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Breastmilk does contain iron!

(15 Posts)
gaelicsheep Fri 14-Jan-11 21:16:49

Sorry to state the bleeding obvious, but I have seen it bandied about today that breastmilk contains no iron. Once here on the main In the News thread, which went uncorrected. Another time on the BBC website in a comment written, rather worryingly, by a b/f peer supporter. I quote: "As a trained NCT volunteer Breastfeeding Peer Supporter I am meant to give others the information that exclusive breastfeeding for six months is best, but when I read that a newborn's reserves of iron (*which* isn't present in breastmilk (my emphasis)) only last for six months, I decided to introduce solids at just over five months for my own daughter, as I was worried that if introduction took too long, she might become deficient."

So to clarify, this (abridged) from the NHS document "The Constituents of Breastmilk":

"Iron is important for the formation of blood. Different mammalian milks contain similar, very small amounts of iron... Breastmilk has a relatively low iron content, but the iron is bound inside the lactoferrin molecule, which makes it easier for the infant to absorb... Therefore, in spite of the apparently low levels of iron in breastmilk, exclusively breastfed babies do get enough iron... until at least 6 months of age, often longer"

Perhaps this should be in Pedants' Corner blush, but I think it's important that everybody knows that breastmilk DOES contain iron, and enough of it.

togarama Fri 14-Jan-11 21:19:04

Yes, this is an important point

AngelDog Fri 14-Jan-11 21:21:06

And the iron from bm is much more easily absorbed than from other sources - Kellymom has info, as ever.

yama Fri 14-Jan-11 21:21:53

Thanks Gaelicsheep. Ds (dc2) is approaching 5 months. Will probobly carry on ebf until 6 months. He is a big bugger too.

TCOB Fri 14-Jan-11 21:25:40

angry angry angry
Pee'd off beyond belief now with those stupd headlines today. I will be reading, memorising and quoting - thanks, Gaelic!

Albrecht Fri 14-Jan-11 21:27:16

You are right, it is important people know. Well done for being a pedant!

But I think a lot of damage has been done by the stupid headlines out today. Its the kind of thing that people will think "I'm sure I heard somewhere breastfeeding was bad ... err... can't remember the details" And it will give ammunition to all those unsupportive families and partners.

AngelDog Fri 14-Jan-11 21:35:51

Sorry, gaelicsheep, just realised I only repeated what you said. blush

IIRC the iron in bm is only available to the baby, whereas the iron in formula is also available to pathogenic organisms such as salmonella.

I think your assessment is all too true, Abrecht. angry

gaelicsheep Fri 14-Jan-11 21:41:35

Yes indeed. Here is a link to the full document, which talks about just that. I wanted to keep my quote short and to the point. smile

gloyw Fri 14-Jan-11 21:46:57

gaelicsheep, that's actually incredibly helpful, thank you.

I'm an intelligent, educated person, and I've found myself very confused and worried today about iron, food allergies and weaning.

Headlines today have been incredibly damaging for BF, whether the WHO research and recommendations are revised or not. Who's going to bother grappling with the (considerable) complexities of what's being discussed when they read 'Breast not best'? Totally agree with albrecht. Really, really depressing.

AngelDog Fri 14-Jan-11 21:57:23

I'll shut up. grin

Thanks, gaelicsheep.

FlowerBee Fri 14-Jan-11 22:13:21

It seems there is always something new about the best way to feed your baby.

I have been BF and have only just started solids with my LO at 6 months with the iron situation in mind - and was berating myself today for not starting solids earlier (not that i've notice my LO being anaemic at all), but your information has reassured me that it's unlikely that any harm was done as breastmilk DOES contain iron.

PacificDogwood Fri 14-Jan-11 22:17:22

It's called 'bioavailability' - BM has lower iron levels than some other foods/artificial feed, but more of it is acutally absorbed.

<<dispairs at how this re-hash of old, old resarch has been presented>>


PacificDogwood Fri 14-Jan-11 22:19:45

UNICEF's response curtesy of AtYourCervix - I hope she won't mind

RJandA Sat 15-Jan-11 09:48:47

Thank you gaelicsheep smile

YankNCock Sat 15-Jan-11 11:57:34

Thanks for this.

I am still breastfeeding DS 16 months and have been wondering about the iron thing. At his 1 year check the HV gave us a leaflet about iron, listing iron content in several foods, and top of the list was follow on milk hmm.

Breastmilk was not even mentioned, and I'm having trouble finding anything on kellymom about how much iron would be in BM after a year. I really want to write to the HV and suggest they add breastmilk as a source of iron for toddlers but need to find a reference! Surely the iron content and bioavailability thing isn't markedly different after a year?

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