The anemia in babies and young children happens quite often, and that is why you need to know how to handle it. Anemia is defined as a condition in which a usual symptom is a reduced number of red blood cells or a reduced amount of hemoglobin, but this is only a general definition, and of course,there are many causes (and types) of anemia, from genetic causes to autoimmune conditions. Today we will only discuss the most common nutritional anemia, which is iron-deficiency anemia.
Usually, anemia of this age (infants and young children) occurs because the children are picky eaters, do not eat quality foods, and because they are still in intensive growth and development, and their iron needs are high as their blood volume is increasing progressively. Ifyour infant/child is not facing severe anemia (hemoglobin levels below 70-80g / L), and there is no indication for the existence of another type of anemia different than iron deficiency anemia, probably the safest way for managing the anemia is to apply the dietary recommendations for iron deficiency anemia for a duration of at least 2-3 months (with 1-2 controls in the meantime to ensure that there is no further decline in red blood cells count and hemoglobin) and then perform a final blood analysis to determine your next step. If the situation improves, there is no place for panic; the cause of anemia is simply a lack of iron in the diet or its insufficient absorption, and if the condition does not improve, further analyzes need to be done in order to detect the exact cause of the anemia.
If the cause of anemia in your baby/child is an iron deficiency (which can be determined by analyzing the serum levels of iron and by analyzing the iron stores in the infant/child’s body), then it is recommended to follow these dietary recommendations:
-Include these products in your child’s diet more often: spinach, rabbit, millet, lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, egg yolk, buckwheat, potatoes, quinoa, amaranth, cashew, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cocoa, whole sesame seeds, peas, chokeberry, sour cherries, cherries, apricots, brown rice, beef (include more often those groceries that have already been introduced into the baby/child’s diet, and follow the existing recommendations for introducing new foods.)
-Green leafy vegetables should be cooked in order to reduce their oxalates content;cocoa should be heat-treated;cereals, legumes, nuts, and seeds should be soaked for a few hours and rinsed before use. Cereals and legumes should be cooked after soaking, in order to reduce the level of phytic acid and the phytates.
-Minimize the use of dairy products (if the baby/child is still breastfeeding, you can nearly totally exclude dairy products) because there is evidence that animal milk and its products inhibit the absorption of iron.
-Take care of food combinations, combine foods rich in iron and foods rich in vitamin C, because this vitamin increases iron absorption. Do not combine iron-rich foods with dairy products or other iron absorption inhibitors (such as oxalates, phytates, etc. and in order to remove oxalates and phytates from food, stick to the recommendations given above).
-Herbal teas also contain inhibitors of iron absorption, so you can use them only when necessary and temporarily restrict their use.
-You can give your child vegetable juice made from beet, carrot, orange, lemon or apple. You shouldn’t give juices to young infants. Dilute the juice with water (2:1).
-Although it is rare, you should be aware that in some cases the gluten can pose a problem and can indirectly or directly causereduced iron absorption. Maybe it is not necessary to go 100% gluten-free, but you should try to include more gluten-free cereals into your child’s diet and to reduce the gluten-containing ones.
Another thing I would like to point out is not to approach so naïvely to iron supplements because they can have negative effects on the health of your baby/child and their absolutely safe use, especially for babies and young children, of course,is not proven. The safest approach is to try to improve your child’s anemia with proper and quality nutrition, and if for some reason this has no effect, figure out what is the cause for your child’s anemia and if needed use iron supplements strictly supervised by ahealthcare provider.