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Prolonged breastfeeding may lead to anemia in infants

Prolonged breastfeeding may lead to anemia in infants


June 2017:

Breastfeeding is highly recommended for newborns, but a new study points to prolonged breastfeeding being a risk factor leading to anemia in infants.

 

The study published in the International Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics, identified prolonged breastfeeding beyond six months and late initiation of complimentary feeding among the major risk factors as breast milk alone cannot meet the iron requirement during the rapid growth beyond six months. At birth, babies are born with sufficient iron reserves which deplete in the months after.

 

“Exclusive breastfeed is advised for six months during which period iron supplementation is also suggested. After six months, complimentary feed is recommended,” said Ramesh Dampuri, a city-based paediatrician. He added that iron supplementation is not recommended for children who also receive milk substitutes.

 

For the study, researchers at a private medical college in Mahabubnagar studied 130 babies aged 6-23 months starting May 1, 2016 for eight months. They collected data on feeding practises, birth order, education and the socio-economic status of parents to arrive at their conclusions.

 

The study hinted that many Indian infants could be anemic as only 11 of the subjects had normal hemoglobin levels. Fifty-three children were exclusively breastfed for more than six months, of which 70% had moderate anemia while 21% had severe anemia.

 

The condition was worsened for children whose complimentary feed was delayed or received it irregularly, the authors said. For 48 children in the study, their mothers revealed that the complementary feed was started later than the recommended age of six months.

 

The National Family Health Survey throws light on the feeding practices and infant nutrition status in India. It reveals that only about half of the infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months as recommended, while just about nine % of babies aged 6-23 months get adequate diet. In Telangana, the numbers are not different from the national averages.