, but the nurse was surprised that it was low and said she needed supplements. She hates the iron drops so now her pedi says to give her half a flintstones vitamin with iron and she likes it and her iron is back to normal levels again. Some surprising advice i got when i asked this was to cook her food in a cast iron skillet, I had never thought of that! There are also foods and drinks that help absorb iron and some that inhibit hte iron absorbtion, they are on my question about iron in my profile if you want to know what helps the absorbtion. Good luck and you are doing a good job!

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answers from San Diego on

Hello, You should let go of your guilt. Some babies do have iron deficiencies. I have four grown children. Two were iron deficient, two were not. Coincidentally, the two I breastfed were low iron when they went off of the breast. They were put on Ferinsol and only took it for a little while. It is important that you have your baby's iron levels checked again and that the supplements are stopped when your pediatrician says to. Anyway, they were healthy in every other way. When our daughter started kindergarten, she became anemic again. They put her back on the Ferinsol and in a short time, she was back on track. They were very healthy children as were my other two. They are now 42, 42, 35, 32 and are all healthy adults.
Good luck with your precious baby.
K. K.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My son was given an iron test at his one year checkup and he was determined to be slightly anemic. The test was standard - he had shown no symptoms and we had no reason to believe he was anemic. They put him on a special supplement for one month (I think...he is 3 now so it's a little hard to remember!). We mixed it into juice and he'd drink it with no trouble - I don't even think he could taste it.

He has absolutely no developmental problems whatsoever and never has. The iron deficiency caused no negative side effects at all. He was walking at 13 months and was a very early talker - big vocabulary and speaking in sentences at a young age, much sooner than any of the boys he played with (and many of the girls too). He's smart and funny.

You have nothing to worry about. We did give him poly-vi-sol with iron (available at just about any drugstore, market, Target, etc) as a daily supplement until recently, when we switched to a Flintstone's chewable vitamin.

Don't feel guilty and don't worry!!!!!!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Do not feel guilty. This is not uncommon. My adopted son went through the same thing. He was 3 months old. He is now 7, soon to be 8. He is in perfect health. He is still a picky - no veggie eater. I hide veggies in his food! I can't remember his number, however, we did worry. He took iron supplement for several months. He didn't like it, however, it did the trick. I myself had accute anemia as a child. zero iron count! I had weekly shots with supplements. This went on for at least a year - says my mother. There have been no side effects, i had no developmental issues. Yes, indeed the studies are scary...again, this is a common issue.



answers from Honolulu on

Is she breastfed or Formula fed?
Formula has iron in it.

I exclusively breastfed, but both my kids never had an iron deficiency.

At this age, and for the 1st year, a baby still needs to be fed/nursed on demand.

Your Pediatrician, should have told you what you can do, or there is a prescription baby vitamin called "Polyvisol, with iron." (I think its Polyvisol). My kids had that as babies/toddlers. Its a liquid vitamin.

What is your Pediatrician suggesting to solve this?



answers from Los Angeles on

My LO had the test for iron and it came back low. The doc wanted me to take him to get more blood taken out, but we decided to put him on iron supplements, increase iron rich foods and test again in 3 months. At the next test the result was fine, the doctor said the last test must have been a mistake because there was no way he could have gotten back to normal levels so quickly. My LO has been fine with no issues.



answers from Los Angeles on

When my son was approx 9 months old he was anemic. His doctor at the time had me give him liquid iron which was a daily battle. I wish I had listened to my intuition then because I didn't think it was that big a deal. At the time he was just starting to eat food. He preferred breast milk and was slow to start eating. Later, his current doctor told me than often breastfed babies have low iron and I could have waited to give him the iron. So I feel like I stained his teeth for nothing. He is nearly 3 now and will have the stains on his baby teeth until they fall out. Although I can't remember how low his iron was, it surely hasn't affected him developmentally.

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