• breastfeeding;
  • complementary feeding;
  • infants;
  • iron supplementation

Reported here are three studies performed with the objective of finding ways to improve the iron status of breastfed infants and to prevent iron deficiency (ID). Participating infants were exclusively breastfed until 4 months of age; thereafter, they could receive complementary foods and, in some studies, supplemental formula. In the first study, infants were given medicinal iron between the ages of 1 and 5.5 months. During this period, iron status improved and ID was prevented; however, these benefits did not continue after the intervention ceased. In the second study, infants received medicinal iron or an equivalent amount of iron from an iron-fortified cereal between the ages of 4 and 9 months. Again, iron supplementation largely prevented ID from occurring, while non-anemic ID and ID anemia occurred in the control group as well as in the intervention groups before the intervention began. In the third study, infants received dry cereals fortified with electrolytic iron or with ferrous fumarate between the ages of 4 and 9 months. The cereals were equally effective in providing relative protection from ID. The results of these three studies indicate it is possible to protect breastfed infants from ID and IDA.