Iron deficiency is a major problem that can affect the quality and quantity of breast milk. A baby needs iron for blood development and mother needs iron to recover that which is lost during pregnancy and delivery. Failure to balance the iron demands during and after pregnancy may lead to iron deficiency in both mothers and babies.
Notable Statistics on Iron Deficiency after Birth
Babies get 60 – 80% of their iron demands from breast milk. The rest of iron includes what they received during pregnancy. However, the demand for iron intensifies as the child grows bigger. They need at least 11mg of iron per day especially during the age of 6 – 12 months.
According to a study performed by University of California at Berkeley, over 36% of pregnant and lactating mothers have iron deficiency problems. Mothers deplete about 33.9% their iron store due to factors such as; fetal iron needs, placental iron, tissue expansion, pregnancy maintenance, and postpartum iron demands. If the mother does not take iron rich substances, she will suffer iron deficiency and this will affect her breast milk.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in a Lactating Mother
The iron level in a lactating mother gives the information of the iron level of the baby. If a mother is deficient of iron, there is likelihood that the baby will suffer the deficiency too. Some of the symptoms may include;
- Craving of unusual foods such as vegetables
- A feeling of change in food tastes
- Light breast milk
- Headaches especially after breastfeeding
- Breathing difficulties
- Pale color on the palms of hands
What are the Effects of Iron Deficiency in Breast Milk?
Low iron among a lactating mother has severe and adverse effects. The mother suffers conditions such as severe headaches and breathing difficulties. She may also suffer low milk production which may lead to her baby being malnourished. In severe iron deficiency cases, a mother can contract anemia.
On the other hand, a baby will have low weight as a result of low iron intake. The baby will also suffer breathing difficulties. Cases of unrest, unhealthy looks, and severe crying will be common to a baby with iron deficiency.
How to Observe Intake of the Right Amount of Iron
Mostly, people go for the fortified supplements. But before supplementation, it is prudent to try the natural means first. One should take meals which are rich in iron. These include; winter squash, sweet potatoes, prune juice, mushroom, beef or poultry meat, greens, and brewer’s yeast among others. While breastfeeding, consider increasing your intake level of the above meals regularly in a day.
You may also consider using herbs such as; sea vegetables, alfalfa, dandelion root or leaf, and burdock for iron intake increase.
The value of iron in the body cannot be underestimated. Mothers should take a deliberate effort on being informed about it. The problem of iron deficiency can be managed by educating and advising mothers on the easy ways to ensure that they prevent iron deficiency before it occurs to them.