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Study: Iron Decreases Behavior Problems in Low Birth Weight Babies

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You know getting enough iron is important to your child’s physical health—too little causes fatigue and reduces immunity—but there’s increasing evidence that iron deficiency impacts behavior and development, too, especially for the most vulnerable newborns. A Swedish study just released online by the journal Pediatrics found that when given iron supplements from six weeks to six months of age, low birth weight babies (defined as weighing less than 5.5 pounds) were significantly less likely to have developmental behavior problems like ADHD at age 3 ½. According to the researchers, the low birth weight infants who did not receive the iron supplements were 4.5 times more likely to experience behavior problems, than low birth weight babies given 1 or 2 mg supplements. In a control group of normal weight infants, 3.2% showed signs of behavioral problems.

Plus: Superfoods for Kids

This study certainly supports iron supplementation as a simple, low-risk, and low-cost way to improve the lives of babies who have already been shown to be at higher risk for cognitive and developmental problems. But there’s another super-easy way to ensure that all newborns have adequate iron stores: Parenting contributing editor Alan Greene, M.D., calls it Ticc Tocc, which stands for Transitioning Immediate Cord Clamping to Optimal Cord Clamping. By delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in the delivery room by a mere 90 seconds, allowing more iron-rich, oxygen-rich, stem-cell-rich fetal blood to be pumped into the newborn, the risk of iron deficiency is significantly reduced.

Listen to Dr. Greene explain the urgent need for optimal cord clamping at TEDxBrussels last month. And ask your obstetrician or midwife about it if you’ll be giving birth soon.

Plus, learn about tasty ways to pump up your child's iron intake.

Do you worry about your kid getting enough iron? Leave a comment.

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