“Borderline” anemia can usually be corrected just by increasing your dietary supply of iron, without taking iron supplements. If your child is anemic, here’s how to restock the iron deficient body stores and elevate the hemoglobin level to normal:
Step 1: Using diet to correct anemia in infants requires about one milligram of dietary iron per pound per day. So a twenty-pound infant would need a minimum of 20 milligrams of iron per day, or about twice the usual RDA. Depending on your infant’s willingness to eat a lot of iron-rich foods, it can be difficult to correct anemia with dietary measures alone. The good news is that the intestines compensate for iron deficiency by increasing the percentage of iron absorbed from foods, and you can improve iron absorption by combining good iron sources with vitamin C sources. It usually requires even more dietary iron than the above amount to correct anemia, but if your infant is only slightly anemic, it is worth trying the dietary increase for a couple of weeks, and then having your doctor recheck baby’s hemoglobin.
Step 2: If dietary iron does not produce a significant improvement in your infant’s hemoglobin and/or serum ferritin, it would be wise to begin giving your child iron supplements in the form of drops or pills in the dosage and timing recommended by your doctor. The usual oral dose is two milligrams per pound given three times a day between meals to enhance absorption. The iron syrup that is usually recommended for children is ferrous sulfate or ferrous succinate. During the first three weeks of treatment the hemoglobin increases at a rate of 0.15 to 0.25 grams per day, so if your infant has a hemoglobin of nine and it should be eleven, expect it to take around three weeks to reach this level. In order to replenish the depleted iron stores, it’s best to continue oral iron supplements for at least two months after the hemoglobin becomes normal.
Step 3: If your baby’s hemoglobin is not increasing by at least one gram after two to four weeks of treatment, your doctor may either want to increase the dosage of iron supplement or do some further blood tests to determine if the anemia has other causes besides iron deficiency.