(HealthDay News) — Among infants born very preterm, iron deficiency is more likely for those fed only with formula, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, held from Dec. 10 to 13 in New Orleans.

Alexandra Stratas, from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and colleagues examined how feeding type influences the iron status of very preterm infants at 4 to 6 months corrected age in a retrospective population-based cohort study. Data were included for all very preterm infants (<31 weeks of gestational age) born in Nova Scotia from 2005 to 2018; 392 infants were included.

Of the infants, 285 were exclusively formula fed (FF) with iron-rich formula and 107 were exclusively or partially breastfed (BF). The researchers found that in the FF group, the mean iron intake from formula was 1.66 mg/kg/day. In only 20.4 percent of FF infants, an elemental iron intake of ≥2 mg/kg/day was obtained from formula alone. The likelihood of receiving additional iron supplements was lower for FF infants. The FF group had higher mean total daily iron intake (from formula and supplements). However, 36.8 versus 20.6 percent of infants in the FF and BF groups, respectively, developed iron deficiency.


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“Just because a baby is on iron-rich formula, we should not assume all of their iron needs are being met, since iron from the formula may not have the same absorption as iron from breast milk,” a coauthor said in a statement. “These findings suggest we might need to rethink some of the guidelines for iron supplementation.”

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