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Do Formulas That Contain Iron Cause Constipation?

Submitted by Stella Morgan on July 20, 2007

Most of the infant formulas available in the market are fortified with iron; some low-iron formulas are also available. Iron is an important mineral to produce red blood cells in a rapidly growing baby. Many adults taking iron supplements can show symptoms of constipation or abdominal distress. But several studies clear this myth and indicate that iron in the baby formula is not the cause for constipation or abdominal distress like flatulence, diarrhea, colic, or reflux in an infant. This misconception for constipation due to iron consumption forms its roots from the mothers.

Often a pregnant lady may suffer from constipation due to the hormonal changes occurring in her body during pregnancy, but the iron supplements taken during pregnancy are often blamed.

On the other hand iron is important in formation of hemoglobin which is a blood protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and vice versa carries carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. Iron as a supplement is so important that it is required by even breast fed babies who are six months old.

Moreover studies prove that school children who had good iron status as infants perform better on standardized developmental test when compared to children with lower infant iron status. Healthy full term babies have enough iron stores which coupled with mother’s milk last for six months, but later iron supplements are required. With inadequate iron intake an infant cannot synthesize enough red blood cells and hemoglobin resulting to anemia.

The Food and Drug Administration has permitted marketing of low-iron formulas as some pediatricians prefer it over iron fortified formulas. However it is important to understand the fact that a baby absorbs 100 percent iron from breast feeding but comparatively less from a baby formula.

It is wiser to consult your specialist if a baby is suffering from constipation or other gastric symptoms rather than switching baby formulas. It is important to deal with the problem that is infant constipation rather than eliminating iron fortified formulas from the baby’s diet.

A baby is only constipated when the stool is difficult to pass and the consistency is hard. Generally most of the babies strain and grunt while having bowel movements, but this is not always an indication for constipation. Constipation can be relieved by giving the baby some extra water or prune juice daily. Include ‘P’ fruits like pears, prunes and peaches and avoid constipating solid foods like rice cereals, apple sauce, bananas or any other food that causes constipation.  
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