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Is My Child Iron Deficient? and What does Bottles Feeding have to do with it?

Introduction

Good nutrition is important for health throughout life, and many of our food and eating habits are established in childhood. One common practice that can create a number of problems is the continuation of bottle feeding for long periods of time, rather than encouraging the child to drink from a cup after the age of 1 year.

A survey found that one in three 2-3 years olds don’t consume the recommended dietary intakes of iron and one in ten consume less than 30% of the recommended intake of iron. It has also been found that there is a high rate of bottle feeding in iron deficient 2 to 4 year olds. Iron deficiency and aneamia can causes a number of problems in children including lethargy and fatigue which can have an effect of behavior. It can also lead to delayed cognition and motor development. The progression from bottle to cup is also seen as a developmental milestone and failure to do so may increase the risk of developmental problems.

As our children can spend as much as 10 hrs a day in childcare it is important that careers understand these issues and work together with parents to develop nutrition policies that keep our children healthy let them reach their full potential.

What is the problem with the bottle?

Children who drink from a bottle are more likely to consume larger amounts of milk than children that drink from a cup and therefore reduce their appetite for solid food. A toddler (12-36 months) can easily drink 240 mL of milk from a bottle, but is unlikely to consume more than 150 mL at one time if drinking from a cup. Milk is low in iron (breast milk 0.8mg/L, cow’s milk 0.6mg/L, soymilk 0.5mg/L). Therefore the displacement of solid foods with large quantities of milk can then lead to iron deficiency and aneamia. Children who consume more than 600 mL of milk per day are four times more likely to be iron deficient. As cows milk is low in iron and other nutrition’s it is not recommended as the primary milk drink in children aged under 12 months of age.

On top of this the practice of laying a child down to sleep with a bottle should never be encouraged; as this can lead to dental decay and middle ear infections. The incidence of middle ear infections is also increased when a child is ‘prop fed’ (using an inanimate object to hold the bottle when a child is too young too).

The Australian guidelines recommend 3-4 serves of red meat per week. One serve = 1 tablespoon of red meat or 6 tablespoons of cooked chicken.

Common Practices Contributing to Iron Deficiency • Use of cow’s milk instead of infant formula or breast milk in infants under 12 months • Delayed introduction of solids • Displacement of solid food intake by milk • Prolonged bottle (<12 months) feeding with cow’s milk • Low meat intake

As the children in child care centres can spend up to 10 hrs a day in care. It is important that childcare centres understand the risks of poor feeding practices as posses a responsibility to educate and encourage parents to do the same. Therefore attached is a copy of the first stage guidelines recommended to your child care centre to prevent iron deficiency and aneamia in our children. I also encourage child care centres with the aid of parents and expect nutritional advice to the development of nutrition polices in order to provide safe nutritious food for our children.


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