Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most common nutrient deficiency with 20-25% of infants being diagnosed. The most common cause of IDA is poor diet though it can also be caused by loss of blood or a medical condition where the body is unable to absorb iron efficiently. Some signs of an iron deficiency are lack of energy and constant fatigue, pale appearance, poor appetite and weight gain and poor sleep.
Infants with IDA were found to have different sleep organization that lasted even after IDA had been cured. Studies show that four-year-old children who were diagnosed and cured of IDA as an infant had shorter cycles of REM sleep throughout the night. The quality and quantity of sleep is gaining more authority in human development with the effect on cognitive performance and behavior becoming more apparent. It has also been noted that infants with chronic IDA are more likely to develop depression and anxiety as young adolescents.
Best way to prevent IDA? Through a proper diet. Babies under 6 months get their iron needs met through breastmilk or formula. Once baby starts solids, it is important to introduce iron rich foods such as chicken liver, beef, fish, leafy vegetables, and tofu. Infants 7-12 months old need 11milligrams of iron a day while toddlers and 1-3 years old need 7 milligrams of iron each day. After one year old, it is crucial to ensure a proper diet is given and milk is not being given in excess, more than 24oz a day after one year old.