Two year old Eva, apprehensive, pale, heart racing, shallow breathing, sat on her Mother’s lap. Having stopped crying, she watched fascinated as the blood seeped into the syringe. Not the rich full bodied merlot, more weak watery, translucent Rose’. Her well meaning Mother, teary in sympathy, had been feeding her a litre of milk per day for 8 months due to her fussy eating. (She weighed 15kgs, so was drinking 7.5% of her body weight in milk. To but this in perspective, it is equivalent to an adult male who is 80kgs drinking 6 litres of milk per day!). A diet such as this has no iron. This essential mineral helps red blood cells carry oxygen. No iron results in anaemia and in severe cases like Eva’s, this was enough to cause heart failure. Akin to repeatedly filling your car up with watered down petrol. Eva required an urgent blood transfusion followed by 6 months of iron supplements.
Iron deficiency in infants and toddlers is the commonest nutritional deficit in our society. Unfortunately the only way of assessing iron levels is with a blood test. So if you have a toddler who drinks more than 5% of their body weight in cows milk and barely eats foods high in iron then a blood test is recommended. As far as dietary advice goes, red meat has the best source of iron. The amount found in greens is barely enough and not absorbed well. For more information click here.