Tips & Recommendations for Administering Iron to Infants
Nerves of steel - sometimes, that’s what it seems parents need when charged with the task of giving their infants their daily iron supplement. The infant protests, the parent insists, and the iron sprays in all directions. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be your reality.
Read on to learn some effective and simple ways to give your infant their iron supplement.
When an infant is born, their body’s iron stores supply them with enough iron for a short period of time, roughly 4 to 6 months. During this period and throughout their first year of life, infants are amid an accelerated growth journey, during which their brains and bodies grow at lightning speed. This can cause the body’s iron stores to become depleted, leading to a deficiency.
An iron deficiency can lead to anemia. In infants, anemia can lead to (in the short-term) exhaustion, weakness, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite and weight loss. In the long-term, anemia can harm physical and cognitive development, sometimes irreversably. For this reason, the Health Ministry recommends giving infants a daily iron supplement until the age of 18 months.
A medication that prevents and treats anemia supplies the infant with the recommended dose of iron.
Giving iron to infants and children - helpful tips
Administering iron, especially to young infants, is not as simple as one might think. Infants tend to spit out medications, and iron is particularly sticky - and stains! How can you successfully complete the task, ensuring your infant receives the recommended dose of iron, without you and your floor getting extremely messy?
Drip the drops into a spoon, instead of directly into the infant’s mouth. Most infants won’t keep their mouths open wide for more than a second or two - and any head movement can lead to a mess.
Using a spoon also prevents direct contact between the bottle and the infant’s mouth, preventing the bottle from becoming contaminated.
Give iron during bathtime - baths are calming, enable quick clean-ups and minimize staining.
Prepare a cloth diaper or wipes to catch spit-ups.
Distract your infant with a song, game, or funny face.
Mix the iron with baby food, such as fruit or vegetable puree, as these contain vitamin C (for enhanced iron absorption), to disguise its flavor and ensure the entire dose is swallowed.
From their first birthday, infants/toddlers are exposed to a wider variety of foods that serve as effective iron-absorption vehicles. Yet, iron-rich foods, such as red meat, fish and whole grains are generally left off of most children’s menus during their first years of life. As such, the Health Ministry recommends continuing to give the daily dose of iron to all infants, until 18 months of age.
- One-year-olds are no longer infants. They understand, become opinionated and you need to find creative ways to convince them to take their daily dose of iron:
Use your child’s favorite toy and ask your little one to “pretend” to give the toy their iron. Ask the child to explain to the toy that they need to take the iron to grow to be strong and smart. This will help you:
- Involve your child in the process, as a big kid
- Cause them to understand the reasons for taking iron each day
- Encourage cooperation
- Be a role model - if you also take a daily medication or supplement, do so together with your child and show them that it’s a simple and easy task that “grown ups” do.
It is important to remember that taking iron is essential and necessary, at any age. As such, it is important to ensure that the daily iron dose never becomes a battle. Irritation and impatience will get the best of you, and cause the administration of iron to be implanted in your - and your child’s memory as an unpleasant event. The calmer you are when giving iron, the more likely your child will associate the task with similar emotions.
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